Well, what do you know? Mai got back and this series is still lacking in quality. Nothing surprising. I think this was an episode where the question that most often came to my mind was “Why?”. Why am I watching this? Why this episode was not number 12, rather than 23? Why the writers try so hard to connect Mai HiME and Mai Otome’s storylines? Why does this resemble Gundam Seed Destiny so much?

Beware, there are some major Gundam SEED/Destiny SPOILERS ahead!

I guess that the whole episode can be easily summarised in 2 words Mai & Mikoto. Yes! They are finally back, but so what? We get nothing exciting, except for Mikoto enjoing Mai’s food (and competing with Arika for the Fastest Eater super cup), Mikoto and Mai (plus special guests in the area of Black Valley, which seems to be turning in the second most popular recreation site, right after the number one spot – Aswad’s place) in an onsen, and some rather belated in time talking and explaining of the Otome universe and some characters’ fate since births. Man, ain’t this so much a copy of the way how nothing happened in GSD for nearly the whole series, and then out of the blue, there was plot movement that was just as rushed, accidental and random as it is here.

Let’s, just for the sake of it, make a comparison:

Arika – is a horrible combination of Shinn and Kira (oh, God, I need to run for my life after stating this, don’t I?), but why do I think so. Because:
1) She has a no killing policy (just as Kira)
2) Her birth was a mystery until someone told her the the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help her God. (Kira, yet again)
3) She is retarded and thinking is hardly her forte (Shinn, anyone?)
then the less obvious, but still present features:
4) The blue GEM, that turned her into a powerfull fighter; this is roughly the equivalent of the SEED power: not anyone has it, but the main characters do, and it is giving them godly fighting abilities that can only be rivaled by those of other GEM/SEEDs, or of important plot device-characters (Miyu, Stellar)
5) She has a close friend, one she used to study at the same school with, that is fighting on the other side of the conflict and happenes to be her ultimate rival, that also accidentaly killed a close friend of hers (and of Nina too, so I guess this makes Erstin a combo of Nicol and Tolle, though as a character she is much more of a Nicol-wannabe, with the not so minor difference that I was really touched by Nicol’s death, while Erstin’s left me unphased)
Should I bother continuing this list, it might go forever…? And you know what is the saddest thing of it all? It is the fact that Kira at least had the advantage of being a favourite of the audience because of his prior reign in Gundam SEED, and Shinn while retarded, unthinking and left without any character development until the Final Plus, at least was not ridiculous and somehow left us the small hope of possible improvement at some point, Arika however seems to be utterly stupid, absolutly annoying and mind-blowingly uninteresting as far as her fate goes and I have no hope whatsoever that she might advance in character and grow up a little.

Nina on the other hand is an obvious, but rather contradictory Shinn/Athrun combo:
1) Follows orders of a person, determined that his way is the one and only way (that could apply to both Dullindal and Rau)
2) Fights someone that used to be her best friend (Athrun)
3) Doesn’t seem to be questioning her orders (Shinn, this is where she is in a strange conflict with the Athrun side of her character, because in both SEED and Destiny, he tried to think whether or not the orders he is given are sensible)
4) Protects someone that is absolutely undeserving of protection (Shinn-Stellar, Nina-Sergei)
5) Makes assumptions based on thin air (Shinn) and later extrapolates them to make grave mistakes
6) And she is even the daughter of a ruler (Athrun was the son of a Chairman and one of the founders of the PLANTs)

And that leaves Mashiro, which is actuаlly the hardest to categorise. On the most obvious plane she is a Cagalli wannabe, but if we look deeper, we’ll notice that she is even more of a Yona wannabe, so I guess she would just be clasified as Yona/Cagalli copycat
1) Her mysterious birth (Cagalli)
2) Being spoiled and a brat (Yona)
3) Being smart in one (rare) situation and stupid in ten others (both Yona and Cagalli, but more of a Yona)
4) Being friends with both Nina and Arika, but closer to the later (Cagalli)
5) Always forgets that ruling is more than just being born with the right (again either of the two)
6) It turns out she is not the real princess but rather an adopted one (Cagalli)

Back to the topic of the ep…

Coincidentally Natsuki and Nao get right where Mikoto and Mai live. Natsuki should buy better headlights for this car or at least drive more carefully.:) The reason would probably be the lack of trafic control and road signs that would regulate the the allowed speed limit and inform the clueless drivers that there is an unmapped point right ahead. I see Nao has started her training for the role of Spiderwoman Pillar but this – this device she used to save them from falling into the chasm was quite fitting for a superheroine. Not to mention that we alread have one heroine that used her lipstick as a fighting weapon and she was magnificent (for those who don’t get it – Eclair from Kiddy Grade, and if you have not seen it, go and remedy that mistake)

Quite a few series can have both dramatic and light-hearted funny scenes and achieve a stunning impact, rather than confusion, among viewers whether this is a drama or a comedy – for instance Cowboy Bebop or Rozen Maiden. Mai Otome is not one of those, period. There are funny scenes but they often look out of place, the characters are one moment depressed as hell and the next moment as happy as if the series is over and with it their embarrassment. Yes, Arika, I am talking about you! And of course, the dramatic element is as unconvincing as they come but more about this some other time.

Mai cooking

Mai using her Otome powers in order to cook? Someone needs to show her the wonderous invention called a matchbox or maybe a lighter.

Apparenlty the Black Valley disappeared three hundred years ago but fear not, that does not mean Mai and Mikoto cannot live in this same valley. Hey, don’t blame me, I don’t write this script! It’s a “warp in space”. No, not the script – the Black Valley. The reason – the power of Harmonium. Didn’t I tell you it was the plot device to end all plot devices? I sure did. It seems it can also turn back this efect and restore the Black Valley as it was. Anyone wanna bet that this will happen in the end?

Presenting Arika and Mikoto as being very similar is so offensive for Mikoto, btw… Well, I guess Mai’s food will help her forget this grave insult (and everything else in the world).
Is Yukino out of her mind? She orders Haruka to try and kindly persuade the other Heads of States to start negotiations about a course of action regarding Nagi. Maybe it’s just me but Haruka is the last person I would send for any negotiations apart from those that run along the lines of “Stop the resistance or die!”. She is honest to a fault and gets angry in a matter of seconds, not exactly the best qualities a diplomat might have. But I guess the writers thought that if we could buy Natsuki as a Principal, why not Haruka as a diplomat? Two wrongs don’t make it right, chaps, don’t forget it.
We learn more about who is the real princess from our lovely guide, the android that likes hot springs, the blue-haired plot device Miyu. But no one really cares anymore about that, alas.
Sergei is not only protected by an uncanny plot shield, he also recovers from injuries faster than Chuck Norris. I think I will be sure he is dead only if his head is removed from his body and then the body quartered, burnt and ashes scattered by the wind (even in such a case I’ll keep my suspicions, because even if a DNA test shows that it was him, it might still turn out to be someone’s dream, or a really well done clone of him, thus giving him another chance in the next God-awful sequel (please spare us the torment), as Sunrise already showed us). And apparently that is what a lot of fans would love to see and I don’t really get it, since the Awful Infantile Trio of main characters deserve such fate a lot more.

I am still undecided if Serdei is Mwu (man I’d hate if it turns out to be so) or Andrew Wartfeld wannabe, but I think I’d hate either one. Those were fine characters in SEED, that were ridiculed in Destiny, and especially the heroic and probably most touching death of anime charater (that of Mwu in ep 49 in SEED).

And if anyone wonders why do I insist on comparing Mai-Ototme and Gundam SEED Destiny, it is because of their uncanny resemblance, to the point where I expect a postscript after the last frame of the last ep, saying, “Inspired by the phenomenal script of GSD and especially by Chiaki Morosawa, my idol and the one I aim at surpassing” – The Main Scriptwriter

Miyu just happened to come across Arika’s GEM and gave it to her grandmother. Yet another coincidence, I think I should start counting them… Arika asks Mai about what it means to be an Otome. How many times do we have to hear her ask that? A million? If I were Mai I’d answer by asking her what it means to be a retard and how she feels as the most stupid character in a show full of not so bright people.

As for Mai, she just spends her days isolated in her Ivory Tower, I mean Black Valley. Of course, the question “Why” comes to mind but these days this is not a good question to ask when we are talkng about a Sunrise series. Nothing is mentioned about the famous tragic love story between Mai and a mysterious stranger, who resembles Sergei, the Chick Magnet. Nina doesn’t bother to ask Mai why she doesn’t leave Mikoto or the Black Valley because the viewers must guess this.

By the by, why do Mikoto’s eyes and mouth glow red in the dark?

The first thing Nao and Natsuki do after seeing Mai and the rest is get into their onsen and have a relaxing bath. Anime laws of logic at work here – there is always time for a hot spring but only if you happen to be female. Talk about sexism. Anyway, nothing against this law but I definitely don’t want Miyu, Arika, Mashiro and Mikoto featuring in fanservice scenes. And Nao’s hairstyle in this scene is definitely not something I’d like to see again.

But that really reminds me of GSD once again. Those who watched the series, are well aware that there we have something that is unseen and unheard of prior to that moment – we have a battleship, that is not only a phenomenal combination of spaceship, airplane and submarine, but is also equiped with the best onsen possible aboard. One starts to wonder whether that was a battleship or a pleasure and recreation center, that could when needed play the role of a battleship. So here in Otome we get another onsen scene that seems to be just as well inserted in the plot (almost as a patch over your favourite formal evening attire).

Mikoto ate Mai’s GEM but it’s still working. Gotta love Mikoto’s food digestion process. 🙂

Mikoto has a HiME mark, The connection between HiME and Otome is so full of half-truths, sentences cut in the middle and lacking in logic that it really resembes the explanation about the HiME star in Mai-HiME, or rather the lack of it.

Sergei’s stupidity level is rising rapidly. He told Nina that all she was doing was following orders? Does he really think she attacked Arika just because of an order from Nagi? And Nina is such a Shinn wannabe. Shinn wannabe, for crying out loud! (No, if we have to be absolutely correct, she is a combo of Shinn and Athrun wannabe) I never thought a character could fall that low. At least Tomoe is a Sugintou wannabe.

Why is Nagi attacking Ealis? He is virtually begging for all the contries to unite against him. Well, tough is the life of anime villains, they say. Bouts of stupidity are to be expected from them. I guess he was informed that there would be only three more episodes so he’d better start with his masterplan for conquering the world (is there a bigger cliche than that?). Wasn’t it the same in GSD. Dullindal remembered that he is supposed to be the primary evil figure, at the very last moment. And that of course triggered the activities of the other parties.
I must say, I really enjoyed Mikoto kicking the crap out of Arika. But the plan to let Arika learn from Mikoto is absolute nonsense considering the number of episodes to the end and also the fact that Mikoto doesn’t exactly seem like a great teacher. But we all know that the plot will feature Arika kicking ass in the end so a lame excuse like that was needed, I guess. However, Mikoto’s task is a piece of cake compared to that of Mai, who will have to teach Mashiro how to be a good ruler.

Arika beaten up
Natsuki and Nao leave for Garderobe? Again, some would ask why but the best answer would be “We were told by the writers that the series will soon end so we need to act quickly”.
Does anyone see a different ending than one which would be a copy of that of GSD? I mean, Arika’s little faction will probably intervene just when Nagi’s forces start to overcome his enemies and save the world from the evil overlord. Right now, it seems pointless to train Arika as Miyu and Mikoto seem fully capable of defeating all that Nagi might throw against him. I guess we will see the battle of plot devices – the Harmonium against Miyu. 🙂

What is worse, that the Harmonium is obviously capable of fulfilling wishes, so we already have the plot device that will restart the whole setting (probably without the Otome powers, if we are getting a HiME copy) and then there will be ‘…and they lived happily ever after’ …till the next installment in the Mai-whatever series).

Mai-ReTARD would be my suggestion for a name of the next series, meaning Really Tormenting (your sanity) Airheaded Raving Dunces. You guessed it, Arika would be the pivotal character in it. I can’t wait… Or Mai-YURI (Young Utterly Retarded Imbecils)

Comments in italics added by Alexis