Yumemiya Arika is a 14-year-old female country bumpkin who travels to the Windbloom Kingdom in search of clues about her mother. Given her mother’s position as a Meister Otome, she decides to start her search at the place where all the girls who eventually become Otome live and train: Guarderobe. It is there that she meets Shizuru and was immediately fascinated by her grace and charm, to the point of deciding then and there to enroll in the school and be like her. Will she be able to beat the unfavorable odds and tame her wild and unsophisticated ways?
summary by Soundchazer
Highs: Very funny; plenty of plot twists
Lows: Predictable; rushed ending; few characters are fleshed out
2005 was an interesting year for anime as it saw a resurrection of quality shows after several mediocre years. It was also a year that introduced a concept not used in anime since the days of Evangelion: alternative storylines using familiar characters. Probably emboldened by the success of Futakoi Alternative, Sunrise decided to give another go to a series that proved to be one of the sleeper hits of 2004: My-Hime. This time around in Mai-Otome, it would be the least used characters (the ones that were just classmates with one liners or just used as extras) who would come forth and become the protagonists, while some of the established characters either changed personalities, roles or were given only a few minutes of air time.
While the concept sounds exciting, it was not one without potential pitfalls. Let us remember that it was the surprising and unexpected second part of My-Hime that made it so special, along with enough exposure given to all the girls involved to make us care. Mai-Otome tries a different approach, focusing on fewer characters and storylines, and making this story more plot-centric than character oriented. Certain things did not change, though: starting out in a playful, comedic way and then becoming more somber, having bright character designs and good voice acting.
Unfortunately, the element of surprise was not available anymore to use as shock value. Also, the fact that the story was the main element of this anime instead of the characters, made it more important to make the story a good one. And not only did it fail to deliver by being predictable, but it also failed because of a very bad sense of timing; it idled too much on the funny but inconsequential comedy and left the real meat of the plot for very few episodes towards the end. That made the final product rushed, boring towards the middle and stale in character development. It didn’t help that too many characters are introduced but poorly presented, making it hard to keep track of them as more episodes came along.
Mai-Otome did not live to the standards of its predecessor, and while it’s still fun because of a very strong and funny lead character (perhaps even stronger and funnier than Mai herself), it lacked the flair and intensity to make it stand on its own. This anime works best being viewed by fans of the first series, as I don’t see a lot of potential for it to capture too many fans by itself.