What They Say:
While traveling the world in search of her mother, Arika Yumemiya stumbles upon Windbloom Kingdom where a new dream awaits her. Here, the academy of Garderobe turns girls into powerful warriors known as Otome—and Arika wants in! But becoming an Otome could be more than she bargained for. Dangers and secrets await as she chases her new destiny!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the previously created English language dub, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is pretty much as you’d expect with a standard forward soundstage action/school approach to it. There are some good areas of bigger action that play in limited form across both channels here and they come across well even while lacking the impact they need to really make it feel like it hits right. There’s plenty of movement and directionality as needed which keeps it alive and the dialogue gets some good placement and depth during these scenes as well. A lot of the show is naturally standard dialogue pieces and that has its moments from time to time as well but it’s mostly straightforward center channel based kind of design. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005 and 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-six episodes are spread across three Blu-ray discs in a nine/nine/eight format. Animated by Sunrise, the show is definitely from the early 2000’s with how it looks where it’s not a budget show in a lot of ways but it takes a cautious approach to how fluidly it wants to animate things. There are a lot of great looking areas and a lot more basic looking areas – some of which are simply a bit softer than we’re used to these days, but in the end are problem free here compared to our past DVD experiences through other distributors over the years. The color differences alone gives this some new life and the details all hold up much better with sharper and more defined looks to them. It may not be as striking as most shows today in terms of animation but it has some real quality to the character designs and the creativity of the world design, all of which is rendered really well here with clean source materials and solid encoding.
The packaging for this release has an oversized Blu-ray case with hinges to hold the three Blu-ray discs and the four DVDs that make it up. With an o-card that replicates the cover artwork, it’s not one that stands out in a bigger way but it’s a piece you’ll want as the plastic sleeve that holds the cover on the cse itself tends to wrinkle a fair bit because of the size of the case. The artwork is our familiar key visual of Arika and Mashiro together in their standard uniforms as they take flight, showing off a touch of the school setting. The back cover goes for the all light blue design here which works well with the blue from the stripe along the top. We get a trio of small shots from the show and another larger key visual piece of the main trio that’s used elsewhere on the set. The premise is covered clearly and the extras are laid out well, though the mention of character featurettes will be problematic depending on your interpretation. The technical grid covers everything accurately in an easy to read form and there are no inserts included with this release nor a reversible cover, which is rare.
The menu design for this release keeps things simple as it delivers us solid backgrounds and character artwork across it. The appeal is in the character designs as they are distinctive in a way that we don’t get in current shows with the angles and costuming, and particularly the hair. The solid purple/violet background works about as well as you’d expect but it’s part and parcel of the design of this series while the logo looks decent across it. The navigation is kept to the bottom with an off-yellow strip that has the simple selections that are easy to access and navigate both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu in the same location.
The extras are the familiar pieces that you’d expect here as we get the clean opening and closing sequences, the fun movie trailer, and some clips from the show that expand on the world and characters – often in fun ways.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coming a year and a half after the original series, My-Otome was a property that certainly clicked for me in a way at the time as something that was appealing. Over the course of my reading lifespan, I’ve always loved the idea of alternate worlds, parallel worlds and retellings in a different vein. Having grown up on DC Comics books and being part of their big Crisis on Infinite Earths gig back in the 80’s, there is something that is just inherently appealing about seeing a familiar set of characters acting in a different way or in completely different settings. Used as a device in many science fiction TV series and handled in a very thorough way in Stephen Baxter’s Manifold series, it’s very rarely used in the anime and manga world outside of the occasional standalone episode.
After the successful run of My-Hime, Sunrise went and created the My-Otome series which is a full length twenty-six episode series that reworks the entire franchise. Though not entirely clear in these first episodes that it takes place on either another planet with people descended from Earth or an alternate future/past world, the main cast of characters is made up of the original voice cast from My-Hime and placed in new situations. New characters are heavily brought into it as well, both in the form of the ostensible lead Arika as well as the other various Otome’s in the academy. There’s a bit of an overload with characters, mostly if you’re familiar with the cast from My-Hime, but it handles the premise very well.
Taking place fourteen years after an attack on the castle in the land of Wind Bloom which resulted in the disappearance of the princess with her Blue Sky Sapphire, a young woman believed to be the princess is about to be crowned queen. Mashiro is young and impetuous with a belief that her way is the only way and she has a kingdom at her beck and call to back it up. Not surprisingly, the coronation is the kind of event where things seem to coalesce around. One such event is the arrival of a young woman from the fringes named Arika who has come both in search of her mother as well as to become an Otome herself. Naturally, she ends up caught up in numerous events that are swirling around and finds herself closely attached to some of the key cast members.
Arriving when different sects are intent on disrupting the coronation, Arika finds herself meeting up with a young woman named Nina who is the leading Otome candidate. The two certainly don’t get along well, mostly because Nina has no interest in her and Arika has all sorts of interest in Nina, but they find that they come together for the same cause, such as when the discover that Mashiro is sneaking out of the castle and being hunted down by someone. The first four episodes cover a rash of events that almost seem to be too much but fit in when you consider the arrival of numerous nations and representatives for Mashiro’s coronation. The fast pace, fluid animation and quick dialogue keeps it all flowing along wonderfully as we’re immersed in what this world is like.
The most amusing part is the concept of the Otome’s themselves, which is similar enough to the Hime’s from My-Hime. The academy, with Natsuki as headmistress, trains candidates that are sponsored by individuals or nations to become Otome’s that protect the one they’re assigned to. This isn’t a simple thing as each pairing is done for life and the Otome and her partner end up sharing things such as illness and pain. The advantage for the non-Otome is that they have someone that is sensitive to their needs and can defend them with incredible powers. For the Otome, there is a sense of justice that motivates them to do this but they pay a heavy price. The nanomachines which help them utilizes their gifts can be lost easily if they have sexual contact with a man as something in their chromosomes can disable the nanomachines. Similar to the previous series, this provides plenty of yuri-like implications but also heavily pushes the virginal state of the Otome’s.
My-Otome is intent on following some of the traditional narrative devices for its early episodes once it gets the basic setup done and over with. With the core characters and setting introduced, we end up going through a series of mildly amusing situations wherein Arika learns what it’s really like to be in training as an Otome while making friends and enemies along the way. Her arrival in the academy has not met with universal applause but some people are intent on forcing her out through unsavory means. Some of the girls in the school are easily manipulated, which should disqualify them in the long run, as they’re set to small tasks that will undermine Arika. Whether it’s secretly selling off her uniform to get her in trouble or using other means to take advantage of her weaknesses, Arika is put through a lot of trouble here.
Where Arika does gain a bit of help is in that she has a new mysterious sponsor. Having this person formally sponsor her, with approval from Natsuki, gives her a bit more leverage in staying in the academy. The only part of the deal that Arika has to uphold is to write weekly letters to whoever it is with updates on how her time at the academy is going. This is a simple plot device that does help to flesh things out a bit. It lets the writers use it either at the start or end of the episode to bring about either a new plot point to deal with or closure for another. As simple as it may be, it is effective even if a bit tread worn among some recent series. Arika gets to have some fun scenes with it as she struggles to find the right voice to use for her mysterious benefactor and just what it is she should write about.
As much fun and lighthearted moments as there are in the first few episodes, the series does start moving towards the serious again as it goes along. What looks to be another part of the larger picture takes shape here as Mashiro and Arika end up forced together through amusing circumstances caused by Nagi. The castle that Mashiro calls home is big enough to begin with but when the two of them stumble into a hidden door, they discover a massive underground section that goes back a couple hundred years. What’s down there is something that puts the entire country at risk when the pair activate it without realizing it. There are hints of something larger from all of it, but the short term is that Mashiro and Arika end up forming a contract under the Blue Sky Sapphire. This brings in a good bit of variety to the situation as it gives Arika seemingly unlimited powers to go with her unlimited confidence.
As the series expands its scope, the cast last is getting a bit more detailed as well. Arika and Nina continue to be used the most but there is more time given to some of the friends that Arika makes early on here, such as Erstin and Irina. Erstin, in particular, is fun since she has a bit of a crush on Nina and is getting a bit bold about revealing some of it to her through amusing circumstances. Irina is a bit of a poor character in that she’s used often to bring about more unusual devices for everyone to play off of. Shiho has grown into a bit more of a vicious character through some of the things she does in this volume, but her water snakes are something that you can forgive her for considering how sexual they make the scene where they attack Nina.
While the action doesn’t make up a huge chunk of this series up through the halfway mark or so, when it does show up it’s a lot of fun to watch. The ritualistic nature of it helps to give it a bit of spark, especially since it implies that bit of female bonding in the way they have to kiss the earring in order to authorize it. When they face off against the interlopers, it’s rather restrained but the intensity of it is well played out as the more powerful Otome’s are there to deal with it due to their involvement in the hike. This volume seems to make out rather weakly when it comes to the action/Otome aspect of it which is disappointing but it fits in with the transitional nature of the episodes.
My-Otome has several things it wants to focus on beyond Arika and it covers a few of those with these episodes as well. One of them is the relationship that some of the girls have with each other that is covered in the past. The arrival of Mashiro’s birthday is a big event for the country and when it’s discovered that both Nina and Arika share the same day it causes a number of different feelings about it. Nina takes it the worst since she’s an adopted daughter and starts to believe that Sergay gave her that day as her birthday for less than welcome reasons. It also comes at a time when Arika and Sergay seem to be getting along far too well
What proved to be the most fun, if the most predictable, was the episode that revolves around the arrival of a foreign prince who has come to visit Wind Bloom. Mashiro learns that it’s partially being done as a potential marriage possibility which just puts her in a freaked out mode. Enough so that she performs another escape at a bad moment so that she can get out into the world on her own. She’s done this before so it’s not exactly new but it does put her in the midst of her people as the celebration of her birthday is underway. She ends up meeting with a foreigner who is visiting the country at the same time and while it leads to a lot of predictability, it’s a series of events that works well in starting to show Mashiro what the real world is like and how other rulers are handling their countries when facing similar circumstances. Mashiro is simply far too sheltered and spoiled to rule just yet and needs to be exposed to the harsh realities.
Just a bit past the halfway mark is where My-Otome finds itself working in a similar many to My-Hime in that it’s simply intent on shaking up the status quo in a major way. This is a good thing in my mind as some series get entirely too stagnant with little surprise about what could really happen. With most anime shows being very limited run productions, original ones that don’t have to worry about keeping the manga fans or the game fans happy can play with things a little faster and looser. My Otome really manages to set itself apart nicely at this point and further establishes my enjoyment of it over the original series.
Similar to My Hime, not everyone is who they seem to be and we’ve had that in place for a bit with those that have been trying to take down Arika before she gets too far. What you have to wonder is who else is in the mix that hasn’t revealed themselves yet. That comes with this volume and only in retrospect does it become slightly more apparent as to what’s going on. Enough of it is covered with character quirks though so it wasn’t completely obvious going into it unlike some others. When this revelation does come it’s at a pivotal time where allegiances begin to shift and the balance of power becomes clearer as Nagi makes his move. This turns into a real high point of the series as the Otome’s find themselves almost at war with each other without realizing just how much they’re being manipulated. It has plenty of drama but there’s also a good deal of emotional impact considering how well these characters have all gotten along so far. And that’s been one of the better traits of the Otome system in that everyone schools together.
The result of all of this is pretty dramatic, both on the personal level and on the national level. Wind Bloom practically eats itself from the inside out as there is a huge and swift reject of Mashiro based on what she’s done in the past and the perceived perceptions of what she’s doing now. That comes as a striking blow for her, even more so when she sneaks off with other refugees and conceals her identity only to learn how deep some of the vitriol and hatred is. What’s even worse for her is that it comes at a time that she’s learned she may not be the real heir to the throne and that Arika may indeed be that. Mashiro’s psychological descent isn’t exactly groundbreaking or new, but it’s a twist I wasn’t exactly expecting from the show based on the way she was starting to change after getting out into the wild on her own a bit. But it does feel realistic in that we don’t always get the time to change things on our own before others take advantage of it.
As it moves toward the finale, the most intriguing material comes from a new area of the show as Arika and Mashiro have landed themselves in the Black Valley. While there are some interesting moments where Mashiro sets thing in her mind about what she has to do in order to be Queen, particularly with the leader of the Aswald, it’s when this pair ends up in the Black Valley itself through the aid of Miyu after a confrontation with Nina. The way Miyu has shown up in various scenes throughout makes more sense now as she introduces Arika and Mashiro to Mai, a legendary Otome who up and disappeared awhile ago with the Fire Stirring Ruby. Her past became larger than life and the reality of it is someone who is kind of silly, pleasant and not at all what was expected.
What’s truly fascinating is that we get a much clearer picture about Mikoto who resides within the Black Valley with Mai. Or rather, Mai is her servant there as Mikoto is far more than we’ve seen before in the cat forms that have been running about. Her Crystal Princess persona has much the feeling of the cats but it also very reminiscent of her personality in the My-Hime series except she’s far more content about her relationship with Mai as they’ve spent so much time together. The pairing of the two brings a really fun new element into the show where they’re a different kind of senior to the women running around like Arika and Mashiro and even Natsuki. There’s a connection to the past there that resonates well and it is admittedly very good to see Mai show up in this series at long last and in such an amusing way. A way that really fits her personality as well.
For better or worse, the conclusion to My-Otome in a lot of ways feels like how My-Hime ended, though that’s not too much of a surprise. Like most series of this nature though, the size of the cast is a positive and a negative. You’re bound to find a character you’ll like but you’re also bound to find that they won’t get the level of exploration you’d like them to have. The final three episodes of the series are all about the action payoff, the resolution to everything that has come before. The character drama that’s been mixed up in all of it is explored as well as can be expected, but the main focus is on the epic feel of the moment and what the Otome’s have to do. Nagi’s grand plan to turn all the Otome’s against each other so that the population can properly feel war and be involved in it has reached its critical stage as several nations have banded against him to preserve their own sovereignty. While a number of nations have gone with him out of fear of exposing their populations to war, the small number that have opposed him now find that they actually have to put their money where their mouth is. Which isn’t a problem for Haruka as she’s always ready to get down to things.
At the same time, other forces are aligning against Nagi in order to stave off his plans. Arika’s time with Mashiro, Mai and Mikoto has been a very positive experience for her as she’s grown closer to Mashiro and also gained a better understanding of her place in the world and her powers. Though the relations to Mai and Mikoto and what they’ve gone through is superficial, they provide a great bit of continuity to the original in an amusing way which helps to solidify Arika’s position as the lead here. The two do come across as quite similar a lot of the time but finally having Mai in the series after being absent in it for so long has helped to make this all a lot more familiar.
So much of these three episodes revolve around either the build-up to the action or the action itself, however, which leaves a lot of the good character pieces to little more than small moments strung between the big battles. There are some beautiful pieces to be found, such as Maria’s revelation, Miyu’s involvement in settling things and the way Mikoto appears at the right time for a little bit of closure. The bigger moments do get their time in the center stage, such as the confrontation between Nina and Arika, which is amusingly complete with them both being stripped naked as they fall into the atmosphere. Good to know that skin can survive that but not clothes. There are moments that needed more time though, such as Arika’s finding of her mother and the verbal sparring that should have been more intense between Mashiro and Nagi.
My-Otome didn’t leave me unhappy with the ending, but it reminded me a lot of how My-Hime played out. The size of the cast keeps it from being able to really explore things too deeply. Arika and Nina do get a good deal of time overall which is good considering their positions and relationships, especially with Sergay, but so many others fell by the wayside too often. Even worse for the show is that there are so many other Otome’s brought into these final episodes – many with references to the My-Hime series, that it all starts to blur together too heavily. Add in an average of two months between volumes and it’s admittedly hard to remember who all everyone is outside of the leads with each volume.
My-Otome ends pretty conclusively which is a big plus in its favor, though it obviously has an opening for more material which will show up in the OVAs and I’ll admittedly keep holding out hope that Sunrise opts to revisit this franchise someday. While I have some issues with how the series handles itself at the end with its structure and what it does, it is a show that I found a lot more enjoyable than My-Hime. And I liked My-Hime pretty well. There’s a greater sense of fun to be had here throughout and some more interesting designs overall considering the locales. A good bit of the fun can also be attributed to the way the show took familiar characters and relationships and mixed them all up, which can frustrate some but proved to be very enjoyable for me. Funimation did a solid job in putting all of this together where it counts with a clean looking show, a decent package, and a great price with it being higher quality than anything we had before. Definitely a welcome release for longtime fans to finally have.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Otome Clips, My-HiME Movie Trailer, My-Otome vs. My-HiME, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, and Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 9th, 2018
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.