What They Say:
Discover more about the power of Otome in two exciting OVAs. After the battle of Windbloom, Arika and her friends face another threat when a strange new creature appears. In the sub-only prequel, catch a new story where the powers of HiME and Otome combine, and Arika and Nina’s mothers have their own adventure!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in 5.1 along with the previously created English language dub for the first OVA series that’s in stereo, as no dub was produced for Sifr, 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 2006, 2007, and 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The seven episodes are on one Blu-ray discs while the DVD side splits the two series onto their own discs. Animated by Sunrise, the show is definitely stronger looking here than in the TV form, part of it being the widescreen format, with a greater budget and more vibrant colors. There are a lot of great looking areas and a lot more basic looking areas, all of which looks crisp and 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 a slightly thicker than usual Blu-ray case with hinges to hold the single Blu-ray and two DVDs on hinges. With an o-card that replicates the cover artwork, it’s not one that stands out in a bigger way but works nicely as it brings the two shows together with the leads paired up. The dual logos are kept to the upper left in a good way and the blue sky with clouds for the background makes it bright and appealing. The back cover goes for the all-yellow 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 pair from Otome that’s cute. 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 two 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 background and character artwork across it with it split in half. The top menu level lets you choose the submenu for each of the OVA series and go through the setup and extras within it, allowing each to have a good look and unique artwork The solid yellow background works very well with the way things are split and the character artwork along with the logos. The navigation is kept to the bottom with a blue 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 pretty weak for this offering, which isn’t too much of a surprise. The Japanese releases don’t appear to have any extras but they did get limited edition releases with CDs. This release simply has a clean version of the ending sequence as its sole extra.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a strong and successful TV series, one that I found more entertaining than the solid My-Hime, what better thing to do than to bring out an OVA series to sort of tie up a loose end or two? This set brings us the My-Otome Zwei project that ran for four episodes and has a near-theatrical budget to it and even feels like it plays out much like a movie broken down into four parts. With a nearly two hour runtime, they’re able to give most of the main characters from the series a chance to shine without coming across like they’re shoehorning them into everything. We also get the three episode S.ifr OVA that came out in 2008 which Bandai Entertainment brought out in limited form before closing up shop, something that they couldn’t even get dubbed at the time and is sadly still true now.
With My-Otome Zwei, it takes place a year after the events of the TV series where life has moved on and everyone has gotten into their new respective roles for the most part. Mashiro has really taken to becoming queen but she’s becoming bogged down in the day to day details and less at the bigger picture of the kingdom of Windbloom. For Arika, she’s still very much devoted to Mashiro, but their friendship is strained since Arika really doesn’t see the issues that Mashiro does and Mashiro has begun to overlook some of the basic aspects of her citizens while trying to serve them. The two do still have a very strong connection with each other but things are simply strained at the moment.
Into all of this a little trouble must fall and that’s through some mysterious shadowy being that shimmers like the stars that arrive on the planet. She’s quickly able to absorb the Predecessor and the Pure White Diamond and begin her movements across the land. Never truly named, this creature then begins to move against other Otome’s in various nations and uses her powers to absorb theirs as she turns them to stone. They continue to live in this state of suspended animation, but their abilities and even some of their physical traits are absorbed into the shadowy enemy. This enemy is also able to raise from underground things called Childs which come out to wreak havoc all over the place. The story starts to shift from different nations in order to show the scope of the problem that the Otome’s have to deal with.
The pressure is then on for the Otome’s to figure out how to fix things and save the world but their ranks continue to dwindle as the shadowy enemy is able to take them down one by one. It plays out in a somewhat predictable fashion in this manner but the uncertainty of the enemy and the way some key players are shunted off to a mysterious island during the attacks raises a lot of questions. That uncertainty is reflected in the eyes of many as they try to ascertain what’s really happening but continue to come up short. That they even think of going to Nagi for information says a lot about how dire the entire situation is. It all ratchets up nicely as it goes along and it starts to bind together those that are left to dealing with the problem.
What was appealing about this short series was that it really felt like a theatrical movie for the franchise. One that didn’t jettison some of the issues that came up during the finale of the series at that. The issues that were left unresolved with Nina about what she did while serving under Nagi continue to haunt her and she’s seeking redemption here at long last. She’s spent so much of the last year wanting to be away from it all as a way to atone, to not be involved, that when she is forced to because of the situation she sees it as a way to make some amount of amends. Her relationship with Arika has always been contentious, though Arika was the kind to not see it nor understand it, but having them pair up once again and do what needs to be done is exactly who they both are and it was wonderful to see that.
With the My-Otome 0: S.ifr series, this one serves as a prequel to the My-Otome series and I’ll admit that it didn’t do nearly as much for me. I’m generally a fan of prequels with what they can add to a property but this one just felt like it wasn’t all that needed. The concept behind it is that it delves into Arika’s mother Lena and what she went through along with Sifr Fran, who is Nina’s mother. It delves into a lot of the world building elements with things like Garderobe Academy and the like but I just felt it very hard to connect with after devouring all of the other My-Otome projects. With the previous works being written by Hiroyuki Yoshino, Tatsuto Higuchi took on the writing duties for this one and that accounts for some of the different feeling. It makes sense to some degree to go with a different writer for a prequel to build things, but that disconnect felt like it was just below the surface. It has some great looking animation and it’s fun to see aspects of this world pre-Arika, but coming into this after everything else and on top of the Zwei OVA that felt like it was theatrical, it was the wrong kind of looking-back thing.
The first OVA series gave me exactly what I wanted out of the franchise when it was initially released. I had hoped for a big budget theatrical movie and I really got close to that with this. The money is on the screen as the animation is beautiful, the sound mix is one of the better ones out there for a 5.1 mix and the story works just right to provide epic action while cleaning up a few loose ends from the series. While I’d love to see where these characters continue to end up, this release takes care of a lot of things and does it with style and substance. My-Otome was a really highlight for me when it was coming out and getting a little more love from the franchise makes me very happy. While the S.ifr show (and just the naming of it, which always bugged me) didn’t land as well as the rest, this set is great to have to bring everything out in full and wrap it up with. Funimation put this together well and I like the breaking out of the two OVA series so they feel separate but connected and between this and the two TV series fans now finally have the whole property in great form.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Closing Songs
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: 175 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.