My-HiME Volume 1

When Mai Tokiha and her sickly brother Takumi transfer to Fuka Academy, Mai’s only intention is to provide a normal life for herself and her brother. After Mai witnesses an unlikely battle between two young women on the boat to Fuka, however, she begins to realise that beneath the school’s relatively innocuous exterior, something darker is going on. As Mai comes to learn, Fuka is a gathering place for HiME – women with the power to materialise weapons and summon mystical beasts known as Children – and when Mai awakens to her own HiME powers, she begins to be drawn into a battle involving the monsters known as Orphans and the mysterious forces seeking to use the HiME for their own ends.

Despite these portentous opening words, My-HiME isn’t ready to get down to business just yet, with these first few episodes focusing more on the light-hearted high school drama side of the series. Apart from the awakening of Mai’s powers and the introduction of two other prominent HiME in the form of feral Mikoto and loner Natsuki, everything else related to the main plot is mere groundwork, hinting at allies and opponents we have yet to properly meet.

Nonetheless, what is contained on this disc is entertaining enough in its own right. Away from the demands of the main storyline, the series is sensible enough not to take itself too seriously, resulting in some genuinely amusing moments such as Sister Yukariko’s lectures on the passions of youth at the school church. In particular, episode four is based around the actions of an anonymous panty thief; a storyline which sounds custom made for some easy fanservice but actually proves to be more entertaining than distasteful.

In the space of these four episodes, we’ve already been introduced to quite a sizable cast, although for the most part they’ve been forced to take a back seat whilst we learn more about Mai, Natsuki and Mikoto. Mai is a standard heroine in every sense- hardworking, forthright, devoted to her brother’s welfare and generally unafraid to speak her mind. Similarly, Natsuki is a typical anti-hero, a loner who tries to remain calm and aloof but will quickly lose her cool under certain circumstances. Rounding out the trio, Mikoto is one of the most entertaining characters so far, thanks to her complete ignorance about most aspects of civilised behaviour.

Despite their limited screen time, the supporting cast has already begun to emerge as a varied range of personalities encompassing everything from the likable to the irritating, and in the case of Nagi, a young man who likes to hang around the library and appear at key points to forward the plot, the downright bizarre. Of particular note at this point are standard male foil Tate, comically overenthusiastic Haruka, calmly unflappable Shizuru, gossip queen Chie and the irritatingly clingy Shiho, although others are set to become more important later.

Visually, My-HiME is on solid ground; both characters and settings are well-drawn if not excessively detailed, and the animation is always clean and bright. Action scenes are somewhat reliant on stock transformation and summoning sequences even at this early stage, but are nonetheless well executed overall. Yuki Kajiura lends her not-inconsiderable talents to the background music, and whilst it isn’t up to the level of her best work, it is nonetheless a solid effort, with the fast-paced action themes and more atmospheric tracks dominating the lighter-hearted pieces in terms of quality.

Also included on this disc are four “mini-episodes” (aka DVD specials); a series of 1-2 minute vignettes featuring various characters from the series. Although in principle these could be said to offer additional insights into the world and characters of My-HiME, they actually seem to be a barely veiled excuse for some fanservice heavy scenes a step beyond what was included in the series. These mini-episodes will be a recurring feature on all upcoming volumes of My-HiME.

In Summary

A mixture of light-hearted high school drama, and more serious action-based series, My-HiME makes a strong start in its opening volume. Although many of the elements included here aren’t particularly original, overall this disc offers an entertaining experience that lays the groundwork for darker and more serious elements to take hold in future volumes.

7 / 10