(Recommended by not-so-plain pasta, completing her recommendation trifecta.)
Thoughts will be quick, mostly because there’s little to say.
Mai-HiME is one of those old-fashioned anime that go by a set of clichés to formulate their story and characters. If comparisons can be made, it reminds me slightly of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, slightly of older JRPG titles, and slightly of Hanbun Tsuki ga Noboru Sora. It’s light-hearted when it wants to be and tremendously overdramatic when it has to be. Anyone not a fan of a lot of forced sex jokes/misunderstandings (like me) need not apply, though if one is willing to push past this, there’s a whole lot of darker themes lying in wait.
However, these dark themes are not presented in an interesting way—rather, much of this series isn’t presented in an interesting way. When not seriously cringing at whatever mood Mai-HiME wanted to convey, I had my head in my hand, fighting off the desire to close my eyes. It’s so, so, so formulaic that any veteran of the industry would rather be watching anything else that has done the shtick better. It ends up becoming the fatal flaw: there is nothing really unique here, only things that have been done before a thousand times in other settings.
Though this remains so, it’s not without spirit. I was slightly surprised by how certain things arose within the plot, as well as how well-handled the last few episodes were (until the retcon halfway through the final episode). My emotional state through most of the series was flatlined, yet the last few episodes had me intrigued in a way that the rest of the series couldn’t achieve, and left me with a generally good impression. Not good enough to recommend the series, but enough to think, “Hrmm. I could watch this again without wanting to scratch my eyes out.”
Painfully overdramatic, woefully unoriginal, forgettable to a fault; all of these describe the experience of Mai-HiME. Its saving graces lie within the very occasional points where the plot becomes appealing enough to override the level of ridiculousness and angst. Characters and art mean little to how gargantuan a presence the plot has on the entire series, such that everything bows to its influence like a religious idol. When that idol is uninteresting, everything else crumbles under the weight of its expectations.
Personal Score: C-
Critical Score: C-
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.