So, the status of Mai HiME as a cornerstone of yuri anime is not to be ignored, but in keeping with our “Hey, check this out!” nature as a blog, why not play with it’s lesser-known and rather fantastic (in several senses of the word) little sister? Yes, Mai Otome.
Mai Otome is set… somewhere that is tied to but not at the setting of Mai HiME. In fact, the less you know about Mai HiME the more you’ll understand Otome, because instead of being a psychological thriller with summoned creatures and Most Important Persons, Otome was once aptly described by a friend as “Sailor Moon on crack.”
See, we’ve got magical girls, but it might be more accurate to call them technological girls. Nanomachines have given them a rudimentary form of the power to ‘materialize’ that was once possessed by the the HiME (Highly-advanced Materializing Equipment), allowing Otome (Z-type HiME (it makes sense in kanji)) to manifest powered suits and advanced weaponry out of thin air. Also, it allows for epic transformation sequences, certainly a necessary component of any preternatural power, magical or not. See those earrings in the transformation sequences? They regulate the nanomachines and connect the Otome with a ‘contracted master’ and the central supercomputer, which happens to be the mind of a dead Otome. Fun facts.
More fun facts: Otome weren’t created for some high, noble purpose, they were designed to be living strategic weapons, with more destructive potential than nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. They were Generals of ancient armies that leveled entire cities on their own. Because war is a great game for twenty-something lesbians. Oh, and they’re almost all lesbians, and that actually is done on purpose, by the designers of the nanomachines. See, since most world leaders at the time were men, the nanomachines have a shutoff command if they’re exposed to ‘a source of male DNA’, and you can figure what that means. Yeah. But eventually the wars end, and the place that trains Otome was turned into a funky alien United Nations.
But since world peace is lame, one country decided to exploit the power of otherworldly creatures called SLAVEs (for followers of Mai HiME, SLAVEs are basically weak versions of CHILDs) And so the world’s supply of Otome are given purpose again. Cool. Around Episode 17, this explodes from skrimishes to an all out war, and is pretty solidly epic from there on out. Including a moment where the ultimate deus ex machina character MIYU (Multiple Intellegencial Yggdrasil Unit) gets to materialize EVERY SINGLE OTOME. Also, change the color of a freakin’ star.
Best case-in-point for the rampant lesbianism is otakudom’s favorite yuri couple, Shizuru and Natsuki, who in HiME were a lot more disfunctional than they are in Otome. In this series, they essentially behave like a married couple throughout, and where it was possible to see Natsuki as not having an interest in women in HiME (if you were dense or determined) such a possability just doesn’t exist in Otome. Also, a main antagonist of Otome is Tomoe Margeritte, who has the sole purpose in life of wanting to bang Shizuru. Since Shizuru isn’t particularly hard to lay, this probably wouldn’t be an issue if not for Natsuki.
The story is significantly expanded in the OVAs, Mai Otome Zwei and Mai Otome Sifr, both of whom are as epic as the series itself, and the manga, which has an entirely different storyline from the anime, actually does the gymnastics to try an connect Otome to HiME, a concept hinted at in the anime but not deeply explored.