How many fanfics have we seen where the main characters are transplanted to a different location, time or situation than the original source material? The Senshi at an agricultural college, the girls of Marimite visiting (or attending school in) some North American location that just *happens* to be the same place the author lives or attends. There are many series that do that kind of thing within the context of the actual series.
Star Trek:Next Generation used their omnipresent Holodeck to allow a sort of time and space travel (mostly so we could see that characters play dress up) and Xena:Warrior Princess had a few stories which fans called “Uber-Xena” stories, in which Gabrielle and Xena were portrayed as more modern, but equally as silly, characters. (Which led to a whole genre of “Uber-Xena” stories, many of which were better than the actual series. I wrote one Uber-Xena story myself, In the Hall of the Mountain Queen, a title which came to me in a very memorable dream.)
And so we find ourselves regarding the series, My Zhime, aka Mai Otome, in which the characters of Fuuka Academy from My HiME are now suddenly on a planet much like our earth, but more feudal. The HiME are now become Otome – the human nuclear arsenal of each country. The school at which young women are trained to become Otome candidates, Garderobe, is the center of the new conflict. And while all the characters from HiME are moved to the new time/place/location/ their roles, ages and, in some cases personalities, have been altered to fit the new storyline.
I had planned of holding off reviewing this series at all until I finished reviewing all of the My HiME DVDs, but last weekend I decided that I wanted to watch Volume 1. Then, as I watched it, I remembered all over again why I thought it was a vastly superior series to the original. Mostly because it starts off as stupid fun with a hint of plot, continues to be stupid fun with an actual plot, and ends as stupid fun and who cares about the plot, which short side trips to wallow into meaningless angst. The difference is that, IMHO, HiME primarily wallowed in angst with pretensions of having a Serious Plot ™, when in reality, it was all meaningless angst and plot was a self-fulfilling prophecy with reset.
My Zhime, Volume 1, starts off with the arrival of a strange girl from out of the wastelands, at the sophisticated and cosmopolitan city of Windbloom. Yumemiya Arika is strange in the she is a stranger, and that she is clearly an uncultured bumpkin……and she’s just kind of strange, too. But in a good-hearted, honest bumpkiny kind of way. She’s convinced that her mother was, or maybe is, an Otome, so after her guardian dies, she’s come to Garderobe to find her mother. After she witnesses the coolness that is Meister Shizuru Violeta, the Graceful Amethyst, Arika decides to become an Otome, as well.
This plunges her directly into intrigue and politics on both the micro- and macro-cosmic levels, as the great rulers decide her fate and in school as the new student is assessed for her level of threat to the status quo. Because not everyone at Garderobe will become an Otome – only the most talented few. Arika’s immediate rival, Nina, can’t stand the girl, so of course they are assigned to be roommates, along with sweet, blonde, starlet-like Erstin. And this is when I remembered how much I liked this series.
As Arika runs around Garderobe trying to find the council and defend herself (and Chie gets her first lesbian cred powerup) she’s the butt (pun intentional) of many stupid physical, servicey gags. But as she runs around, and later, as she meets her new classmates, I found myself happy to see every familiar face, from Yukino and her pet Haruka, to Ers, or Irina. In fact, as Irina introduced herself I felt something almost nostalgic blossom within me.
This is your basic shounen heroine action series. There will be many battles of one kind or another; an outclassed, apparently idiot savant heroine who will battle her way to the top; magical/mecha creatures; did I mention battles?; conspiracies, politics, intrigue on the grand scale and bullying, teasing and misunderstanding on the small scale; and service.
Yuri in Volume 1 is limited to a single knowing look shot at Natsuki by Shizuru, as she teases Arika in a decidedly sexual way, and Chie’s instant high reading on the Yuri-ometer. Yuri in Zhime is a popular fetish, so we’ll be seeing more as the story progresses.
Art – 8
Characters – 8
Story – 7
Music – 7
Yuri – 3
Service – 6
Overall – 7
All the characters I like are older, cooler and gayer. Is it any wonder I like this series better? ^_^