“My-Otome” is a stand-alone sequel of sorts to “My-HiME,” having a new central character and setting, but a similar setup by using some of the same character designs and names. It’s not necessary to have seen the earlier series to understand “Otome,” but those who have will be both more confused and also more rewarded for having done so. What’s confusing is that “Otome” takes familiar characters with the same looks, voices, similar names and personalities as “HiME” and puts them in completely new contexts and roles. For example, in “My-HiME” there’s a girl named Mikoto; in the alternate universe of “My-Otome,” Mikoto is the name of a cat, whose meows are eerily similar to the earlier Mikoto’s voice. Other relationships are turned on their heads, but since the personalities of these characters are more or less the same as in “My-HiME,” fans who saw that series will be rewarded with added insight into certain characters and appreciate the role reversals more than newcomers.
The story starts with Akira Yumemiya trying to get into Garderobe Academy, a special school where young women train to become Otome, powerful warriors who gain superhuman abilities through nanomachines injected into their blood. These nanomachines can’t work in men; in fact, an Otome would lose her powers if she were ever intimate with a man (Otome means “maiden” in Japanese). Although she shows up out of nowhere, with no proper lineage or training, Akira show herself naturally talented at using the Otome powers and is accepted into the school.
The show has a large cast of characters, as did “My-HiME,” which balanced and fleshed everyone out skillfully, as “My-Otome” seems on track to do. The main characters are very real and endearing, and the show does well in focusing on the characters. The plot moves along at a steady pace, with a light-hearted attitude. While the cute girls and bright designs make it look like it might appeal to a younger audience, most of the characters are very mature and realistic, and the story is treated with a good amount of nuance and detail. It is a younger story than “My-HiME,” though it seems to have a touch more fanservice, situations designed to please fans rather than to advance the plot.
In crafting a new world with some familiar characters (if not exactly the same), “My-Otome” is accessible to newcomers, while giving fans of its predecessor some more time with characters they’ll recognize. While perhaps not as great as “My-HiME,” “My-Otome” has a lot of energy and fun in this volume that make the rest of the series look promising.