Mai-Otome

09
Nov
2014

Mai-Otome

You know I would be the first person to say that subs are better than dubs then it comes to Anime’s. Call it the anime purist in me, call it a record of bad dubs over the years. I’ve just never been one to watch dubs over the years. But sometimes I am willing to make an exception if the dub is done so well that I prefer a dub over a sub. Mai-Otome is one such anime. 

Airing in 2005 under the direction of Masakazu Obara (My-HiME and Guilty Crown) Mai-Otome was a spinoff of the 2004 My-HiME based on an alternate world set sometime in the future. Mai-Otome is almost like a retelling of the 2004 My-HiME. All of the My-HiME characters are there but the world they are in is completely different. 

Now if I make a lot of comparisons between My-HiME and Mai-Otome then you will have to forgive me. These two series are going to be compared to each other a lot so please bear with it.

Plot

Arika Yumemiya has traveled far in search of her goal: the prestigious Gualderobe Academy. This is the school where young girls are trained to become Otomes, protectors of royal leaders throughout the lands. Here, Arika makes plenty of friends, but some enemies know something about her past that she does not. Nevertheless, her spirit and determination will keep pushing her forward. (myanimelist.net)

 

Storytelling

What I really enjoy about Mai-Otome are the characters and how they interact with each other. Every character has an opportunity to shine in this series. I think of this series as the role reversal series. Main characters are now side characters while side characters are now main characters. Characters like Nao and Midori who get barely any screen time in Mai-Otome get multiple episodes to shine in Mai-Otome. You can argue (and rightfully so) that Mai-Otome focuses much more on the characters around the MC than the MC themselves. 

I mean let’s face it. My-HiME was the Mai and Mikoto show from beginning to end. Everyone else was just window dressing. Mai-Otome was much more about the journey of Arika Yumina and the people she meets than about Arika herself. 

But what is equally impressive in the series is that it doesn’t drag on needlessly as it tries to fill up those 26 episodes (*cough* Attack on Titan *cough*). Much of that can be credited to the writing of Hiroyuki Yoshino. 

This series could be viewed as an early glimpse of his later brilliance in future series such as Guilty Crown, Accel World, Strike the Blood, and Macross Frontier. His ability to keep the story moving along, giving each character their own personality, and giving them the time to really shine on screen is something that I really admire about his work. While there were many parts in My-HiME that dragged along Mai-Otome shows that he learned from that a bit and got better at story pacing. 

Animation & Sound

What can I say, I love the animation in Mai-Otome. It is clean and crisp with bits of cgi in the transformation scenes. It really is a nice looking anime for 2005. The animation was done by Sunrise which is one of my favorite animation studios. Their works include Inuyasha, Love Hina, and Mobile Suit Gundam. Their work is just fantastic across the board.

The background music was composed by Yuki Kajiura who is well known in the Anime industry. Her works include .hack//sign, Fate/Zero, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Sword Art Online. I really adore her style. I’ve always been a person who appreciates sweeping orchestra style music and it’s ability to make a scene larger than it appears. This is expressed in many of the scenes in Mai-Otome where small battle scenes here and there can have much greater meaning when the proper music is applied. I also enjoy the use of the choir vocals in the background of many of the pieces. It makes you almost feel like you are in an opera house. 

Dubwork

I will rarely mention this because I am a strong advocate for the original Japanese language track for almost every anime that I watch, but Mai-Otome is a rare exception to that rule. The translation work was done by Paul Paldwin. I’ve looked up his work and it includes the likes of Mobile Suit Gundam and Black Lagoon. The producer of the series was done by Diana Gage which is interesting in and of itself.

Why is this?

Diana Gage was also in charge of one of the worst anime dubs I have ever watched in Crest/Banner of the Stars. The dubbing in that series, was so bad that it is hard to even put it into words. Characters like Lafiel who was supposed to be a 15 year old girl sounded like a 30 year old woman. The voices simply did not fit the look of the character. Maybe Mai-Otome is a reflection of what was learned in the 3-4 years between Crest of the Stars and Mai-Otome. 

So what changed?

Well in Mai-Otome the English dubbing matched the character look instead of the character bio. There are certain cultural nuisances between English and Japanese voices. 

Let us take for instance Captain Levi from Attack on Titan, here is the same scene shown in Japanese then English. 

Subs

Dubs

Granted there are a lot of problems between these two scenes but let us focus on Levi’s voice in particular. A 30 year old Japanese male sounds completely different to a 30 year old American male. The character design is built around a 30 year old Japanese Male and his voice. But if you take that character design and put a 30 year old American male voice to it, it comes off as very weird. The voice sounds older than the character on the screen, it doesn’t fit. If the voice were to be that of a mid 20 something male, which would have a slightly higher baritone, it would sound a lot better for the character design. This is an instance of a dub character voice picked because he voice fit the character bio and not the character on screen. 

Let us compare this to Mai-Otome (I had to find entire episodes because apparently there aren’t any clips out there)

Mai-Otome Episode 1 Japanese

Mai Otome Episode 1 English Dub

When you compare the voices between the Japanese and English audio the voices simply fit the characters for the languages that they are spoken in. There are a few problems with some voices, like Serguey Wong sounds a little bit off, but for the most part they work.  

Now maybe this is just me and my personal opinion speaking. But I truthfully love the dub work that was done on Mai-Otome and I wish that other anime studios would put in the quality of work into their dub work as was done in this series. It is one of the reasons why this franchise ranks among my all-time personal favorites. 

 

The Mai-Otome series had two spinnoff OVA series. Mai-Otome Zwei picked off after the events of Mai-Otome and led to a brand new adventure. My-Otome 0~S.ifr~ is a prequel of sorts that cover’s Rena Sayers, Arika’s mother, where we learn more about who she was as well as where Arika got her natural powers from. 

There is also a manga based on the series but it is completely different from the Anime (Mashiro is a guy instead of a girl) and I honestly haven’t read much of it.