This is the prequel of My-Otome, which predates the events before the My-Otome Series. In this series, it focuses upon the origins of Lena Sayers, the mother of Arika Yumemiya and former bearer of Lofty Crimson Jade / Blue Sky Sapphire GEM, and Sifr Fran, the biological mother of Nina Wáng and the former queen of Windbloom Kingdom, as well as the origins of Schwartz, Aswad, and the Garderobe Academy and its Five Columns. The kidnapping of Sifr and the powerful revelation of Lena's GEM will soon fatefully determine the outcome of the future for themselves and the others around them.
The following review, while is spoiler free as far as Mai-Otome 0~S.ifr~ is concerned, may contain spoilers for other Mai metaseries. Proceed at your own discretion!
Reviewing OVA can be tricky at times due to their highly condensed materials. Thus it only make sense that there will be slightly different evaluating criteria for them compared to the common anime.
Mai-Otome 0~S.ifr~ is the prequel to the popular Mai-Otome series produced by Sunrise. This OVA elaborates (in great depth) about the origin of many things which results in Mai-Otome including the origins of the Blue Sky Sapphire GEM, Schwartz, Aswad,
the Garderobe Academy, and the hidden connection between Mai HiME and Mai-Otome. Therefore it should be no brainer that one should watch Mai-Otome before watching 0~S.ifr~.
The one department where this OVA really shines. Thanks to the mysteries left behind by its predecessor, 0~S.ifr~ had much to cover (and fans were expecting nothing less). While the 3 episodes combine to roughly 80 minutes in length, the amount of materials it covered was extremely impressive. Each event in the story was well executed and planned in advance (not some random event out of the blue). Of course, in order to fully understand the topics in the OVA, one is required to have backgrounds from Mai-Otome AND Mai HiME.
The animation quality is still the area which needs improvement on. As a product of 2008, the animation level is definitely not the best that Sunrise could have produced. There were not much differences (if any) between the animation quality from Mai HiME (2004) to 0.~S.ifr~.
All three endings were sang by Minami Kuribayashi (Erstin Ho in Mai-Otome). Minami also sang a large portion of Mai HiME and Mai-Otome's theme songs, so any Mai series fan should have been accustom to her voice by now.
One interesting point viewer might notice when watching 0~S.ifr~ is style to the music sound entirely different from the previous Mai metaseries. That is because 0~s.ifr~'s music was not written by the popular musican Kajiura Yuki, instead the music this time is provided by the less well knownKuniaki Haishima.
Character voice (CV) should also be a point of interest in 0~S.ifr~ because of the great casts of talented seiyu.
1. Ami Koshimizu, CV of Sifr Blan, mother of Nina Wang. Ami Koshimizu has voice acted in numerous popular series, including Kallen in Code Geass, Horo in Spice and Wolf, Nina in Mai-Otome, etc.
2. Endo Aya, voicing as Lena Sayer, mother of Arika Yumemiya. Endo Aya has a very sweet voice voice acting as Sheryl Nome in Macross Frontier, Matsu in Sekirei, Kinue Crossroad in Gundam 00, Miyuki Takara in Lucky Star, etc.
3. Ryoutarou Okiayu, voicing for Bruce Wallace (the fan voted "best" male protagonist in all Mai metaseries), father of Nina Wang. Ryoutarou Okiayu has been around for quite a long time, his more notable roles include Kuchiki Byakuya in Bleach, Scar in Fullmetal Alchemist, Treize Khushrenada in Gundam Wing, Andrew Waltfeld in Gundam SEED/Destiny, etc.
4. Souichirou Hoshi voicing as Shiro (Yumemiya?), the unconfirmed father of Arika Yumemiya. Souichirou Hoshi is famous for many roles, they include Kira Yamato in Gundam SEED/Destiny, Kazuma in Scryed, Gino in Code Geass R2, Brera in Macross Frontier (this role I could have never guessed), etc.
Simply put, Mai-Otome 0~S.ifr~ is full of brilliant seiyu!
Many "mysterious" characters in Mai-Otome have their puzzling backgrounds cleared up in 0~S.fir~ mainly Lena and Sifr, the two main female lead in the story. Unlike its two TV predecessors which have a surprisingly large cast of characters (thus lead to a difficult time for certain unique characterization to become apparent), 0~S.ifr~ has "all the time in the world" as it focuses on Lena and Sifr. For a 3 episodes OVA, director Hisayuki Hirokazu has done a great job developing the "stars" of the story and how their families are linked to the Mai HiME universe.
Enjoyment + Final Impression:
Lena is by far the most likable female lead in all the Mai series and what happened to her after 0~S.ifr~ and how her body was treated in Mai-Otome just made it very sad to watch this OVA. Nonetheless, this is an OVA that should be watch by anyone who enjoy Magic, Fantasy, Drama, and some Nudity :P
Mai-Otome 0~S.ifr~ is a prequel OVA of the Mai-Otome series. It is not connected to the main series plot-wise, but rather tells a story about Lena Sayers (Arikia Yumemiya's mother) as she saves Sifr, a young girl, from destructive forces.
Despite being only 3 episodes only, Mai-Otome 0~S.ifr~ has a satisfying story with a beginning that gradually develops as the plot thickens and ends with a conclusive note. The story is balanced with both deep and comedic moments, and is filled with action-packed scenes.
Like the other Mai-Otome series, the art is the same. There is little CG effects. Despite this, everything is still sharp and
clear. The movements of characters (especially in battles) are quite smooth. CG effects are used in battle scenes, and are quite effective. From the glowing beam from a gigantic rifle to Lena Sayers' duplication attack, the added effects bring up the level of excitement.
Background music could have been better. There were scenes that had pure silence in the background. The background music for other scenes didn't really add any extra effects. I found the music for battle scenes to be dull. The ED song, however, went great with the credits and pictures.
Character development was pretty impressive, considering this was a three-episode OVA. Both Lena Sayers and Sifr Fran were quite different at the end when compared to what they were like in the beginning. Both learned and adapted throughout the story. The minor characters were a bit boring, but their roles helped with the story.
Overall, Mai-Otome 0~S.ifr~ was a great OVA that greatly complemented the main series. I recommend watching this before the main series, since Lena Sayers... yeah.
o get the most out of Mai-Otome 0~S.ifr~, or even just to fathom why it could possibly need to have such a confusing title, you really have to have a vested interest in its lineage. Much like how the baby-boomer generation are able to enjoy ABBA only after “growing up with it”, you can only appreciate these later OVA entries in the franchise if you've been groomed into a state of meek compliance by its more charismatic forbears. If you were to just pick it off a shelf and watch it without this crucial requirement of already being a fan of its origin, then you
will find it to be a tedious and puerile pile of crap. But there are those of us who were enamored by Mai HiME, which actually had the entertainment assets to bring in a fresh audience and then whip them into a bunch of frenzied addicts by pulling what I still consider to be the most ambitious/desperate direction change in a show ever: from a frivolous high-school comedy to a heart-wrenching melodrama. The following series, Mai Otome was another worthwhile addendum to the franchise. But we are now on the second OVA series set in the Mai Otome universe, and it's becoming clear that the three episodes of Sifr had to tap into the last dregs of potential left in the “Mai” pedigree. With that said, you'll understand that the only way to make this OVA series worthwhile is by being a fan of the previous works. It's a prequel, so obviously there's benefit in knowing all the background story, but more importantly, if you're a fan of the franchise you'll still be able to appreciate the style and tone prevalent in Sifr, even though it now lacks the edge to bring in new viewers.
But a show doesn't need edge to be entertaining. If you know what to expect from an Otome OVA, then you should be able to extract some fun from this. The usual approach of having a bloated cast of cute and sexy (definitely leaning more toward the sexy type this time, which is a shame because I'd rather more girls like my beloved Arika!) girls and a story that juggles both action and some dramatic subplots is still applied. It's just that, with only the space of 3 episodes to work with, and almost no appearances from established characters, the OVA struggles to make any of its array of characters feel worthwhile or in any way memorable. I mean, sure the character designs were as cute and unique as ever, and they were vital enough with their lines, but they just didn't get enough material to really give them presence. No one was fleshed out or had enough screentime to leave a mark or have their idioms/personalities remembered. Because the plot had to move so fast, and because the episodes had such sparse release dates, it was more like seeing disjointed flashes of the characters and they all ultimately burr together into a mess of moe.
Sifr, the lead character, essentially felt like Arika from the Otome TV series without the clumsy moe-appeal. Rena Sayers was soft-spoken and unnaturally guilt-ridden about her powers, but I didn't find her interesting at all. Most people would agree that her two points of interest rest firmly on her chest, one of which is delightfully exposed in the final episode (which gives it a lower nipple count that Zwei). The character I was most interested in had less than a handful of lines. Sakura has a really amazing character design and I was really intrigued by her mysterious role in the show. Her inclusion seems to be just a hook to lead into a following OVA series, if there will be one. I suppose it worked too, because I would watch another OVA just for her. The villainous force was pretty much laughable, although M9 was a lethal foe whenever she was thrust into battle.
And speaking of battles, there was a lot more action-based excitement than in previous series, especially in the final episode, where the banked animation budget was pillaged to deliver a fast and furious duel between the two opposing superpowers in the series: Rena Sayers and M9. The immense power of any androids in the 'Mai' franchise has always struck me as kind of bizarre, as though being made of metal and alloy entitles you to limitless abilities and power – why not just do away with Otome and build royal android bodyguards? But M9 provided the only test of Rena's powers and the result was actually quite spectacular, even with the slight DBZ feel. Any battle that spans more than one atmosphere and involves more than one re-entry has gotta be good! The action quota in this series was certainly fulfilled, and the animation was there to back it up, even if there are some obvious shortcuts in places to save the cel count (like teleportation). As with the other series, the detail in the cel animation is quite low, but this enables the studio to keep things consistent and curtail potential moments of QUALITY. Perhaps the reason they seemed to have plenty to spend on the animation is due to their cutting off of Yuki Kajiura from the musical lineup. She has done the score music for every other entry in the franchise, so this is a pretty big change. Fortunately, I'm not a big Kajiura fan so I wasn't altogether bothered by the switch to an unknown for the musical score. About half of the score music was strikingly familiar, which made me feel like the whole score was just lifted from other movie/tv scores and tweaked a bit. But nonetheless, the music did the job almost well enough and, at the very least, it wasn't awful to the point of vexation.
So the production was like the rock of the series – the only thing that was solid and reliable. The plot, on the other hand, was more like a face-full of gravel – a painful mess. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a case of severe over-ambition. We have a group (or just one?) of writers who envisioned 26 episodes worth of plot and couldn't bring themselves to simplify it when it came to the crunch and it had to be crammed into about 80 minutes of anime time. By the time it got to the end of the show, I had given up almost entirely. There was something about a weaver, which is dangerously powerful. Rena has a mysterious power, or it may have not been mysterious and I simply failed to pay attention well enough to miss the bullet-speed explanations. There was too much going on with all the characters, for any one of their subplots to have any satisfying conclusion (or even a middle or beginning), and the main plot lacked momentum in its confusion.
The result is a colourful series with cute characters, some pretty fun action scenes, and not much else. For interested fans, there are still sprinklings of references to Mai HiME, hinting at a connection between the universes, but it's clear now that that won't be taken anywhere. More importantly, the 'Mai' formula just feels tired now, without humour and dramatic impact. Hell, Sifr didn't even have much fanservice (although Eri being stripped down to her cat-ears and panties in episode 2 was pretty good, and I suppose there was quite a lot if you count the incredibly cute maid outfits as fanservice). Thankfully, it did have the requisite amount of yuri undertones for a “Mai” series though, and the scene where Eri was trying to get a kiss out of Rena while the others gossiped behind a couch was one of my favourite scenes. I definitely preferred Zwei to this, because it already had that established cast and story to work with, and because the pacing was more relaxed.