Spoiler warning: this rant will unashamedly give away the plot for the entirety of Mai-Otome and most of HiME.
In October 2005, life seemed good; a sequel to Mai-HiME had begun airing in Japan, and it seemed to be all anyone could talk about. Fans of the original were looking forward to bigger and better adventures, whilst newcomers to the franchise were looking forward to finally seeing what all the fuss was all about. Flash forward half a year, and the embittered survivors could only agree on one thing- somewhere along the line, something had gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Back in those heady days when the whole thing was bathed in the rosy light of potential, we were content with our lot. Our lead, Arika Yumemiya, wanted to become an Otome, and we were fairly sure that would come to pass. It seemed almost certain that she would make friends and enemies, and that most of the enemies would probably realise the error of the ways and turn into yet more friends by the end. Yes, it was standard stuff, but we remained confident; there’d be comedy to tide us through the introductory sections, action and drama later on, and above all, character and plot development. It was only reasonable to expect that, wasn’t it?
Okay, so enough of the melodramatic foreshadowing; chances are if you’re reading this, then you’re already know what went wrong with Otome- you just want to see me rip it apart. And so, without further ado, let us move on to what, for lack of a better word, I shall call the plot.
The story: a rollercoaster ride of…what was this all meant to be about, anyway?
The myriad problems with Otome’s plot can perhaps be attributed to a lack of communication- not only did no one suggest to the writers that it might be a good idea to talk to each other and figure out some sort of consistent plot, but it seems that no one even realised until about three weeks before the end that they actually only had 26 episodes to work with, and not, as they had previously thought, at least 52.
To be fair, it all started well enough; Arika decides that becoming an Otome is the only thing for her and transfers into Garderobe Academy, where the expansive cast covers everything from friends, rivals and teachers right down to your everyday borderline psychotic classmate who has a serious yet pretty much unwarranted grudge against our cheerful lead. There were even a few attacks from mechanical Slave monsters- a sure sign, or so it seemed, that a dissatisfied faction or two was waiting in the wings to stir up trouble.
Yes, it was all pretty entertaining, and in our naïveté, we believed that, like HiME, it was all building up to something greater. To the trained eye of hindsight, however, even then the cracks were beginning to show. Take the nano-machines for example- convenient little devices which are injected into an Otome and allow the transformation from disturbing maid-like uniform into a fighting ‘Robe’, complete with weapon. Putting aside such trivialities as how they create weapons and robes out of nothingness, or why the whole thing depends on gems that link an Otome to a Master or to “Shinso-sama” (more on that later), who would possibly create such advanced technology and then leave it susceptible to ‘male protein’, so that selected characters can angst over becoming an Otome or throwing it all away for a night in bed with the boyfriend?
Still, you expect these gimmicks in anime, and so we forged ahead, pacified by the fact that Mikoto, once a human in the days of HiME, now seemed to have taken on the form of a lazy yet huggable fat grey cat. Things trundled ahead in this manner until we reached the first warning herald- the infamous ‘beach episode’ had reached us as early as episode six. Such episodes are not uncommon in anime, but you usually expect them to occur closer to the middle of the series, a comedy break between one story arc and the next. Fair enough, you might say, only Otome hadn’t even bothered to give us a story arc in the first place- we were, in effect, taking a filler break from what was pretty much filler to start with.
Nonetheless, maybe it was best to get the throwaway episodes out of the way early, and indeed, come episode seven, it seemed our faith in the series was to be rewarded. Here, at last, things were happening; Mikoto led Mashiro and Arika under the castle to a Harmonium guarded by a shadowy human Mikoto; a monster attacks, gems conveniently appear out of Arika’s pendant and before you know it, Mashiro and Arika are fully fledged Master and Otome. Arika’s new puffy pink Robe could only mean one thing- events had finally started moving…hadn’t they?
As it turned out, however, this was to be the first of many ‘teases’ the series had to offer, each time dangling the promise of plot development in front of us, only to snatch it cruelly away. For come next episode, it was back to school for Arika, complete with a new set of minor misadventures as she and Mashiro tried to hide their new gems and contract whilst searching for a way to break the bond.
Fair enough, though, every important event needs an aftermath, and so it was with some optimism that the next arc was approached- a two-parter centred on the Coral students’ survival hike. A danger-filled trek through the wilderness of Ealis/Aeris could surely offer some action, especially when Midori and her gang of cyborg rangers showed up. Finally, Natsuki and the others could stop sitting around at the base and sending out unfortunate Pearls to taste the unappetising meals (and magic mushrooms) that the Corals had prepared for dinner. We even got a decent action scene when Shizuru and Haruka plunged into battle against Midori and her team, but alas, it was over too quickly.
It was around this point that I began to worry. Like many others, I was still convinced that all sorts of epic and grandiose things were set to occur in the poorly defined ‘later on’, but it seemed to me that we were approaching the middle of the series awfully quickly, and if the writers wanted everything to be ready for said ‘later on’, they’d better start getting on with it.
As if sensing our disquiet, Sunrise decided to give us something to take our minds off it- no, not some actual development, but a good healthy dose of what can only be called “HiME-service”. Yes, it was time to call in a pair of HiME characters who had yet to feature in the series- Takumi and Akira, now ruler of Zipang and bodyguard respectively. Together with their entourage, they make a visit to Mashiro’s queendom of Windbloom, but to add a little ‘excitement’ to proceedings, both Mashiro and Takumi have bunked off their royal duties, leaving Arika and Akira to fill in for them. Naturally, the two monarchs end up meeting in town anyway, and end up going on a brief date designed to enlighten Mashiro on a) the fact that not everyone is as well off as she is, and b) she should start realising that she needs to transform from bratty queen into enlightened ruler. At the time, it was an entertaining twenty-five minutes, but in the context of the series, it turned out to be ultimately pointless; Takumi and Akira weren’t glimpsed again until the very end of the series, whilst Mashiro’s “good queen” transformation was still some way away.
Moving on, and more HiME-service was in the works, this time focussing on HiME’s ill-fated couple, Akane and Kazuya. With no Miyu nearby to destroy her child and turn her boyfriend into green sparkles, Akane had a whole new set of issues to angst about- should she accept the offer of becoming Florence’s Otome, or give it all up and elope with dear Kazu-kun? Naturally, having fought off a Slave and made the decision that the Otome life was truly for her, Akane’s decision is turned upside down when Kazuya shows up at the meister ceremony and the couple rides happily off into the sunset. One could argue that it was a charmingly romantic ending for a character that got a bad deal last time around, but at the same time, why does it always have to be the woman who throws everything away to go with the man? Can’t we have some strong female characters who aren’t angsting about men all the time?
Gender issues aside, Sunrise were clearly on a roll by this time, because they decided to throw in another angle to keep the HiME fan(boy)s happy- snippets of info on none other than Mai Tokiha herself. And, along with a legend explaining about how she too was torn between her duty as the Fire String Ruby Otome and her love for a man (sigh), it even seemed as if the story train was finally about to pull out of the station when an Otome vs. Otome conflict suddenly broke out between the countries of Romulus and Remus.
This, surely, had to be it- the beginning of a war that would suck in the entire world, a war that would see friends pitted against each other and the strength of the Otome-Master bond tested to its limit. Forget all the missteps of the first half of the series, from hereon in, we’d finally be tucking into the true meat of the series. Only, as we should have guessed, it was not to be. All we got was a scene filled with smoke, a half-second glimpse of the Romulus Otome and Shizuru’s investigation of the ‘crime scene’, before the writers decided it was time to move onto a far more important arc- Sergey angst.
Maybe it’s just bad memories of Dragonball Z, but I’ve never held much liking for blonde, spiky-haired male characters in anime, and the appropriately named Sergey Wang was not about to be an exception to that rule. And yet, despite being a character who inspired indifference at the best of times, Sergey had somehow won the heart of two underage girls- his adoptive daughter Nina, and of course Arika herself. In short order, our screens were awash with angst as feelings clashed with ambitions, although Nina was not yet destined to realise that she and Arika both loved the same man- that was to come later.
By this point, everything seemed to be on a downward spiral- hope was rapidly draining away, and even the shock factor of Tomoe and Miya arranging for Arika to be raped (and thus lose the right to be an Otome) lasted for the five seconds it took “Never fear, Sergey’s here” to rescue her. Still, much like Macbeth, we’d come so far that we might as well see it through; and just at the point when we were drowning in angst, a shining light of promise appeared in the form of the series’ second opening.
Forget the cheesy J-Pop that accompanied it, it was the opening video that brought us renewed vigour. There, arrayed before us, was everything we could hope for- scenes of massive, all encompassing battles, new characters, unexpected alliances, meister Arika vs meister Nina, and even the one person the fanboys had hoped for- Mai, complete with all-new Otome robes and a giant fire element ring. There was much debate to be had over when and how the scenes we had glimpsed would come to pass, but finally, we had solid proof that the series was going somewhere.
Yet as always, we were being far too lenient and forgiving- Otome was far from done screwing us over. It was far too late to get to this dramatic, war-torn future via any sort of natural, well-paced progression, and so it was up to the next couple of episodes to suddenly sprint ahead into this new and untested territory. Within the space of a couple of episodes, our final arc villains Nagi and the poorly-named John Smith had taken over Fuuka Castle, summoned an army of Slaves, jammed the Shinso-sama system that allows Coral, Pearl and Pillar Otome to materialise without a master and left Wind Bloom and its inhabitants in quite a sorry state. The writers had even gone so far as to kill a named character off, forcing poor Erstin to become master to a Slave, fight against Arika, lose, and turn into green sparkles. As if that weren’t enough, that same battle saw Nina finally realise that Sergey was not hers and hers alone, causing her to activate the convenient plot device entitled the Ultimate Black Diamond and thus become Nagi’s Otome and frontline pin-up for the side of evil.
It was a spurt of plot-related activity, to be sure, but even that much seemed to empty the Sunrise fuel tanks of creativity, and thus it was back into something below first gear for the next few episodes to let everyone recover. Our new focus- Mashiro and Arika, now stuck out in the desert together with a load of Wind Bloom refugees and Midori’s people, and what better time for obligatory character development? Mashiro was first to come under the spotlight, with the proximity to her subjects finally prompting her to realise that their opinion of her isn’t what you’d call favourable. Even death seemed to be fully switched on when the angry refugee mob pushed poor Aoi off a cliff. Despite the fact that Aoi had done little in the series apart from carry Mikoto around, there was a quiet dignity about her sacrifice that made it much more compelling than Erstin’s end. As we were soon to discover, however, falling from any height isn’t really much to worry about in the world of Otome- all Aoi suffered was a few bumps and bruises and a short stay in the hospital.
Watching your own people seemingly kill your maid is enough to turn anyone into a good queen, however, but whilst Mashiro was resolving to finally grow up a little, for Arika, a whole new world of angst was beginning. After finding out from Midori that the Shinso-sama system is actually powered by the body of Fumi, the very first Otome and that technology, in general, has not been terribly beneficial to the planet, Arika swears never to use her Otome powers again, not realising, of course, that any main character who vows to lay down their sword (or equivalent) is inevitably forced to take it up again within the space of about five minutes. Even the power of an Otome, however, could not be enough to save the life of the series’ next casualty- “Cagalli Jr.” lookalike Mimi.
At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking your memory had failed you as you struggled to remember who Mimi was- as a named character whose death seems significant to the plot, surely she must be important. Well, the answer to that is no- she’s just a small blonde Wind Bloom refugee of previously indeterminate gender who popped up a few times before, and whose name was never even mentioned until her death. Perhaps by this point Sunrise were beginning to tread carefully- killing off a major, or worse yet, a former HiME character, could incite fan uprisings, so why not just stick with the safe option of a character no one could possibly care about all that much?
By now the end of the series was distinctly visible on the horizon, but even as Nina became the supreme Harmonium mistress of evil and most of the other characters ran around and accomplished little, there was still time for another dose of what Otome does best- that’s right, an arc that goes nowhere! Smith may be busying himself using the body of former Wind Bloom Otome Rena (also Arika’s mother) as a Shinso-sama for Tomoe’s new Valkyrie unit of mobile armour/Alter rejects, but who cares about that- let’s focus on Carlteya’s leader Argoss and his Otome Fia. Their goals were unclear and ultimately unfulfilled when they become the next ‘safe’ pair of characters to kill off, courtesy of Midori and Gakutenoh.
That little diversion aside, and there’s still one wish the Otome writers had yet to fulfil- yes, that’s right, Mai and human Mikoto still hadn’t made an appearance. Insult the series, if you like, claim the fanboys, but once Mai appears, it’ll all be worthwhile. Never mind that taking time out to introduce an old favourite is episode 16-17 stuff, and that by this point we’re actually on episode 23, let’s have Mashiro and Arika end up in an out-of-the-way valley inhabited by Mai, human Mikoto, god mode android Miyu and a couple of grey fat cats not unlike cat Mikoto.
As an excuse for the whole exercise, Miyu happened to clear up the whole “who is the real queen of Wind Bloom, and who is Rena’s daughter?” question, and even have Natsuki and Nao show up later so that the story can move on, but if the writers have learned anything, it’s how to gloss over various other unanswered story points. What happened to Mai’s whole love story with silhouetted Tate/Sergey? Why is Mikoto supposedly the god of cats and the last true HiME (complete with birthmark)? Why is everyone relaxing in a hotspring when there’s less than 80 minutes of animation left to finish the story? If you want explanations for all that, then I’m sorry folks, but you’ll have to make them up yourself. Oh, and for anyone who, like me, began to suspect that Mikoto’s fat grey cats were the key to everything, then I’m sorry to disappoint you, but they don’t even appear in the last three episodes.
Whilst the happy reunion concludes with Mikoto promising to train Arika (her “I don’t want to be an Otome” angst is long over), we leave them to get on with it offscreen for a final check in on the bad guys before the grand finale. This time, it’s Nina’s turn to angst as some budget saving flashbacks remind her of all the fun she had in the simpler times with Arika and Erstin. In a situation like this, there’s only one thing to do- sleep with Sergey so that Nagi can no longer abuse her Otome powers. As we are randomly informed at this point, there are unspecified loopholes for being with men, so whether or not they actually do the deed is unclear; the only thing that becomes certain by next episode is that even if they did (all together: ewww), it didn’t work.
So, after all that, and much more of lesser import that I haven’t related, we reach the final hour. Somewhere in the writers’ room, someone pulled out the sofa and finally found the memo explaining that the whole series was only supposed to last 26 episodes. Realising they had to construct an ending, the staff were left with no choice but to hurriedly rewatch old series- Gundam Seed, Destiny, even Outlaw Star proved useful. This was it, the ultimate showdown between good and evil, in which good would inevitably prevail, but only after a while.
Practically every character we’d met, and even a few we hadn’t, had to be called up to fight, and to fit them all in, deus ex machina had to be used like it never had been before. Each time a group of heroes got into trouble, the next wave of protagonists arrived on the scene and saved them, and even if the prior group didn’t seem to be struggling it was their duty to stand around and await rescue.
Middling enemies were finally to be vanquished, but in keeping with the series’ limited death policy, survival was essential. Tomoe, for example, fell from a height of several thousand feet and seemed to suffer little other damage than a bad back, before falling to the greater affliction known as “lack of screen time or story resolution”. Somewhere along the line, Otome-Master and Otome-Shinso contracts became irrelevant as everyone became Highly-advanced Materialising Equipment (that’s right, HiME).
In the tradition of so many series, however, the majority of the cast could only assist in the final showdown- who needs Otome who’ve had years of training and experience when you’ve got a main character at your side? No-one has ever fought over a man the way Arika and Nina did, somehow achieving maximum power levels far above the planet’s surface thanks to the “final episode” special ability. And when, all was said and done, their robes burned away as they re-entered the atmosphere, yet where lesser objects would have burnt up or crash-landed, their naked bodies safely made it to the surface.
And so, we reached the closing minutes, pretty much everyone (except the villains and the few casualties) was happy once again, Nina was off somewhere tending an amnesiac Sergey, and the fat cats were mysteriously absent from the joyous celebrations. We, the viewers, were left with the bitter taste of disappointment in our mouths, but at the same time, a kind of relief that the whole sorry mess was done with. Only, like the many cruel tricks that Otome had already played…there was more to come. Even now, in trepidation, we await the release of a short OVA, an OVA so well thought out that each official announcement about it contradicts the last, so carefully planned that the studio needs to run a poll to see which characters viewers would like to see strut their stuff once again. Yes, in a cruel world where plush Mikotos have already been discontinued, this is the disappointing legacy Otome leaves us.
Lights, camera, action…okay, forget the action
One topic that really deserves its own side rant is the action scenes, or rather the lack of them. Here we have no lack of highly trained (and lesser trained) women who are frequently described as weapons, yet the series boasts precious little in the way of decent fight scenes. Sunrise gave us HiME, they gave us S-CRY-ed, they’ve given us any number of Gundams duking it out- but when Otome even approaches something resembling a battle, it takes longer to materialise and strike a set of stock poses than it does to actually fight.
Characters: safety in numbers
A lot has been written already, but it isn’t enough to finish it here; Otome just leaves us with too much to rant about. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times above, Otome’s cast isn’t what you call small or focussed- quite frankly, it’s a sprawling, expansive mess. As the episodes go by, character upon character joins the cast, with many of them having little development other than to announce their names (and at the end you may hard pressed to remember them all anyway). True, every show must have those who play a supporting role, but Otome seems to take pleasure in making characters look as if they’re going to have some importance, and then relegating them off screen once their five seconds of fame are up.
Our annoyingly cheerful lead, Arika takes everything you expect but don’t really like about a main character, and somehow succeeds in making it worse. She angsts over a man old enough to be her father, she angsts over being an Otome, and quite frankly sometimes she just needs a good slap.
Arika’s opposite number, the moody “rival-turned friend-turned bitter enemy” with a disturbing father complex. She goes from reasonable character to dull villain in the time it takes to say “Ultimate Black Diamond”, and wrecks a big chunk of the world just so she can please Sergey/be with Sergey/save Sergey’s life.
A far cry from her HiME incarnation, Mashiro is the kind of character who exists for viewers to first hate, then come to like, then finally feel sorry for when it takes her two-thirds of the series to realise that she’s an awful ruler, that her people hate her, and that they’ve just tossed her maid off a cliff.
One of the series’ scant casualties, the friendly, kind-hearted glue that binds Nina and Arika together until the appointed time when she must depart so that they can become enemies. Apparently she believes that the advanced Otome technology should be used for the good of everyone, but it’s hard to develop a point like that when the person expounding it dies two seconds later. Quite frankly, she’s so nice that she’s boring.
Every hero needs a rival out to get them for no good reason, and Tomoe is Arika’s. All she wants is for her beloved Shizuru to notice her, and to that end she enacts no end of increasingly cruel schemes on Arika, before finally slipping over the edge into full psychosis, joining the side of evil as a Valkyrie, capturing Shizuru and playing bizarre bondage games with her involving pacifiers and other baby equipment.
So this time around, Akane actually gets to be with Kazuya, and they leave the story and live happily ever after…right? Alas no, for what would the grand finale be without as many named characters as possible taking part? Whilst taking things slow in a relationship is commendable, nearly half a series passes between them riding off into the sunset and actually getting the chance to get intimate in a rather seedy and out of place looking love motel. Unfortunately, said intimacy is interrupted by Carlteya’s own Ku Klux Klan, who cart Kazuya off to become the country’s new leader, whilst virgin Akane is pressed back into service as an Otome. On the plus side, she does get quite a nice nekomimi robe.
Poor Chie, what was your role in the plot actually meant to be? Aside from waving blue roses around and going on the occasional date with Aoi, not much, it seems. Initially destined to become Haruka’s aide, this plot point seems to be completely forgotten five seconds after it is introduced, and for some reason Chie ends up joining the Valkyries, only to unsurprisingly betray them (supposedly impossible) thanks to the power of…Maki Maki. If there was ever any reason not to join the Valkyries, it was the terrible outfits, but there’s no accounting for taste.
Maki Maki, Maki Maki, Maki Maki…gone is Shiho’s onii-chan complex of the HiME days; instead she is obsessed with spirals and their bizarre power to bring misfortune to people. The Maki Maki joke is overused to the point where not only is there a mushroom-induced scene of Shiho-wasp and her hapless lackeys stealing the spiral from a snail shell, but she even gets her own DVD special about it. In case anyone was about to complain though, Maki Maki quickly gets a purpose shoved in at the end (see above), and Shiho gets a bizarre robe with a skull on the crotch to make up for the fact that the writers had forgotten their promise to make her Florence’s Otome.
She only wants to graduate from Garderobe so that she can marry a rich man, her striped shirt and beret cast serious aspersions on her fashion sense- and yet for some inexplicable reason, she is chosen to become one of the Five Pillars. If you liked the look of her Spiderwoman robe in the second OP though, prepare to be disappointed; you won’t even get to see it until the end.
Natsuki, such a great character in HiME, now the barely effectual principal of Garderobe with questionable taste in outfits (Shizuru is still at her side, though). You could be forgiven for wondering, as I did, if she had failed to actually become an Otome since she doesn’t even materialise until the latter half of the series.
Since Natsuki doesn’t do much other than sit in her office (something that Shizuru herself did much better in HiME anyway), if you need someone to materialise and take part in the series’ handful of action scenes, you’d better call on Shizuru. She even has inbuilt ‘gaydar’ to detect people who are disguising their gender, and infinite capacity to deal with Tomoe’s bizarre bondage games until the time is right to escape.
Gone is the useless plant Child Diana, Yukino is now a president who doesn’t get to do much, whilst Haruka is comic relief in an Otome robe. A pale shadow of the HiME days, but memorable for the lines “You can’t just slap Otome on the butt!” “Then where can I slap?”
Sergey- the invincible ‘love machine’. His goal was clearly to sabotage Natsuki and Shizuru’s idea of a perfect lesbian academy by making Arika and Nina fall in love with him, just the latest two additions in a list that included Arika’s mother. He may not have flashy attacks or the ability to materialise, but his stamina is incredible- he survived both Miyu’s god mode attacks and getting shot in the back (oddly blood started running down his face when the latter occurred). Even at the end he failed to die, instead losing his memories and starting over in some unknown location with beloved Nina.
One year, you’re dancing on rooftops, the next you’re an evil ruler with grand designs for domination. After teasing Mashiro and acting in a way that made others suspicious but unable to act, Nagi went on to enter standard villain mode, only to get defeated and shackled into a chain gang at the end. The questions we have to ask ourselves are a) what was he actually trying to achieve other than to be an obvious antagonist and b) do we really care anyway?
With such a bad name and character design, it’s hard to take Smith seriously, or even avoid bursting out into laughter anytime a character intones “John Smith”. Introduced as a negotiator (perhaps an inferior relative of Big O’s Roger Smith), intermediate villain Smith seemed to become fatter and less detailed as the series progressed, until finally he met his end and joined the short list of deceased named characters.
I always felt sorry for Yukariko in HiME- not because she had fallen in love with a complete bastard, but because her character design was so uninspired you could use a default RPG Maker sprite to approximate it. She wouldn’t even be worthy of mention here except that her teaching uniform is awful, and even her robe is really bad.
For weeks and weeks everyone wondered- would there come a time when the aging Maria would reveal her powers, and we’d be treated to a disturbingly wrinkly Materialise? Well, as was revealed in the final episode, Maria actually turns into an attractive young woman in Otome form- what wasn’t explained is exactly why this should be the case, nor indeed why none of her closest colleagues seemed to know about it.
Like so much else in Otome, the reason for Argoss and Fia’s existence, and the specifics of what they were trying to achieve, are left to the imagination. The only thing worth commenting on is the mysterious hole in the back of Fia’s robe- just why is there such an obvious vulnerability?
Just as god mode Kira came to Destiny, so fans hoped that Mai would soon come to Otome so that the series would magically become good and everyone could finally forget about all this silly Arika business. Sensing how many people thought this, the promise of Mai was dangled in front of us for episode upon episode- she even featured in the second OP. As it turned out, however, Mai was not to show up until episode 23, where she uses all her mighty Otome powers to…cook a meal. Never fear, though, for she shows up again in the finale to play a minor role, and even gets to use the exact same attack she used in the OP!
Another dose of HiME-service to little good effect- Mikoto is the last HiME, a god mode level being who is apparently the god of cats and has control over a number of fat grey cats (at least one of which is named after her). You want explanations for all that? Well sorry, but there aren’t any, and it’s a shame, because the fat grey cats were the best thing about the series.
Seemingly the same Miyu that was in HiME, Miyu is the god mode android to end all god mode androids. She has incredible powers, to be used for the good of the plot, mysterious abilities, also to be used to the good of the plot, and does various things which make very little sense except that they are necessary to the plot. She also has a bird called Alyssa, and a tendency to watch over the descendants of the real Alyssa, which mysteriously include Arika.
HiME Midori made every scene she appeared in that much greater; Otome Midori is just a moody leader ever stuck at seventeen years old who gets a ‘REM’ gem in her hand whilst her poor followers (Reito included) have to become clunking cyborgs. You’ll sense a pattern beginning to emerge here when I mention that her motives are unclear and she has an unexplained past connection with Yohko. She is, however, the only character who gets to summon their Child.
Arika’s mother, Rena is seen in the very first scene of the series, in Otome form in the second OP, and her corpse is later used as the Valkyrie Shinso-sama until Arika is forced to destroy it in one of those moments that are far less dramatic and emotional than they are meant to be.
…and the rest
Indeed, there are many more characters that played such a minor role that it hardly seems worth commenting on them- almost the entire HiME cast, plus endless Otome, plus unattractive looking aging Masters, all listed for your convenience on the official Otome website.
And so, this rather lengthy rant finally concludes, and while you may be wondering why I went to the effort of writing this when Otome is so awful, it wasn’t just because it was bad, but because it deserved to be so much better. Therefore, coming soon to late never, expect “Otome as it should have been”, an improved version of the story (well, it could hardly be worse than it is now, could it?).