Or, I defend Mai-HiME’s controversial ending.
Fair warning: I got interrupted several times while writing this, so it’ll probably read a bit unevenly.
I recently did a post on bad anime endings, and in the comments quite a few people pointed out that it was their belief that Mai-HiME had a really crappy ending. This isn’t exactly a shocking sentiment, as you’ll notice that many episodic blogs which followed it essentially had a giant “WTF?!?!?!” as their reaction on the final episode, and whenever the show does get mentioned in fan company, people complain about how the entire thing wrapped up. It also is frequently cited as the opposite of how to do an ending. Basically, you can think of of it as the conclusion that launched a thousand rage ships.
I, however, didn’t think it was the most horrible thing ever.
Now, I would like to point out that I didn’t think it was a good ending, per se; instead, I’d argue it falls in that vast mid-section known as ‘mediocre’. There was some crap, there was some decent stuff, but it was overwhelmingly a cold morning breakfast of oatmeal – bland. And kind of gloopy.
The chief complaint leveled against Mai-HiME’s ending is that it hit the reset button, and, yes, it did… sort of. For it to have completely reset, after all, there couldn’t’ve been anything that was different than the start of the show, and this isn’t true. The bulk of the cast matures, for one thing, most notably in the cases of Mai and Takumi. The HiME festival is ended forever. Mai and Tate get together. So, really, there isn’t as much staticity to be had – this isn’t Inu-Yasha, thank goodness.
On the other hand, there is some stuff that does get altered to a previous state – namely, all the dead people come back to life.
But wait! Actually, most of these people weren’t really dead – they disappeared, and a mysterious pillar rose out of the ground after their sparkles fully evaporated. Which seems to suggest more that the vanished people are actually sealed in the pillars in a sort of suspended animation, and thus, their re-appearances aren’t completely absurd – or, at the very least, not as absurd as they would’ve been had they just completely died. So I can stomach the fact that our wayward cast has come back.
Yet this doesn’t extend to the entire set of the cast which was taken out of the equation during earlier episodes. I take issue with the fact that Sister Yukarika, her boyfriend-thing, and Alyssa re-appear, since in the cases of these three, they are actually dead. Sister Yukarika and her boyfriend-thing get crushed by her Child; THEY ARE DEAD, NOT SEALED. Alyssa gets shot; SHE IS DEAD, NOT SEALED. Given such, I find their resurrections irritating because it is asking for too much of a suspension of disbelief. I can the HiME’s important people coming back, but this is too much.
To regress somewhat, that HiME’s get their Child back when their loved one’s get revived could also be seen as simply a matter of them re-materializing from a state of suspended animation, sealed off somewhere. I suppose I would liken it to Zatch Bell, where the fighting creature-things don’t die if they get beaten in battle; they just get sent back to their own realm and are denied the chance to come out on top. I will confess, though, that this part is less easily justified than the revival of the loved ones, though.
Of course, one could claim that the fact that people get resurrected invalidates all the suffering everyone went through. This isn’t true, though; the fact that the characters have matured, for the most part, by the end of the series is proof that their suffering was not pointless. In this way, we could view the entire process as having been symbolic of growing up in general – events in the characters’ lives forced them to alter their way of reacting to the world and made them re-assess their attitudes. Do all of them actually mature as a result? Well, no, but do all people actually mature after going through real-life adolescence? I’m sure you can think of some folks you went to high school with who definitely did not. Essentially, I would make the argument here that Mai-HiME is ultimately just another coming-of-age story dressed up shounen action show clothes.
Anyway, the other point viewed as a serious flub on the part of the writers has absolutely nothing defensible about it: when it comes to Shizuru’s lack of contrition and apology for her behavior after everyone has revived; she just kind of tee-hee’s it all away, which is neither in keeping with her character nor convincing. I think this could easily be chalked up to bad pacing for the final episode in general, as this episode itself is a bit rushed overall, and Shizuru’s part in it is part and parcel of that. It’s lame. It’s annoying. I hated it as much as you did.
So what do we have? On balance, a fairly meh ending to a decent show. Nothing to rage about, nothing to rave about. We can just drive off into the sunset and comfort ourselves with the fact that Shizuru and Natsuki are cooler and gayer (and a couple) in Mai-Otome.