With Mashiro missing, Arika is chosen to replace her in front of the visiting prince, who introduces himself as “Tokiha Takumi”. Nina introduces herself to him as Arika. The real Mashiro is having a dream where Nagi professes that he’d die for her and she starts whipping him (S&M style). She wakes up to see a guy playing with Mikoto in a place she’s unfamiliar with, a slum of sorts. The guy introduces himself as “Okuzaki Akira”, and Mashiro decides to use the name of Nina Wong. Meanwhile, Arika and the real Nina are riding in a procession through the city. Nina mentions that she knows about the contract between Arika and Mashiro. In order to keep that a secret, she asks Arika to forget everything that happened today (regarding losing the watch). Nina then notices that there are posters everywhere showing what the real Mashiro looks like. In fact, the real Mashiro tries to motion towards one of the giant posters, but it gets removed before “Akira” can see it. She mentions it’s her birthday, so “Akira” buys her a flower and pins it in her hair.
The royal procession makes their way to Garderobe, where Natsuki and Shizuru greet “Takumi.” Shizuru notices something about the prince, but doesn’t say anything. Sergay, who is walking with Arika, wishes her a happy birthday. In the city, “Akira” and Mashiro go and have fun, doing things that would be done on a date. Resting on the bench, Mashiro sees “Akira” taking the last of his medicine, but he assures her that he’s ok. He tells her that he’s searching for a person, but he knows that this person isn’t here. Instead, he’s in this city to experience what this person saw and felt. This person is, of course, his sister.
In her room after the tour is over, “Takumi” is revealed to be really Akira, a girl. As she starts undressing, Shizuru appears, apparently knowing that Akira was deceiving everyone. Arika opens the door and sees what looks like Shizuru and the prince kissing. Akira takes the opportunity to jump away and use a smoke bomb. Shizuru activates Arika’s robe and the two chase after Akira. The “Akira” who is walking around with Mashiro is of course the real Takumi. He makes some comments about the city, noting that the queen is having a birthday celebration yet there are people in the slums who have to worry about having bread to eat the next day and some even need to steal. Mashiro, holding up her lollypop, responds that they can eat candy if they don’t have bread. Takumi, seeing her naiveness, tells Mashiro that she seems happy. Suddenly he keels over in pain.
Akira, who dodges an attack from Arika, spots Takumi on the ground beside Mashiro. She goes in with weapon drawn and gets stopped by Nina. Nina grabs and pulls Mashiro away while Akira reveals who Takumi really is. Seeing Takumi in pain, Akira takes one of his pills and administers it mouth to mouth. Of course, the girls still think that Akira is a boy, so it looks like a boy on boy kiss. Later, Natsuki and Takumi discuss the Otomes, with Takumi taking a negative stance towards them. He feels that it’s wrong for an entire country’s fate to be burdened onto a girl. Natsuki replies that the current peace brought by the existence of Otome. Takumi then says that that power is what people are after, and the Otomes themselves suffer. Natsuki answers that they have a strict selection process, but then Takumi demands an explanation for the 「炎珠の紅玉」 (Enju no Kougyoku – Ruby of the Flame Gem). Takumi speaks of her as a strong person who was torn over love and her dream. The purpose of Takumi’s trip, however, is to convey Zipang’s non-intereference policy with all nations. Elsewhere, meanwhile, Sergay reads a letter with the Tokiha seal. That night, Natsuki stares at a picture of long ago when she was still attending the academy. The next day, Takumi and Akira leave, but before they do, Natsuki asks Takumi something about Mai that we don’t get to hear.
For anyone who was confused at all, or doesn’t know the HiME characters so well, the names traded are (Real Name -> Borrowed Name):
Takumi -> Akira
Akira -> Takumi
Mashiro -> Nina
Nina -> Arika
Arika -> Mashiro
I really can’t say enough good things about this show. This episode had me laughing so much, yet there’s so much plot development. Most of that development is from Takumi, who seems to have matured quite a bit from his days in HiME. He leads thoughtful discussions about the poverty in Vintoblum with Mashiro and then about the Otome with Natsuki. In the former, Mashiro says something that’s reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” statement, though it probably wasn’t meant in the same manner. It really does show how naive she is towards ruling her people and the divide between the rich and the poor. I find it quite ironic that Mashiro was skipping out on a marriage interview, yet she ended up going on a date with Takumi, who is really the prince, anyway.
And just as much as Mai was all about Takumi in Mai-HiME, Takumi is all about finding his sister in Mai-Otome. This episode gives us a lot of information about Mai, the most we’ve gotten since the series started, including what appears to be her title. So let’s see, if Mai is a Pillar, then that makes all five: Mai (ruby), Natsuki (quartz/silver-ish crystal), Shizuru (amethyst), Rena/Arika (sapphire), and Haruka (topaz). Those are all people who have actual gems. And that photograph that Natsuki looks at features four of the five future Pillars on it.
Next episode is Akane-centric, and the preview has a very interesting shot of a shocked Shizuru getting part of her hair vaporized, but unfortunately there’s no Otome next week. Episode 13 will air on January 6th, 2006.
Closing Thought: Arika looks better with her hair down. She should keep it that way. Nina too…