Traveling through the Sprites’ Forest, Nao and Natsuki’s car enters a foggy patch that leads it right off a cliff. Nao uses her lipstick to grapple onto the cliff-side and save them from falling to their deaths. In an area with tons of black rocks jutting out, the two notice the outline of a figure in the sky above them. It turns out that this shadow is being cast by Arika giving Mashiro ogre horns from a place above the clouds. They are being watched by Mikoto (the person), who reveals that she’s always been watching the two through Mikoto (the cat). Near them, Mai activates her robe and powers up so that she can…have a flame to cook on. With Miyu’s help, she prepares the meal and calls the others to come eat. Before running to the food, Mikoto tells the curious Mashiro that this is the Black Valley. As Mashiro tries to put the pieces together, Arika and Mikoto are happily eating and wanting seconds. Mashiro doesn’t get another chance to ask questions until after everyone’s finished eating. Mai introduces herself and says that Mikoto is the cat god. After Arika finishes gushing about how Mai is the legendary Otome, Miyu explains that this is the Black Valley, a holy ground that is the origin of the Otome technology and the Harmonium. At that time, in Airies, Yukino has Haruka go and gather representatives of all the countries because of the pending emergency.
It seems that Mikoto – or rather, Mikoto’s shadow – was attacked by a black stone, aka the Ultimate Black Diamond that Nina wields. Miyu says that since Nina is the conductor in addition to being the protector, she’s has to be of royal blood. At that time, Nagi is breaking the same news to Sergay. Nagi also confirms for him that it is indeed Rena’s remains inside the capsule. Returning to Miyu’s explanation, she tells Arika that 15 years ago, she had found Rena’s child during the chaos and entrusted her to Rena’s mother – Arika’s grandmother. In other words, Rena is Arika’s mother. As for the Sapphire of the Azure Sky, Miyu had brought it to Arika’s grandmother after it was being sold in Artai. When asked for the reason why she’s helping so much, Miyu implies that Arika is the descendant of Alyssa. Suddenly, some bells ring, indicating that one of Mikoto’s trap has caught something. The cat god bolts to her feet to go check it out, and Mai and Arika go to draw some water, leaving just Miyu and Mashiro. Mashiro is feeling lost about who she really is since Nina turned out to be the true princess. Although Miyu can’t offer her any information, she does ask if Mashiro’s heard about the Pure White Diamond’s (Fumi’s) master. She explains that a person has a will and this will decides the person. Being a king doesn’t depends on birth but rather where your will stands.
At the well, Mai reveals that she became an Otome for her brother’s sake. Arika still wants to know what an Otome is, but Mai doesn’t have an answer for that. However, she believes that Arika will someday understand. Arika is afraid of making mistakes and blames her own stupidity for what happened to Erstin. Mai thinks that Arika should be able to decide herself what’s ok, and if she makes a mistake, she can redo it. Meanwhile, it seems that Mikoto has found her prey: Nao and Natsuki. She drags them back to the house and everyone gets reunited. After getting things cleared up, the girls take a dip in the hot springs. Natsuki is of course the most curious about what happened to Mai back then. As it turns out, Mikoto is Mai’s master because she ate Mai’s GEM. Miyu then reveals that Mikoto is the Crystal Princess, the last of the HiME (Mikoto even has the red mark on her arm). When Natsuki asks who she is, Miyu introduces herself as the one who watches over the fate of this world and governs the rules of the Otome under the guidance of the blue star.
In Windbloom, Yohko appears to be leaving town through the sewer system, but gives a book to Irina before she goes. Above ground, Nina is telling Sergay about her conflicted feelings towards Arika, and he comforts her by saying that she was only following orders. He thinks that all of the responsibility falls on himself and Nagi. But Nina is still willing to fight for their ideals, even if it means attacking her friend. Back in the Black Valley, Natsuki has decided that she must leave and has a request for Mai concerning Mashiro and Arika. Mashiro is outside thinking about how she’s not really the queen. She starts wondering if maybe it would be better for Nagi to get his way, but Arika is vehemently opposed to that. Arika loves a smiling Nina, and she blames Nagi for making Nina cry. The two girls get called in to Mikoto’s room, where they see that Nina is attacking Airies with the Harmonium’s power. Natsuki can feel a big war coming, and knows that she must return to Garderobe. Arika and Mashiro want to go too, but Natsuki refuses to let them because Arika still isn’t able to draw out the Sapphire’s original power. If they went now, they’d die. Mai suggests that they test Arika against Mikoto. However, Mai tells Natsuki at the battle site that even she with her Robe on can’t beat Mikoto. Arika tries her best, but she also can’t touch the cat god. After getting smacked around a bit, Arika finally concedes defeat. Or rather, she begs Mikoto to teach her how to fight. Watching from nearby, Miyu tells Mashiro that she needs to learn to be an appropriate master for Arika for the sake of becoming a good ruler. Miyu then jumps away and disappears. Mashiro doesn’t understand what she has to learn, so Natsuki suggests that Mashiro ask Mai to teach her because Mai is Takumi’s older sister – princess Mai. After watching the two Pillars walk off into the sunrise, Arika vows to become a strong Otome so that she can stop the war.
I’ve got two main complaints about this episode. Although I liked it overall, I didn’t like how they’re revealing all the information. In other words, I don’t like how Miyu was the source of all knowledge. It’s like they’re using her to rush through everything they’ve been building up to but don’t have time now to properly reveal. One has to wonder if it couldn’t have been done better. The other complaint I have is that this episode should have taken place somewhere mid-season, not at episode 23 (out of 26). I mean come on, Arika is going to start her training NOW?! This series is being paced like it’s going to be a longer series, even though it’s not.
And now, thoughts on the episode:
The Legend of Mai – Connecting Mai’s story with the legend told in episode 13, it seems that the Sprite Forest actually exists and that the god Mai was looking for turned out to be none other than Mikoto. I was rather amused that Mikoto is more or less Mai’s master because she ate the GEM. That’s so fitting of her. I guess Mai never actually became a Pillar and has a regular tome/Master relationship with Mikoto. On a side note, I’m betting that Takumi will show up again, for both Mai and Mashiro’s sake.
The Fire Stirring Ruby – I assume this is only a typo, but I found it to be a rather funny one considering that Mai was using her Robe for cooking at the time.
I didn’t even recognize her – I really like how Nao’s messed up hair looks when she’s in the bath. She’s like a completely different person.
More Parallels – If you remember back in episode eight, Miss Maria had asked if they were able to fight even their friends. Nina had said yes, but Arika wanted to prevent the wars from starting. Fast forward to this episode, and the girls are basically still saying the same thing. I’m not really critiquing the producers for lack of character development, but instead it seems that despite all the things that have happened in the past 15 episodes, Nina and Arika really haven’t changed much. This does however lead to an interesting question…
The Dilemma – Arika wants to help Nina, and she doesn’t like Nagi. Inevitably, Nagi will need to be defeated in some way. However, killing Nagi also kills Nina. So how does Arika save Nina without killing Nagi? I smell a tragedy in the works.
The HiME Connection – It’s been hinted a few times, mostly by Miyu, that there’s a connection between this world and the HiME world. The two links this week are Arika being Alyssa’s descendent and the Crystal Princess/HiME stuff related to Mikoto. I can’t help but remember back in episode 15 of Mai-HiME where the SEARRS Foundation was ready to wait another 300 years for the next HiME festival. Perhaps Otome really is a sequel instead of an alternate universe. Again, this is why having seen HiME will increase your enjoyment of Otome by so much.
The sound of clothes falling to the ground – Aside from the Erstin shot in the preview (which I think is just a flashback and not Erstin actually coming back), the other eye-opener is Nina and Sergay. I’m surprised that Sergay even let Nina get as far as taking off her clothes, but I seriously doubt that he’s going to do anything to her. If he does do something with Nina, then I think that he’s going to die at the end of the series, but if he doesn’t he might survive.
Only two more weeks of Otome left! Remember, the final two episodes are being aired together on March 30th.