So, we have a bunch of girls who can see a mysterious red star in the sky. These girls have special powers (called HiME) and the ability to summon their own mecha-weapon or child for use in fights. Sounds like a typical superpower story so let's go watch X-men instead. No. You cannot be any more wrong than that.
The first thing that sets this anime apart from the rest is the music. The soundtrack score is simply one of the best, if not the best I've ever heard in the world of TV animation. The music matches perfectly with the scenes and amplifies the impact of the scenes. The composer is none other than Kajiura Yuki whose music has a unique blend of Opera, Techno and Pop. An unusual and unlikely combination yet it works wonderfully!
The art by Sunrise animation studio is a clear improvement over Gundam Seed with characters, scenery and mecha being crisp and clear. Thank goodness there was no recycling of frames which plagued Seed. Nonetheless, I've made it a personal game when watching Sunrise products to spot as many similarities to Gundam Seed as I can possibly can and there are a few - Natsuki's pose when commanding Duran to fire being the most obvious!
Then comes the story. It is very gripping and a deep emotional rollercoaster. This anime is split into 2 clear arcs. As the first rollercoaster arc ends, we think finally the characters have found peace. However, the second arc is even more emotionally involved than the first with inside conspiracy, lies and deceit thretening everything our characters have. Overall, a very clever combination of Battle, Emotion and general slice of life!
Characters. The protagonist is an easily likeable character and we follow her emotional swings as the show continues. Her reactions to situations in general is somewhat realistic. The supporting cast each have very unique traits and interesting backstories to keep us entertained. On top of it, we get great character development with the characters interacting with each other in a myriad of ways. We see bonds created and broken, fun and sadness as the series goes on. The character profiling is simply excellent.
Voice acting is good on the whole but nothing too special, since the "average" standard of voice acting in Japanese Animation is stupendously high in the first place.
With all the praise above, we now have to take into account the shortcomings.
1. The biggest drawback is that we do not get an adequate explanation why on earth the HiME powers exist. Where is it from and what is the history? A character does research but the results are not revealed to the viewer. Fundamental plot hole here as from what I can deduce from the little information given, the purpose of the power is nothing short of ridiculous. I really should be giving this show a 9.5 being a personal favourate but with the need to be objective, this alone reduces the score to 9.3.
2. The biggest drawback is that, Sunrise is simply useless at making cliffhangers! They did a semi-decent job in Seed, useless in Destiny, and of course, useless in Code Geass! Unfortunately, it is also absolutely useless in Hime but I shall not spoil.
3. The ending is also very controversial and cheesy with many fans voicing discontent but to be honest, I like it this way.
To sum it up, a deeply captivating show with top-notch music, emotion and characters and well worth the time for people interested in action and emotional shows.