Bullet point thoughts on Mai-HiME, up through episode 13, with episode 14 waiting for me downstairs. Yeah, I know: shit's about to get real.
The Bad Stuff
Let's get this out of the way first.
♦ Most of the male characters. Good Lord, could they be any more obvious about how blatantly self-insert they are? Some of them have some redeeming character traits (see below), but a lot...do not. And when it cuts into the screentime of the stuff I actually like about the show, I get impatient. No doubt I will be told that taking issue with the male characters in this series is just as bad as hating on female characters in any series because sexism goes both ways omg!! but you know what, I don't care. I don't think most of them have much character.
♦ Most of the canon romance. Akane/Kazuya was adorable and heart-wrenching, even though I was spoiled for the Most Important Person thing; Akira/Takumi is awesome (see below). But when they do straightforward, screentime-eating het, it gets agonizing. It's so very pasted on. Specifically: the Reito/Mai/Yuuichi/Shiho love quadrangle. Kill it with fire. There is some depth to one or two of the relationships there (again, see below), but the actual romance is generic and shallow.
♦ The impending shadow of Sunrise Series Fail. Okay, this is just me being cynical, but I know I can't escape it.
The Maybe Good Maybe Bad Stuff
I can't decide just yet.
♦ Yuuichi and Yuuichi/Mai. As I've already said, I hate the romance aspect of it; it's shallow and tacked-on. But while Yuuichi himself is an obvious fanboy self-insert, he's also a fairly solid character. I like the dynamic he has with Mai when it's not generic tsundere romance. He cuts through her crap better than anyone. I just wish they hadn't buried his character and the meat of the relationship underneath a big steaming mound of fanservice. Speaking of which...
♦ The fanservice. It's hilarious and occasionally kind of sexy (insofar as anime characters are ever sexy, which as far as I'm concerned, ehhhh), but it's also aggravatingly over the top. I don't mind the fanservice in the DVD extras so much--that's practically what they're there for. But that combined with the fanservice in the show itself gets old sometimes.
♦ Shizuru. She's fairly boring to me now--it's funny to see her top everybody except Natsuki, and she's hot, but she doesn't have a whole lot of personality. But I just know she'll be my type when she snaps. Unfortunately, that'll put me in the camp of Those Horrible People Who Prove That Yuri Fans Have Sick Warped Standards For Relationships, and I'm cranky enough from dealing with Gundam 00 fandom. I don't want to be bitter about Mai-HiME fandom too.
♦ On the one hand, Mikoto so far is a fairly generic feral-girl character type, like if Ed from Cowboy Bebop had her hacking abilities and genius stripped out and replaced by badass. On the other hand, she's beloved by kittens! And so cute! And her relationship with Mai is adorable!
♦ Oh yeah, forgot to mention Nagi here. I was annoyed by him at first, but I like that he's supposed to be annoying (unlike most of the other male characters, who are supposed to be convenient self-identification targets for fanboys). And the way he's constantly sitting or standing in high places so that he can feel superior despite being short is hilarious.
♦ The girls! I love all the focus on their friendships. I love seeing them get to kick ass, even if it's in a fanservice-laden way. They're awesome.
♦ I don't usually like main characters, and Mai isn't really my type, but I can still recognize that she's awesome. Aside from the annoying canon romance, her writing is also nicely gender-blind in a lot of ways; her issues and character flaws are the sort of thing a male character might deal with and display too. Plus she has the greatest expressions.
♦ Takumi and Akira/Takumi. So cute. The best canon pairing (and yeah, I can tell it's headed that way) in the whole series. I shipped it before I knew Akira was a girl, and I ship it even harder now. Takumi is also the most moe character in the series. Everything else is targeted at fanboys, but he's snuck in there for fangirls to coo over. Well, them and male shota fans, but we won't talk about that.
♦ My favorite character so far: Midori. She is totally a subtype of mine. Plus, she's like Kati and Patrick rolled into a single character. I love her so hard, and once counselors rolls around again, I'm apping her at campfuckudie. I know you want her at polychromatic, spellcoats, but she's so my CFUD type it hurts. I'm just a bit anxious about being able to write her application--not to mention do her justice.
♦ Also, I will rope ew_younerd into applying for Nao during the nearest camper cycle so we can have sexy threads. Yeah, I ship it.
♦ I am down with the way Miyu and Alyssa booted out the generic Sunrise villain who was giving them orders and became the villains themselves, while still being adorable with each other. I'm sure another generic Sunrise villain will eventually show up from behind the scenes, but for now I'm enjoying those two.
♦ Haruka. Haruka/Yukino. Haruka/Shizuru, for that matter. Need I say more?
Note: I still have three slots left open on my last fic prompt! Claim one here. So far I've written Gundam 00 (of course), Gurren Lagann (Simon/Nia, naturally), and Final Fantasy VIII. I finally remembered to add Persona 3 and 4 to the list of canons I can probably write for, too. Hopefully by the time I finish Baccano! and Mai-HiME and do the next prompt, I'll have finished Persona 2 and be able to write for that too.