http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mai_arika_mayo.jpg
[[caption-width:250:Counter-clockwise from top: Mai Tokiha, Arika Yumemiya, and Mayo Kagura]]
A multimedia franchise created by {{Sunrise}}, based primarily around playing with the MagicalGirl genre for all it's worth. A major theme is the subversion of the very purpose these "magical" girls are given their powers for, and "ordinary" people trying to exploit them to further [[UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans their own agenda]].

The series is probably best-known for its odd and at times deliberately controversial animation and storytelling, most notoriously unpredictable [[MoodWhiplash tonal swings]] and [[GainaxEnding bizarre denouements]], features which have made it one of the most textually multifaceted (or overextended) offerings of the MagicalGirl genre (with the original ''[=Mai-HiME=]'' being perhaps the genre's first true 'problem piece' since ''Anime/RevolutionaryGirlUtena'').

As of this writing, there are three major branches, or alternate universes, in the franchise. While the character designs and even names of the characters highly overlap between them, the characterizations of the cast are often completely different, and every universe has its own main protagonist.


'''1. The [=HiME=] universe'''

Takes place in the PresentDay, with NewTransferStudent Mai Tokiha as the lead; her name forms one part of the multilayered bilingual pun that is the series name ''[[Anime/MaiHiME [=Mai-HiME=]]]''. It centers around Fuka Academy and the [=HiME=], girls with strange birthmarks, suddenly-awakening powers, and only vague directions of what to do with them until the time comes. And when [[WhamEpisode it comes]], the reasons for the [=HiME=]'s existence and the PowersThatBe behind them suddenly turn out to be far more malevolent than they originally suspected.

Spinoffs: the ''[=Mai-HiME=]'' manga, video games, and... basically the rest of the franchise in its entirety, since this was the original.

'''2. The Otome universe'''

Set in the distant future on the LostColony planet Earl, AfterTheEnd (although the society has more or less recovered). Arika Yumemiya, a naive CountryMouse, travels to the prestigious Garderobe Academy, aspiring to become an Otome -- a superpowered bodyguard for one of the world leaders -- only to discover not long afterwards what being an Otome really entails: a PersonOfMassDestruction used as a political safeguard against wars, much like nuclear weapons of today, but sometimes, when wars do break out, having to fight her former friends in deadly duels. And then we meet the powers who try to use the Otome system for their own means, [[NothingIsTheSameAnymore everything goes downhill from there]], and each one of the three main characters discovers unsettling truth about her own origins...

This is the premise of the ''Anime/MaiOtome'' TV series, which itself has its fair share of spin-offs:
* its own [[Manga/MaiOtome manga]] (loooosely intersecting with the series and heading past the franchise's typical strangeness into [[TrueArtIsIncomprehensible uncharted waters]]);
* the sequel OVA ''Anime/MaiOtomeZwei'' (with ''its'' manga, independent of the ''Mai-Otome'' manga);
* the prequel OVA ''Anime/MaiOtome0Sifr'';
* and various spin-off novels, video games, and whatnot. Of particular note among these are the ''Mai-Otome Saga'' manga and light novel, whose protagonist Ayane Hazakura and her Robe are given at least two [[ContinuityNod Continuity Nods]] in the ''S.ifr'' anime.

'''3. The [=MiKO=] universe'''

With no anime set in this continuity, this is the territory of the ''LightNovel/MaiHiMEDestiny'' light novel series. It keeps the setting (Fuka Academy) and characters of ''[=Mai-HiME=]'', but shuffles them around in different roles and introduces two brand new main characters, Mayo Kagura and Shion Tennoji, while Mai is nowhere to be found. These two eventually underwent "otomefication" in much the same way as the ''[=Mai-HiME=]'' cast itself and, in ''S.ifr'', joined the ''Mai-Otome'' anime continuity under different names.

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Tropes that permeate the [=MaiHiME=] include:
* AncientConspiracy
* BoobsOfSteel
* ElaborateUniversityHigh
* {{Fanservice}}
* {{Gainaxing}}
* TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt
* EverythingFades
* JigsawPuzzlePlot
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters
* {{Magical Girl}}s
* MagicFromTechnology
* MaleGaze
* ManipulativeBastard
* MoodWhiplash
* NewTransferStudent (what the protagonist usually is)
* RobotGirl (Miyu among both primary continuities, ''S.ifr'' adds more)
* {{Synchronization}}
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