A Second Look at Maria-sama ga Miteru

April 12th, 2004

Well, Anime Boston was incredible. Not only did I get to spend time with some very good friends, but met many new ones and got to greet tons of Yuri fans at the Yuri Panel. (I know no one was listening to me much, because everyone was distracted by my Yuri Screensaver o’Death, but I had a good time anyway – and watching the run on the Yuricon table afterwards was amusing and satisfying…almost makes me want to work a little harder getting out more Yuri manga!

I am bleary-eyed and voiceless today and need to sleep, so instead of thinking and doing a review of something, I thought I’d make random comments without context about Maria-sama ga Miteru, which completed its first season of 13 episodes a few weeks ago.

When I wrote about Marimite for the first time in December, I wasn’t sure if I would actually find it as lovey-dovey as everyone seemed to think it was going to be. We all know how reliable fan pairings are as an indicator of canon Yuri. Which is to say, I had little faith that we’d actually see any Yuri at all in the series. Well…I was wrong again, which makes me awfully happy. ^_^

Because there is no plot*, per se, in Marimite, I focused on my initial perceptions of the characters, as I perceived them from the websites and writeups I had managed to see and read. Now, 13 episodes, and several chapters of manga later, I have significantly different perceptions and thoughts, and wanted to share them with you.

Plot is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but as I see it, Marimite‘s plot is the primary shoujo non-plot, that is, “Normal Girl of average (below average, above average) ability finds herself in not-at-all normal situation, surrounded by people of exceptional ability.” The story follows the personal development of Normal Girl, as she adapts, changes and grows in this situation. In fact, IMHO, this is the primary force behind almost all anime and manga, shoujo or not, and any other plot that happens to occur in a story is just a bonus. ;-)

In any case, here are my character overviews of the Yamayurikai from December, and my current thoughts, starting with the White Rose hierarchy:

The Rosa Gigantea is Satou Sei – another uber-cool character, with a great personality. The En Bouton for Gigantea is a first-year, a very perceptive and forthright (despite her delicate appearance) girl named Toudo Shimako. We learn later that Shimako actually *asked* to be En Bouton. There is no Petite Soeur in this hierarchy, because Shimako is a first-year student.

When I first saw Sei, and her casual touchiness with Yumi (mostly to tease stuffy Sachiko) I would have sworn, and did make public statements to the effect, that I thought that Sei, of all of the girls, HAD to be straight. In my experience in the real world, only straight girls are touchy and huggy and grabby like that…gay or possibly gay girls are too terrified of being found out, usually. Yeah, well, so I was as absolutely wrong as possible. So sue me. ^_^ Sei is probably the only really gay girl on the damn council, and pretty much almost everyone’s favorite. I like her devil-may-care attitude, and the fact that she’s genuinely mature and solid in herself (we can see this, I think, when she tells Yoshino and Yumi about her story, not out of obligation, or to quell rumors, but because she wants the people who she cares about – and who care about her – to know. Since that goes back to the what her onee-sama was trying to teach her, it shows that she’s come a long way. By the end of the series, I felt like she was probably the most seriously mature of all of the Rosas. Tragedy has a way of doing that to a person.

Shimako. After 13 episodes, it’s still hard to put a finger on Shimako. I think she and Sei were and are very alike – easy to be with, but not easy to touch. At the end, we can see that her feelings for Sei definitely run very deep, despite their lack of public…display. But when they are alone together, the masks come off. Shimako seemed very solid and strong, but we could also see that inside she was full of doubt…a very human character and one I look forward to learning more about in the second season, when she chooses her own petite souer. (Look for a continuation of the Rosa Gigantea trend here, hint, hint.)

Next up, the Red Roses:

The Rosa Chinensis is Mizuno Youko – she seems like a really solid person, with a teeny bit of a mischievous nature. Her En Bouton is Ogasawara Sachiko, a moody and mysterious girl. Sachiko does not like many things – including men, ginkgoes and sakura. She is reticent about herself, and in many ways distant, but determined in her desire to have Fukuzawa Yumi as her Petite Soeur.

Oh my god, did I want more Youko, more Youko, more Youko!!!! Calm, controlled, quiet…with Shinohara Emi’s sweet voice, I wanted thirty episodes about Youko, when all we had were snatches. Boo hoo. I felt that her relationship with Sachiko was ignored and I would very much have liked to see a little bit more of that. Also, we got brief glimpses of the fact that Youko, despite her hard-working nature, was not a natural at schoolwork, so it might have been nice to delve a little deeper into Youko’s life – to watch her in her struggles. I want a Youko backstory, dammit!!

Sachiko. She was, for me, very hard to like. In fact, until the very last episode when she admitted to having such a hard time adapting to outside expectations, I wasn’t ever really sure I l really did like her, except for brief flashes (including, I’m sorry to say, as a kindergartner. She was so utterly adorable….) But then I thought about the scene when Yumi asks her to go out on a date and the look on her face is so eager, so excited…so happy, that I realized that Sachiko is a terribly lonely person and that Yumi is the best thing that ever happened to her. I’m sure Youko could feel happy when she graduates, knowing that Sachiko has Yumi taking care of her, and teaching her how to relax and just be happy.

And then there’s Yumi, our protagonist. She is Normal Girl, drawn into not-normal situation. Because she really *is* a normal girl, she spreads her charm and goofiness equally throughout the Mansion, and everyone, very quickly, begins to be comfortable with her. It takes her a little while to be comfortable back, but by the time she’s planning on making nasty chocolates for Sei as revenge, you know she’s cool with it all. ^_^ I love the fact that she makes goofy faces and funny noises and that she genuinely adores Sachiko with every fiber of her being. Their date together was delightful. I’m glad we’ll get more of them in the next year – I want to see them together more.

And finally, the Yellow Roses:

The Rosa Foetida is Torii Eriiko, her En Bouton is Hasekura Rei. Rei is ultra-cool and unflappable and she finds Yumi (the heroine) adorable. Her Petite Soeur is Shimatsu Yoshino, a very sweet and shy-type girl.

Oddly, Rei and Yoshino were the only characters I knew, prior to the anime and manga. I have a doujinshi of the two of them from a few years ago. I like it alot, and in some ways the characters were pretty solid, but I think the art was off a little – especially for Yoshino. But I digress. ^_^

Eriko suffered badly in this series. Because her love interest is a guy, and older, it never comes into the anime at all (which most definitely focused on the girl love aspects.) So she was pretty much shafted. We learn peripherally that she’s naturally good at everything she does, but lazy and laconic by nature. We barely see her at all through the second half of the anime. I hope the manga gives us more of a chance to get to know her, because my image of her is fuzzy and kind of…lame. Like, why did she pick Rei as soeur? They barely seem to talk.

Rei is as advertised – a big, sweet galumph who, despite her boyish appearance is really quite girly. I think they struck a perfect balance between these – Rei in the anime looks like a tall, somewhat boyish girl, but definitely a girl. And her natural girliness felt natural…it never felt forced.

Yoshino was a little harder to understand, but I loved her. Weak from illness, she was forced to be gentle, even though her heart was not at ALL gentle. In alot of ways, I completely sympathized with that…I was a very weak, sickly kid and couldn’t do alot of the things other kids did. But stuck at home, I was reading cowboy and sports books, much like Yoshino’s samurai stories. So, you know, I COMPLETELY understand why, after the surgery, she’s a lunatic. ^_^ She’s just trying out being able to yell at last! I also liked the way that, by the end, she and Yumi were actual friends, not just acquaintances.

The one thing I didn’t like at first was the fast pace of the story, but then a Japanese friend told me that it was done on purpose, to remove it from the usual, long, slow, lingering death of most other shoujo series. Every storyline was short, snappy, touching, funny. It kept the audience interested and alert. Thinking about it that way, I do understand…nonetheless, I’m looking forward to the manga, which has more detail!

All in all, I have to say, I thought the anime adaptation of Maria-sama ga Miteru was really exceptional. I didn’t expect to care as much as I did about the characters – or want to know more. And I find myself wondering about and anticipating with much pleasure, the second season, which will be Yumi’s second year at Lillian. (As an interesting aside, she hasn’t *yet* chosen a petite soeur in the novels…so we can wonder if that news will break during the anime series. ^_^)

And there you have it. The new poster child anime for Yuri was a huge success and we can look forward to more. Yay.

Next entry will be, at last, a discussion of publishing a doujinshi, because I’ve been asked about it a lot. Then back to anime and manga. ^_^

Send to Kindle

Leave a Reply