Maria-sama ga Miteru ~ Haru Update

September 21st, 2004

As promised, today is a review of the second season of the Marimite anime. There is only one episode left to air, and yet I have chosen to write an update now. Why? Because many important things have happened in this second season, things that will be overshadowed by the fact that the season is ending this coming week, and I wanted to be able to touch on them (somewhat) objectively.

Maria-sama ga Miteru ~ Haru takes place, as the title suggests, in spring. It begins with a flashback to New Year’s Day, and moves, quite slowly through the graduation of the old Rosas, and the coming of a new first-year class.

As I watched this season, there were two things that I felt very strongly. One, at least in terms of the anime, they upped the yuri factor by a few notches. The end credits, the lingering soft-focus shots, the blatant akogare (admiration/desire,) all would have moved this series up to “Yuri classic,” if it hadn’t been there already. This season, arguably, may have put it at the head of the list. Several people have commented on the Yuricon Mailing List that this season was a stark change from the coy way the “Ibara no Mori” arc was moved to the end of the first season. Basically, you get wapped hard with the Yuri stick this time around. ^_^

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for the story, this season reminded me strongly of a scene in one of Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter mysteries, in which Harriet Vane (who is a mystery author) and Lord Peter are discussing the problem with writing crappy best-sellers. There comes a point, they agree, at which you either have to make the characters real, or confine yourself to writing crap and being miserable with it. (I’m paraphrasing here, obviously. )

It is in this season when most of the characters stop being 2-dimensional, and the story itself changes from a romantic comedy to a drama. The novel that takes up the second half of the season, Rainy Blue, is clearly the crux of that switch.

Early in the season, we learn that nearly everything we thought we knew about Satou Sei/Rosa Gigantea, was *completely* wrong. We also learn more about Eriko, which is interesting, but she turns out to be even more of a flake than we thought. ^_^ And during the graduation itself, we get the Rosas’ memories and impressions of each other – which not only serves to understand their relationships better, but in general to make them more real.

This is all followed quickly by an arc where we learn a little bit more about Shimako, then neatly pair her with an unlikely partner, Noriko. Again, on the Yuricon Mailing List, several people were of the opinion that the scenes with Shimako and Noriko were the hottest things they’d ever seen where the next thing the characters did wasn’t to fall into each other’s arms and kiss passionately. (To me, it was reminiscent of the sexual tension in the live-action Peony Pavilion, which I reviewed a few weeks ago.)

We watch Yoshino deal with the consequences of her own wish that Rei become stronger and, for the final several episodes, we are now watching Yumi, finally, grow up. As I watched the end of episode 12, I was remined, not only of my own teen years (which always creeps me out) but of Nietzsche’s overused concept that what doesn’t kill you makes you grow stronger. Sad, but true – “maturity” pretty much only comes through responsibility, experience…and emotional blunt force trauma.

Where the yuri stick is lithe and thin in ~Haru, quickly and repeatedly wapping us across the head and shoulders, the trauma stick is a bludgeon, which comes down on our head with the subtlety of a bus falling from the sky. This is partially because the three stories (one for each second-year student…or didn’t you notice?) of Rainy Blue are parsed into separate arcs, and also partially because the final story had to be rough to force the characters to grow. Sadly, this does the Yoshino and Yumi arcs a disservice, but nothing we can’t handle as good fans. ^_^

The high point of ~Haru was, for me, the introduction of some new characters, without completely cutting the ties to the old characters (in the novels themselves, we see the old Rosas from time to time…something I appreciate in a story. Cameos can be very effective.)

I like the way time has moved on in Maria-sama ga Miteru ~ Haru, and I definitely look forward to any new seasons of anime, manga, drama CDs and novels that come out. This series has surpassed my inital reservations and left me hopelessly fangirly. ^_^ By and large, ~Haru has been better than the first season, and I expect that, as the anime or manga moves on into later novels, it will only get better.

Ratings:

Character – 10.
Story – 8
Music – 9 (Ali Project. ’nuff said)
Art – 6. This vacillates *a lot* from good to terrible with some “wtf?” in between. The second season has been very inconsistent.
Yuri – 9

Overall – 9. I’m a character-driven fan, and these characters are really great.

I’ll hope fervently that we get more. and in the meantime, there’s always the manga, CDs and Novels! ^_^

Tomorrow – the manga.

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