Maria-sama ga Miteru: Cherry Blossom Drama CD set was lovely. Simply lovely.
For the plot, please take a look back at my notes on Part 1 and Part 2 of the novel. (I had not yet begun translating the books at that point, so these are notes/synopses not full translations and therefore still available on Okazu.)
The first CD in the set recounts “The Sakura Among the Gingkos,” the portion of the novel in which we meet Nijou Noriko for the first time, and she meets Shimako. Incidentally, we also meet Matsudaira Touko, but I’ll get there in a bit.
“Sakura” follows Noriko as she meets Shimako and deals with some mild bullying because of their developing relationship. (The latter is only partially true, but she doesn’t know that.) The story climaxes during the Maria-sai, as Shimako is forced to out herself as the daughter of a Buddhist priest.
The Drama CD of this part was fantastic. Noriko, a transfer student from a co-ed school, has always seemed to me to be the most grounded of all the characters in the series. She comes off here as so *normal* it almost takes one’s breath away. Confronted in the beginning of the story by Touko and two other classmates and their positively Baroque formal Japanese, it’s really no wonder she feels disoriented and alien at Lillian.
Noriko’s meeting with Shimako is related very prettily. Noriko’s happy obsession with Shimako is instant and very much *right* on that line between friendship and love. It’s powerful – and mutual. The “outing” scene was horrific. From Noriko’s point of view, it can only be seen as heavy-handed…at best. When Shimako admits to being the owner of the juzu and Noriko bursts into tears for her – it was very moving. Once again, the Marimite cast is superlative.
The second disk of the set, “Background Noise,” covers the same circumstances from Yumi’s point of view. We see the concern Shimako’s friends in the Yamayurikai have for her, and how much they are, really, trying to help. However…to her credit, Yumi spends the entire story thinking that they are handling it really badly. They are, and I’m glad Yumi recognizes it. Itou Miki’s over-acting Sachiko is both hysterical and really cringe-making. As I listened to the scene in the church, I kept thanking the universe that I was no longer a teenager. ^_^
The other half of “BGN” is the introduction of Touko who, if you will please excuse the language, is a total twat. Kugimiya Rie is spectacular as the entitled, manipulative Touko. I’ve grown so used to her – and she has changed *so* much in the course of the novels, that I had completely forgotten what a slappable little creature she is when she first arrives en scene.
Listening to her snipe at Yumi, a thought suddenly hit me. Rainy Blue is coming up. I’m going to have to sit through those DCDs. Ugh. Ughughugh. I don’t know if I can do it. Oh well…I have Kohitsuji no Kyuuka to look forward to, after that whole thing is over. I’ll just grit my teeth and cope.
In happier news, we get a little Sei-service, when Yumi visits her, and after the Maria-sai.
For the first time, there is a bonus track where we get some very amusing comments and a lots of “natsukashii”s and “hisashiburi”s by the voice actresses. I was very glad for the bonus track. It’s about the only time we hear what the seiyuu have to say for themselves – it is immediately apparent that this group feels *very* comfortable with each other at this point. And that they’ve got a load of in-jokes. Also, I found it amusing to hear several of them refer to the series as “Marimite.” ^_^ I don’t know why, it just tickled my fancy.
The one physical extra is a postcard of Hibiki Reine’s art of Noriko. Pretty, as always.
Story – 7
Characters – 8 for Noriko and Shimako, 4 for Touko, 7 for everyone else
Yuri – 5 It worked a bit better visually, with those long, lingering “just kiss her” moments
Service – 8 who else buys these other than us obsessive fans? ^_^
Overall – 8
This is me, grasping at the Touko of Bara no Hana Kanmuri and trying to forget the Touko of Cherry Blossom, signing off.