If you’re a serious (read: obsessed) fan of Maria-sama ga Miteru, you know what the biggest question torturing fans right now is – will the series end with Sachiko’s graduation…or with Yumi’s? I think it’s safe to say that there’s not a single rabid fan on this planet who would rather the series ended sooner than later. (Perhaps one or two, but clearly they aren’t *true* fans. ^_^)
Sachiko’s graduation is so traumatic and problematic, that there have been about a dozen novels between “New Year” and March – and still the third-years haven’t graduated. Time is slowing down, lots of short stories are being written. The newest novel, Margaret ni Ribon, even goes so far as to tell stories from the past of the former Rosas; Eriko, Youko and Sei. Anything to keep Sachiko from graduating!
And so, what better time is there to take a look at the latest – and I believe, last – of the manga volumes, Maria-sama ga Miteru: Itsushika Toshimo (マリア様がみてる), in which Eriko, Sei and Youko graduate and retire from the field at Lillian High School.
In the first story, “Will,” Youko ambushes a confused Yumi to ask her to please take of her uncute, hysterical, little sister that she loves very much. Yumi wonders if Rosa Gigantea has asked Shimako for a last favor, but as always, their relationship is not the same as other soeurs. Shimako takes advantage of the moment to thank Yumi for being willing to put up with Sei’s abuse, and Yumi, in turn begs Shimako to not leave the school – because suddenly, she’s overcome with fear that Shimako might. Yoshino relates her final meeting with Eriko as if it were Musashi’s epic duel at Ganryu Island. ^_^
Yumi’s moving farewell with Sei is handled beautifully, although I thought that the slow-motion imagery of the anime, and the internal dialogue of the novel, both lent themselves to making the scene richer than here in the manga. Nonetheless, it’s still a lovely scene, ruined beautifully by Sei’s joke on Yumi. Also, in the manga, Yumi kisses Sei firmly in the middle of the cheek – not just at the very corner of the mouth, as she does in the novel. This echoed the kiss Sei gave Shizuka, and I think it’s done very consciously to be the closest possible kiss to a kiss on the lips without actually being one. I’m sorry that was lost.
The following chapter covers the three Rosa’s’ memories of their meeting one another, and looking back at their past dealings before they became friends: Youko’s impact on Eriko’s drive for excellence, Sei and Eriko’s fight in kindergarten, Sei trying to freeze out Youko, only to find her standing right there when the cold wind finishes blowing.
Last, the graduation itself, with Sachiko’s unexpected breakdown, its unintended consequences, and Rei’s superb save. A fabulous scene, which I have to admit, I like best on the Drama CD of the same name.
Yuri here is slight: Sei x Yumi ‘shippers might be satisfied with the kiss scene. Otherwise, it’s mostly a long, overdue look into the women who were the stars of the school for the series to date – the graduating Rosas. Frankly, I can’t get enough of them. Obviously, neither can Konno-sensei – after all, she keeps bringing them back again and again into the series. She said flat out that Sei’s her favorite character. Well, duh. That’s ’cause the sky is blue. ^_^
The one downside is that the manga appears to have come to an end. Never a comfortable fit in the sex-riddled Margaret and The Margaret magazines, the end of this volume very much reads like the *end.* Imagine if the series *had* ended here. We’d have no Noriko x Shimako, no Yumi x Touko, no Sei x Kei, not Tsutako x Shouko…good heavens, three of those four are in my personal “favorite couples” list. Horrible to contemplate.
Speaking as a rabid fan – Konno-sensei, please let the series end when *Yumi* graduates! Even if you’re sick to death of the series, we don’t care…keep writing! ^_^
Art – 6
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 1
Service – 1
Overall – 8
Oh, and total fanboy Sean tells me that next month marks the 10th anniversary of Maria-sama ga Miteru. Happy 10th, Yumi.