If you were among the many that ran out the first second you heard that Maria Watches Us was available in box set, it’s likely that you did so more for this one volume than for the rest of the series. Because saying you like Sei is, as we all know, like saying the sky is blue. :-) (Which, by the way, was part of one of the questions I sent in to Konno Oyuki-sensei last month when Right Stuff opened that form for us. I thought she ought to know that we say that.)
And here we are, arrived at *last* at the zOMG! official release of “Forest of Briars” (as Right Stuf translated it) in the US. Surely I am not the only person who thought that we would never, ever see that.
In the winter of her 17th year, Sei suffered a parting that was very painful, she relates to us in the opening.
Yumi overhears classmates talking about Rosa Gigantea, and then rumors of a book begin to filter though the school. A book, she later reads and finds to be about two students at Lillian who attempted suicide to be together. Yumi finds out that Sei’s past includes some kind of situation that makes it a likelihood that she is the author of the book!
Sei’s honesty is pretty stark, and she admits to having been in a situation that’s pretty similar to the one in the book. Neither Yumi nor Yoshino seem particularly surprised to learn that Sei fell in love with another student. Yoshino’s biggest concern is that Sei might have been hurt, so she decides to find out who wrote the book, only to learn that it was a memory of a distant past and nothing, except by coincidence, to do with Sei.
It’s hard to imagine, having seen only the teasing, openly grope-y Satou Sei, that there was a time when she was withdrawn from everyone and cold. And that the reason she changed was not, as one might expect, because she had fallen in love. In fact, it was quite the opposite – her heart had been broken, forcing her to lean on other people and see how many people genuinely cared about her. In “White Petals,” we watch Sei meet, fall in love with, be rejected by, reconcile with and lose Kubo Shiori. A lot of the novel had to be cut out for the anime, which really is a shame, because it’s an excellent novel. (Including at least a *little* recognition of the issue of lesbian identity.) But what is left is still a very moving story…and the source of 90% of Youko x Sei slash, as well. lol
The last two episodes are the Valentine’s Day date episodes, in which Yumi losing sight of Sachiko for a moment is turned into a laughably absurd cliffhanger and which also had a great scene truncated, so all we get of Yumi listening to Sachiko changing in the jeans shop is a little clothing noise and Yumi blushing – but it’s enough. ^_^
Shizuka and Shimako continue to confuse fans, because both are so difficult to read. But, watching their date now, with all those novels between this episode and me, I find them an utterly fascinating pair. There’s a line towards the end of their date that characterizes them perfectly. If Rosa Gigantea hadn’t existed, then we might have been soeur, Shizuka says. But she does exist, Shimako says. And so, Shizuka concludes, taking Shimako’s hand, we are both happy. It’s a great line.
Yoshino has her moment of satori about why stalking is bad and ends up having an armful of crying Chisato, then turns around and gets mad at Rei for not being more considerate of the girl’s feelings and getting an apologetic embrace from Rei in return.
And so, with the addition of the Don’t Tell Maria-sama extras, we come to the end of the first season of Maria Watches Over Us.
Art – 6
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 8
Service – 0
Marimite Fan – 100
Overall – 10
Now I have to go and watch it all over again in a marathon. And memorize the novels. Perhaps start camping outside a Japanese bookstore in anticipation of Before Graduation which is due out next month. (I’d add “stalk Konno Oyuki-sensei” but I learned my lesson from Yoshino. ^_^)