The day my Season 3 Box Set of Maria Watches Over Us arrived I, like many of you, immediately opened box the looking for the third of the three phone straps. Once the Yellow Rose was safely attached to my phone, I was able to turn my attention to the DVDs themselves.
Volume 1 consists of “Vacation of the Lambs” and “Operation OK (Temp) For Short.”
Let me set the scene for you. “Rainy Blue” is over. Yumi has learned the truth of Sachiko’s distance from her, that she was in denial and grieving over her dying grandmother. Yumi has ceased her wide-eyed adoration of her Onee-sama as something perfect and “over there” and is starting to see her as a human being.
In this third season, Yumi’s begun to relate to Sachiko as an equal. The two of them are slowly rebuilding their relationship which had been strained to near-breaking. Yumi is beginning to assert herself, Sachiko is beginning to take herself less seriously, and to rely on Yumi more. It’s slow going for both of them.
In “Vacation” Sachiko invites Yumi to her summer house. It’s not the smoothest vacation ever. Yumi’s still bruised from “Rainy Blue,” and isn’t really sure of herself. She’s never really thought Sachiko’s life through – about the politics involved with her status, or the people around her. Sachiko has never really had a companion, she’s used to being the sole child in the company of adults. She’s also still a little idealistic about the nature of the soeur relationship and forgets, from time to time, that it comes with no magic powers of comprehension.
However. Yumi and Sachiko awkwardly get past all this and at the end of “Vacation” are indubitably closer that ever before. This story is the last one that will ever feature a low-self-esteem Yumi. This story is *the* turning point in the entire series. This story is the beginning of Yumi becoming Rosa Chinensis. “Vacation” is a beautiful story, with some lovely romantic moments.
“Operation OK” is the first time we really see the Yumi and Sachiko we’ve always wanted to see. Yumi is made responsible for the plan to acquaint Sachiko with their decidely male counterparts of Hanadera Academy. I found this particular story gut-bustingly funny, for any number of reasons. When Yumi caves and tells Sachiko what is planned, it is not weakness, as it appears to be, but Yumi’s unerring ability to manage Sachiko, that has finally borne fruit.
The scene where the Yamayurikai finally meets the Hanadera Student Council never fails to make me laugh out loud. The look on the Rosa’s faces as they gaze up…and up…at the Yakushiji twins, the memory of Noriko’s “ham” notation for Takada (left out of the anime, but it still makes me laugh when Takada flexes) and the Yumi/Yuuki comedy duo and Yoshino’s zinger.
This volume is quite possibly the most “important” in the series. If you are (and I am) watching this series to see how the characters mature and develop, then you really should take a second and just lovingly watch this volume. Take time to enjoy the details, the higher-quality art and the wonderfulness that is Fukuzawa Yumi.
Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 3
Service – 1
Overall – 8
Now, while I applaud Right Stuf in their efforts to fill my house with even more crap, this box set sadly fell very short of the good crap I got from the Collector’s edition from Japan for these two episodes. I wonder if it will ever *be* possible to throw $90 away just to get pressed leaf bookmarks, White Rose Family themed faux-leather book covers, Yumi’s hair ribbons, embossed paper coasters and limited edition postcards. I dream of that day.