Maria Watches Over Us Anime, Season 4, Disk 1 (English)

June 25th, 2010

In Maria-sama ga Miteru, Season 4, it’s time for the Lillian school festival and once again, the Student Council, known as the Yamayurikai, is putting on a performance. This year, because of the unusual resemblance Fukuazawa Yumi has to her younger brother Yuuki, the play that is chosen is the Torikaebaya Monogatari, a play that deals the with two siblings who switch gender roles in the Heian court.

But Yumi is only half worried about the play, because it comes to her attention that Touko has had some trouble with the Drama Club. In typical Yumi fashion, she resolves the issues by being irresistibly sincere. And to top it all off, Yumi and Sachiko finally learn the truth of Kanako’s issues with her father. The story is both much, much more horrible and much, much less horrible than we could have imagined.

Yumi and Sachiko don’t celebrate their one-year anniversary, for perfectly good reasons, but I still think Sachiko ought to do *something* nice for Yumi.

And Sei and Youko make an appearance that reminded us of just how wonderful they are. I’m glad to have been able to read the novels to enjoy all of their future appearances. I also admit to having been fascinated with the way Youko’s blouse was drawn. There was a lot more attention to detail in the way that buttoned shirt lay against her than probably was warranted. :-)

At the end of the disk, Yumi, having been commanded by Sachiko to find a soeur and Yoshino, pressured by a rash promise made to Eriko, set out to hold an “audition” for the open positions. This is, possibly, the novel most chock-a-block filled with zOMG amazing plot points, that the anime couldn’t hope to do more than scrape the surface, but damn that surface is awfully busy. :-)

The one striking this about this 4th season to me was that there was no way you could start with the first disk of this season, and start to watch. Quite often with anime series that continue for a few seasons, the first episode summarizes what has gone before, at least enough for a relative newbie to sit down and watch it. Not so for this. If you had no idea who these people were or why they were doing the things they were doing, it would be a slightly befuddling story. And, of course, the real in-jokes would be lost. There would be no way to appreciate just *how* much Sachiko had changed when she proposes the double gender switch for the play if you did not know what kind of person she had been. As a staunch obsessive fan, it kind of felt good. This anime is not for the off-the-street, “who is this? what’s going on?” person. It’s for *us.* :-)

The DVD includes the “Maria-sama ni ha Naisho” and liner notes as extras. The physical extra for those pre-orderers among us is a fetching writing pad.

Art – 8 for Youko’s button-down shirt
Characters – 10
Story – 10
Yuri – 1
Loser Marimite Fan – slightly less than a million

Overall – 9

In this life that I have created that focuses so much around anime and manga, this series, Maria-sama ga Miteru, along with Sailor Moon, has profoundly affected my life. I really just want to say thank you to Nozomi/RightStuf for allowing me the pleasure of seeing this series in English.

Send to Kindle

14 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    ye gods, I wish there was a 5th season.

  2. It is inconceivable to think of the old Sachiko directing a comedy. Poor Tsutako, she always seems to get the short end in the conversion from novel to anime. I take heart that Tsutako would be ok with her scenes being cut.

  3. DezoPenguin says:

    Sachiko’s character development is notable, true…but what I’ve really noted in this season is that Yumi has definitely matured from where she was in the first season. While Sachiko started that progression in the 3rd season, Yumi really starts to show some maturity and–dare I say it–Rosa Chinensis-ness (I don’t think that’s a word, but it OUGHT to be!) here, where in previous years she’d have just collapsed under the weight of melodrama.

    I confess to being exceedingly confused about Touko, though. Or more accurately, why everyone seems to care so much about her. Sachiko and Kashiwagi are, of course, family, but Touko has never done anything on-screen but be self-absorbed, mean-spirited, bitchy, hurtful, and gossipy to…anyone, through four seasons. I have no idea why either Yumi or Noriko would *care* what happens to her, let alone why Yumi would want to offer her the rosary in the first place. I’m getting three volumes ahead of myself here, but my reaction ep. 10 (or was it 11?) was pretty much schadenfreude rather than sympathy, which is really not what MariMite tends to try to evoke. ^^;;

    Is it just a case of cultural differences, my own personality and taste, or have there been significant moments of character development present in the novels that were left out due to time/space constraints in the anime?

    Kanako’s wrap-up with her family issues, on the other hand, was both squicky and hilarious. ^_^

    I’d also like to thank Nozomi for coming through with a preorder bonus that I’ll actually use, and best of all for shipping the set out three weeks early. *happy dance*

  4. @DezoPenguin Two points about Touko – what you see on screen is about 1/4th of what happens in the novels. You will have to chalk a lot of your confusion regarding Touko up to the fact that you don’t really know Touko at all.

    Secondly, fans who watched Rainy Blue/Parasol o Sagashite and still blame the situation on Touko completely failed to grasp what actually happened. I see that a lot. Fans develop a first impression and regardless of all evidence to the contrary, including more information on a situation, refuse to budge from that initial impression. Even if it takes jumping through more and more mental hoops to do so.

    Your anger at Touko is unfounded. You have failed to understand that the Rainy Blue situation was created not by Touko, but by Sachiko’s inability to express herself well. Touko is not bitchy – she’s lonely, lost and has no one to talk to. She is torn between wanting to trust Yumi and having never had anyone to trust at all before.

    Just the same way that Sachiko and Rei bungled the Noriko/Shimako situation by really not being subtle, Touko is flailing. Accept that Yumi sees that, when you cannot. :-)

  5. DezoPenguin says:

    It’s good to know that there was (considerably) more to Touko in the books; that’s always one of the problems with condensations of anything. I would absolutely have liked to have seen it.

    Personally, I never blamed Touko for anything in regard to the Rainy Blue situation…Sachiko and Yumi’s terminal lack of communication skills and Yumi’s relentless instinct for creating melodrama out of very little (One thing I utterly loved about this season was Yumi not falling into that trap with Touko but instead maturing and taking things patiently and at their own pace! I so want to see what Yumi would be like as Rosa Chinensis.) were quite sufficient for that. Touko did indeed make a lousy first impression there, but it was also a first impression that never got countered by anything.

    It’s not that I can’t recognize her lonely/lost/flailing/desperately in need of friendship and counseling self, but that these problems don’t justify my sympathy as a viewer in and of themselves, without some additional information that she is a good person (to overexaggerate for lack of a better analogy, it’s like how some people from broken homes become criminals, and other people from broken homes become productive members of the community). The anime never shows us the good in Touko that would make me sympathize.

    (For example…in Ep. 1, Season 3, Touko shows up at the Ogasawaras because she’s worried about Yumi being mistreated by the upper-crust girls. Seen from Touko’s POV, that’s a perfect moment of character development, where she attempts to be helpful and kind, but can’t properly express herself, with her desire to trust that Yumi is as kind and honest as she seems struggling against her inability to believe that. But in the episode itself, we only get to see her from the outside, which consists of, “ah, Touko’s saying nasty things about Yumi again.”)

    Yumi was clearly able to recognize Touko not as “poor little lost lamb who needs my help” (which is the conclusion Touko erroneously jumped to) but as “a good person who would make a good petite soeur“–and my frustration is in the fact that as a viewer I was supposed to be able to accept this without actually seeing any action by Touko that would justify this feeling (the final episode notwithstanding).

    I guess my problem with her is, in a cast of widely varied but inevitably nice people, Touko has always been relentlessly unpleasant in every moment of screen time up until…well, Episode 13…and it makes Yumi’s desire to reach out to her seem more like saintly charity instead of a young woman’s care and concern. It would have greatly increased my enjoyment of the major arc of this season if the anime could have shown me what it was that Yumi and Noriko were seeing in her all along, so that when Touko goes into her various self-destructive behaviors I could have felt the “Oh, no, will Yumi be able to help her/will she be able to find the strength to accept Yumi’s help” that it was clear I was supposed to feel instead of, in my wife’s words, “hearing the world’s smallest violin playing ‘My Heart Bleeds For Thee.'”

    I think it says something that this is my least favorite of the seasons and I still loved it. ^_^

  6. @DezoPenguin Again, going back to the concept of the in-crowd, the anime was never meant to stand alone.

    The anime was meant to be a treat for folks who already loved the story, not an indoctrination to the story for folks who didn’t know it. It’s a subtle, but critical distinction.

    The next few episodes will explain some of the things we’re missing. Not entirely, because it’s a condensation of the novels, but some. :) But if you, like so many other anime-only fans, don’t like Touko, it probably won’t change your mind. By the time we reach this point in the novels, most readers no longer dislike Touko, because she is not, in fact, unlikable.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Even after this season not-dislike was still all I could manage for Touko. She can have sympathy, maybe even support, but not like. Even if Rainy Blue could be attributed to poor communication skills her actions aggravated things, and there’s no way she couldn’t have seen that. And her whole “publicly expose the secret Buddhist student council romance” never sat right with me. I guess it’s just personal taste.

  8. BruceMcF says:

    @anon, even if was a Lillian Tales OVA that went through some of the stories left out to get the selected story arcs into the three broadcast seasons plus Spring. The format of 5 50-minute stories would allow some of the side characters a chance to shine that the pacing of the broadcast series did not allow.

    I saw on AnimeNewsNetwork that the original light novel is getting a re-release with cover art featuring the actresses in the live action movie.

    And on the discussion topic, Drill-chan FTW. I don’t know if its because twenty year olds are commonly drawn as ten year olds, or whether the original Roses set a lofty standard, but it strikes me that some of “Dislike Drill-chan Brigade” are judging her as being guilty of juvenile behavior. But in US terms, Drill-chan is only a HS sophomore growing toward becoming a HS junior – growing out of juvenile behavior seems a perfectly apt character arc.

    And the characterization of “outwardly brash to cover some inner insecurity” is done well, even with a relatively fewer strokes than in the light novel – better than it is usually done.

    I will *{cough}* presume, until I can get my hands on the DVD’s, that the reason for Drill-chan being so clingy and possessive about her elite and more senior cousin will get a reveal and it will ring quite true.

  9. One of the common themes of this series is that characters are not who they first appear to be (Yumi being the exception). We’ve seen this in previous “villains” Minako and Shizuka. So I gave Toko the benefit of the doubt and waited for her story to be revealed. There are two very small character scenes from the anime season 3 that could easily have been eliminated for not directly moving the plot forward. These scenes made me a Toko fan.

    The first is when Yumi goes to buy bread for lunch and runs into Toko. It is the expression on Toko’s face and in her voice when Yumi suggests that Toko is avoiding the Rose Mansion because of Yumi’s presence.

    The second is during the folk dance at the sports festival when Yumi and Toko are dancing together. Yumi says it is too bad that Toko won’t be able to dance with Sachiko. Again. it is the expression on Toko’s face and in her voice that tells me that she joined the folk dance to dance with Yumi.

  10. @Shawn Stalker – I think you’re close. but a little off. It’s not that they aren’t “who they seem to be” it’s that they “become” who they are.

    One of the overwhelmingly obvious qualities I see in the series is that every grows and matures. No one is pretending to be something, they all are simply not fully baked yet. My young teenaged friends are the same. Decisions made and behaviors displayed aren’t, maybe, the best possible choices at all times. Heck, adults don’t always do the right things.

    So, I don’t see it as subterfuge, so much as, Touko simply grows up. As does Yumi, Sachiko, and every other character in the series. They are who they are, and then they become truly who they are.

  11. I completely agree. I was only commenting on the very first impression of a character. Rei (Mr. Lillian) and Yoshino (quiet, sweet, mentally frail) are the easiest examples.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I only just now got to watch through the fourth season (stupid international shipping!) and I gotta say it was everything I had hoped for and more. I had the same initial reaction to Touko as most people seemed to have but by the time the fourth season had been licensed I’d watched the three previous seasons so many times that my opinion on her had done a full 180 degree turn. And so I was anxiously waiting and hoping for lots of Touko X Yumi shenanigans this season and GODDAMN did it ever deliver! Maria-sama ga Miteru is the best thing made in the history of ever.

    As someone who hasn’t read the novels and whose only experience on MariMite is from the anime all I’ve got to say is: If you don’t think Touko is adorable and awesome then please GET OUT OF MY INTERNET!!!

  13. @Anonymous – You actually got the set before it officially hits the shelves. So, no complaints, international shipping or no. :-)

Leave a Reply