This week’s theme appears to be “some series never die.” We started off the week with a look back at Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon was just re-licensed in Germany, and I have another re-tread planned for later this week. And, today, we’re taking a look at one of the most recent volumes of a series that has lodged itself firmly in our hearts, Maria-sama ga Miteru. There is one massive spoiler ahead, be warned.
Maria-sama ga Miteru ~ Step (マリア様がみてる ステップ) tells the story of two girls, Katsuki and Ritsu. They are second-years in high school at Lillian and they are the very best of friends. They’ve been together so long that they are practically like sisters.
So, when Ritsu tells Katsuki that she’s seeing a boy, it comes as a shock – not because she’s seeing a boy so much, but because she’s *been* seeing him for a few weeks, and she never mentioned it. Katsuki is hurt, but honest about it, so they separate for a little while, then take it slow to repair the tears in their bonds carefully and neatly. But, as Katsuki points out in her interior monologue, once a person has taken that step up the stair of life, they can never really go back to being the person they were, even if they want to.
In the meantime, Katsuki has herself, through an accidental, somewhat silly, circumstance met a guy she thinks she might be interested in and, when she learns through another completely accidental circumstance that he is Ritsu’s brother, *she* keeps it secret from her best friend. Katsuki had somewhat complicated things a little by lying to “Ken-san,” the nickname she created for the guy she met, about her own name.
Then comes the day Katsuki encounters Ritsu’s boyfriend and her hurried confession the next day to Ritsu that it was another incredible coincidence and nothing else. But, Ritsu says, it doesn’t matter – she’s already broken up with Kouta. In fact, Ritsu knew that Katsuki had met her boyfriend…and the problem was not that she was jealous of Katsuki for being with Kouta, but that she was jealous of Kouta for being with Katsuki.
During the school trip, Ritsu “confesses” that her break-up with Kouta was because she likes Katsuki more. Katsuki thinks about it and asks if Ritsu would like to kiss her. Ritsu replies, “Sure, I guess,” to which Katsuki says, “Right – you guess.” She calmly points out that she really doesn’t think Ritsu’s gay and she’s fairly sure she might have noticed by now if she was and Ritsu pretty much agrees that she’s the same.But they agree that they love each other very much.
Katsuki is now sure that Ritsu does want to go out with Kouta (who she knows is a nice guy) and she kind of wants an excuse to see Isao, Ritsu’s brother, so she calls him to ask him to bring Kouta to the school festival. There is a little tension, but Kouta does come, and he and Ritsu head off to the Sakuratei cafe together. In the meantime, Katsuki meets and is instantly recognized by Isao as the girl he met in the park….despite her makeup and costume as a monster for the haunted house. Woops.
In the end, the two girls have frank talks with their prospective partners about their feelings for them and for each other. Kouta tells Ritsu that he also has a bosom buddy he feels that close too, Isao. And Katsuki comes to realize that Hasekura Isao is a genuinely nice guy.
The author’s note begins with the most obvious question ever – can you guess Kouta’s family name? I could and did. Can you?
One of the questions I’m asked most on #marimite_spoilers @rizon.net is “when” the book I’m discussing is. Yumi’s first-year or second or third? This one was impossible to peg until we were given that single hint. Once we got that, it was obvious “when” we were.
As with many of of Konno-sensei’s books, the plot here took a long time to develop. It was a bit tiring at first, with all the “boyfriend this” and “boyfriend that” but, as the story developed it picked up some speed. And there were a number of small, but interesting features. Ritsu’s and Katsuki’s frank discussion about their affection for one another was one, Kouta’s admission of affection for Isao was another. But of all the interactions in the book, the most interesting to me was a conversation Katsuki had with another classmate, Watako.
Katsuki asks Watako if she had a lover, to which Watako replies, “not at the moment.” Katsuki and I both naturally interpreted that to mean that she had had one previously and expects to do so again. In this way, on top of the shocking idea Konno-sensei introduces in this novel that Lillian girls may have (*gasp!*) boyfriends, Konno-sensei introduces the even more shocking idea that some of them may have had lovers. Two steps out of the garden of maidens in one shot. You go Konno-sensei. ^_^
Overall – starts at a 5, but ends up an 8
The key thing to making this book work as well as it did was that both Kouta and Isao really are nice guys.