Light Novel: Maria-sama ga Miteru ~ Step

March 2nd, 2011

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. ^_^

Ratings:

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.

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17 Responses

  1. DezoPenguin says:

    Wouldn’t that be three steps? You noted in the review a discussion between the leads about whether they were gay–not “how do we feel about each other” but sexual identity apart from the whole “if it’s you it’s okay” area.

  2. @Dezo Penguin – The book actually was split into 6 “Steps” with perspective from each side. I skipped things for the sake of a concise review.

  3. Felix says:

    Considering Seven Seas actually has a shipping date (June 2011) for an omnibus of all three Strawberry Panic light novels, do you think think any of the Maria-sama ga Miteru novels might get licensed in the U.S.?

  4. Serge says:

    Shimazu. Isao’s last name gave it completely away.

  5. @Felix – No. In fan’s minds, there may be a connection between those two, but in the business world, there is none. Strawberry Panic! is a series owned by ASCII Mediaworks, a company that Seven Seas has a good relationship with.

    Maria-sama ga Miteru is owned by Shueisha (also the company that now owns Hayate x Blade) and Seven Seas does not have a relationship with them. Shuiesha has also said that they are not interested in licensing Marimite to the English-language market, for a number of reasons. (Tokyopop asked, when they licensed the novels for the German market, and were told flat out “no.”)

    To put it bluntly – fans should stop expecting this to ever happen, unless they hit the lottery and can sway Shueisha with massive amounts of money. The end.

  6. Serge wins the prize. ^_^

  7. Anonymous says:

    *Spoilers!*

    When I first saw the cover for this novel, I was shocked at what appeared to be Yoshino ‘cheating’ on Nana with another girl.

    But now it’s clear, with those two last names, that this took place waaay before Yumi and Co. ;)

  8. Anonymous says:

    im sorry im lost.. can you *spoil* me and tell me how are they connected to the current (Yumi and co) Marimite story? (ive only watched the anime and read synopsis of the light novels from you).

  9. @Anonymous – Katsuki is Rei’s mother and Ritsu is Yoshino’s mother.

  10. Tomoyo says:

    I think one of the earlier novels revealed that Rei’s mother and Yoshino’s mother married each others brothers. Do you remember which book that was?

    Also, thanks for summarizing the book. I was hoping that the spoiler was something about Yumi & co, but this was still a good spoiler. :)

  11. @Tomoyo – What was originally revealed, back in the second novel, I believe, was that they were cousins, and a sibling relationship between two of the parents was implied. I think most of us took that to mean that their fathers were brothers. The situation is (as is typical with Konno-sensei) that Yoshino’s mother and Rei’s father are siblings, but that both fathers were as close as brothers and both mothers were as close as sisters.

  12. Inisipis says:

    I guess that the fact one of the girl in the picture looks like Yoshino is probably a hint for us.

    It’s nice to know that these Nice guys and girls brought up such Nice daughters(well Rei anyway ^_^).

  13. Tomoyo says:

    Ah! Your explanation really cleared that up! I was looking in your review to see if you mentioned Katsuki and Kouta being related, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. But with your reasoning, it makes sense that only Ritsu and Isao are related. Thanks again!

  14. @Tomoyo – I’m glad to help. Konno-sensei likes to screw with our brains that way. :-)

  15. Alison says:

    So the novels from now on…it looks like they’re going to focus on other Lillian attendees, rather than what Yumi, Shimako, and Yoshino’s last year of school there is like? But, but, I wanted to see more Yumi/Touko developments! Nuts. Oh well guess I like how this book seems like it’s doing something similar to what happened with Sei and Shiori.

  16. @Alison – Yes, Konno-sensei said that “Hello Goodbye” ended the Yumi/Sachiko phase of the novels.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hello Goodbye was the last part..geez, I want more about Yumi and Sachiko.. I love the sisterly bond between them

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