There is a movie, Stella Dallas. It is about a poor mother who has a child out of wedlock. She raises the child while working, but when a rich sophisticate falls in love with her daughter, the mother all but disowns her, driving her daughter into her fiancee’s arms and keeping herself out of the picture. She sees the wedding through the church windows from outside, in the rain, because of course. In 1937, this movie was a tearjerker. In 1990, when it was remade as Stella, it kind of didn’t really make any sense. Single, unwed mothers were no longer a life-ruining thing or something to be ashamed of.
In 1975, divorces were just starting to become common. I remember when, for the first time, I was in a class where more students had divorced parents than not. It was just about then that the stigma of a divorce was starting to fade.
Now, in 2015, it has no stigma at all. Like, say, being gay, having divorced parents will not completely trash most young lives. It’s not to say that the actual action of coming out or going through a divorce is not difficult, but…
So watching Mariko in the beginning of Dear Brother, Set 3, Disk 1, crying her heart out over – and worse, suffering bullying because of – her parents divorce is a Stella moment. It doesn’t have the impact it would have in the 1970s…it wouldn’t even all that much in the early 1990s when the anime was made. Times change.
As Miya-sama will learn, as Kaoru-no-kimi proposes the dissolution of the sorority. Watching Miya-sama’s delusions being eroded, while she sits in denial, was fascinating.
The school drama is far more interesting than poor Mariko’s personal drama, until we learn that Mariko and Aya had once been friendly rivals and in the end, save each other just enough to face another day.
And finally, we come to the most amazing, heartbreaking scene, as Fukiko asks Rei flat out if she hates her and Saint Juste breaks down completely over her feelings of love and hate for her half-sister.
This volume is a rough ride. I think I ended every episode by saying, “Wow, this is a depressing series.” But for all that, it’s one of the most deep, complex and in many ways human, dramas I’ve ever watched. The characters by now are all so fully fleshed out that you can see them as humans, rather than ciphers. These were the days before one-issue/joke per character was the rule. Everyone has flaws, everyone has strengths.
My personal favorite scene is when Nanako notices that drama-signifying doves have all left and no one else notices that there were ever any doves at all.
Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 2
Service – 4 Naked Rei.
Overall – 9
To the end, Miya-sama remains selfish and mean. And in our hearts we can never even imagine her as anything but.