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Anime Maria-sama ga Miteru


densuke
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Initial Air Date: 2004/01/08
Air time: 1:00 AM
13 Episodes
Based on novels by Konno Oyuki
Manga by Konno Oyuki & Nagasawa Satoru
Produced by Studio Deen
Opening Theme: "Pastel Pure" by Katakura Mikiya
Ending Theme: "Sonata Blue" by Katakura Mikiya

Translation & Fansubs/Scans of the anime and manga are being done by lililicious.

This iyashi-kei (aesthetic) anime is among the most popular series airing in Japan right now, most likely because of the popularity of the series of novels which inspired it. There is also a large overseas cult growing around it, due to curiosity about shoujo-ai overtones and the long drought of any serious shoujo anime.

The show is set in a Catholic girl's academy. The school has a tradition that upperclass girls take a underclass girls as their little sister or "soeur" to guide and help. Yumi, the main character, becomes part of the student council's world when Sachiko, a council member she idolizes, suddenly seeks to take Yumi under her wing. Yumi, with her mobile face and general air of innocence, soon becomes involved with the other student council members and their souers. She and Sachiko must also sort out their relationship.

This series looks back as far as the 1970s for stylistic inspiration. The show has a langorous pace and the characters tend to speak formally with each other, creating a somewhat ritualistic air. The use of French terms can be slightly intimidating, especially in the first episode.

But the characters are likable and intimate with each other. The solid production gives the viewer plenty to admire. The adaptation of the novels is skillful and makes for plenty of great scenes.

Some points for discussion of this series might include:
[list]
[*]Comparisons between this show and older shoujo anime titles.
[*]The show's focus on relationships among the (almost exclusively female) characters, hinting at love affairs.
[*]The simultaneous manga adaptation, the first volume of which has just been released.
[/list]
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*grins* Nice timing, densuke.

If one disregards the potential shoujo-ai, Marimite really isn't my kind of anime. But it's also rather strange that I was so repulsed by its first episode. After thinking about this for a while, I've come to the realization that I could have tolerated its reliance on dialogue and other perceived flaws [i]if[/i] the series hadn't seemed to be deathly serious.

I have a strong aversion to super-deformation and physical humor, but I feel that episode 1 could've used a healthy dose of subtler comedy. When I originally watched it, I thought the show was taking itself way too seriously, not understanding that it's the characters who place such great emphasis on their school's traditions.

Episode 2 is more light-hearted and (at least in my mind) more down-to-earth. The conversations it features actually feel somewhat natural. I've started to like Rosa Gigantea quite a bit, and I can definitely identify with Yumi, but Sachiko [i]really[/i] bothers me. Because I can't tell when she's genuinely being nice and when she's simply putting on an act in order to get what she wants, I have few reasons to admire her--other than the fact that Yumi does. Oh, well... she's easily the most gorgeous character in a series full of pretty girls, and I suppose that has to count for something.

On the downside, Marimite's artwork has already started degrading slightly. >_<

~Dagger~
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[quote name='Dagger IX1']...Marimite really isn't my kind of anime.[/quote]
I always feel that shoujo anime is "my kind of anime" but the shows are quite different to each other. Like I mentioned, each new series always gets compared to the older ones. It would be interesting if you said more about this.
[QUOTE]...I have a strong aversion to super-deformation and physical humor, but I feel that episode 1 could've used a healthy dose of subtler comedy...[/QUOTE]
^_^ *time to plug the manga*, which freely makes use of chibis to poke fun at Yumi (who is really the one taking everything so seriously, partly because of Sachiko's aloofness). The manga seems to use the same approach as the anime to adapting and compressing the novels, which makes them compatible experiences.

I would have really hated to see SD in the anime though. It's not a bad storytelling device but it gets overused because it allows skimping on drawing. I also prefer it not be used in adult anime series unless they are flat-out comedies.

Some of the other characters are much less solemn or domineering. Later episodes should bear me out on this.
[QUOTE]Sachiko [i]really[/i] bothers me. Because I can't tell when she's genuinely being nice and when she's simply putting on an act in order to get what she wants, I have few reasons to admire her--other than the fact that Yumi does. [/QUOTE]
Sachiko is a tough cookie. Her stoicism and willingness to use people are rather frightening (although I see her as more defensive than acquisitive). She becomes more accessible later in the series but she is definitely more of a love object or idol than a true companion to Yumi.
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[quote name='densuke']I always feel that shoujo anime is "my kind of anime" but the shows are quite different to each other. Like I mentioned, each new series always gets compared to the older ones. It would be interesting if you said more about this.[/quote]

Most of the anime I watch is either shounen or simply ambiguous. At the same time, some of my favorite titles (including Pretear, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Gravitation and Fruits Basket) could be classified as shoujo, so I don't exactly avoid the entire genre. Dark, dramatic, action-oriented fantasy/sci-fi series--often with attractively androgynous male leads--are my personal cup of tea. Before watching Gravitation and Fruits Basket, I had been extremely wary of anything that focused on romance, comedy, or both.

It sometimes seems as though fans compare [i]every[/i] new mahou shoujo anime to Sailor Moon. My apologies to SM maniacs, but it isn't really the best example of the genre, and after its amazing success in the United States, people can't seem to think of shoujo as encompassing anything more than high school girls undergoing sparkly nude transformation sequences.

I think I'll have to withdraw my complaint about Marimite ripping off Utena. Because regardless of their stylistic similarities (it's all about the roses and the noses), Marimite appears to focus on feminine purity, and Utena..... well, Utena does the exact opposite. How ironic.


[quote]The manga seems to use the same approach as the anime to adapting and compressing the novels, which makes them compatible experiences.[/quote]

Speaking of the novels, I'm curious as to whether the anime's character designs and general atmosphere has fulfilled readers' expectations.

~Dagger~
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[QUOTE]Most of the anime I watch is either shounen or simply ambiguous...[/QUOTE]I was interested to know, thank you for your response.
[QUOTE]It sometimes seems as though fans compare [i]every[/i] new mahou shoujo anime to Sailor Moon. My apologies to SM maniacs, but it isn't really the best example of the genre, and after its amazing success in the United States, people can't seem to think of shoujo as encompassing anything more than high school girls undergoing sparkly nude transformation sequences.[/QUOTE]
Sailor Moon is simply the first mahou shoujo anime many people ever see or hear of; it manages to bring people into the mahou shoujo "cult," which is a plus for the "cult." Although SM is not the best series ever (Card Captor Sakura gets my vote) it is not too far from the top either, so I can live with that.

The equation of mahou shoujo with shoujo is a different and far graver matter. I find I have so much to say about this that I would rather reserve my remarks for a thread devoted to the subject. I will simply agree with you for now that shoujo anime is capable of a greater range of style and expression than the likes of Sailor Moon.
[QUOTE]I think I'll have to withdraw my complaint about Marimite ripping off Utena. Because regardless of their stylistic similarities (it's all about the roses and the noses), Marimite appears to focus on feminine purity, and Utena..... well, Utena does the exact opposite. How ironic.[/QUOTE]
A lot of other people have jumped to conclusions about the roses and so on, the use of French... it's understandable though (as you say) misguided. Utena got its French [i]and[/i] its roses from Rose of Versailles, which was made in the 1970s. Marimite draws its style from that and other classic series.

Utena is irony all over... and when you get to the movie it [b]starts all over again[/b] ^_^
[QUOTE]
Speaking of the novels, I'm curious as to whether the anime's character designs and general atmosphere has fulfilled readers' expectations.
[/QUOTE]Marimite anime has been very well-received in Japan. I can only guess that the visual design, which as I said is a blend of older styles, has hit the mark.
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Episode 5 is... well, good. There were a few points at which I feared for Yoshino's life, although in retrospect that was a pretty irrational reaction. She and Rei might as well be engaged (in fact, becoming someone's soeur is vaguely similar to a betrothal). Their relationship reeks of cuteness, but it's refreshingly different from Sachiko's and Yumi's; I just wish Sachiko felt more inclined to act affectionate.

I've become oddly fond of Marimite's introduction, perhaps because it's very gentle and soothing--and instrumental OPs are rare, so I guess it also has a certain novelty.

Time really does fly in this anime. I don't mind the fact that it seems compressed.... there's only one point at which the juxtaposition of leisurely dialogue and rapid jumps ahead feels somewhat unnatural. I was surprised and a bit bemused when the actual play scarcely got a mention, especially after Sachiko made such a hullabaloo about being forced to dance with her cousin. Yes, her willingness to show Yumi her weaknesses should have been the true focus of that particular segment, but I'd have liked to see a brief montage of shots from the performance.

Oh, well, that's a minor complaint. Anyway, do you think that Sachiko is actually [spoiler]in love with Suguru[/spoiler]?

~Dagger~
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[quote name='Dagger IX1']Episode 5 is... well, good. There were a few points at which I feared for Yoshino's life, although in retrospect that was a pretty irrational reaction. She and Rei might as well be engaged (in fact, becoming someone's soeur is vaguely similar to a betrothal). Their relationship reeks of cuteness, but it's refreshingly different from Sachiko's and Yumi's; I just wish Sachiko felt more inclined to act affectionate. [/quote][SPOILER]Heart surgery usually involves ripping open the patient's ribcage; it was kind of convenient to neglect that little detail[/SPOILER]
No angst without Yumi and Sachiko, what can I say?
[QUOTE]I've become oddly fond of Marimite's introduction, perhaps because it's very gentle and soothing--and instrumental OPs are rare, so I guess it also has a certain novelty.[/QUOTE]All music by Katakura Mikiya, the instrumental half of ALI PROJECT. I've been listening to the OP single and the OST, they are simply fabulous.
[QUOTE] I was surprised and a bit bemused when the actual play scarcely got a mention, especially after Sachiko made such a hullabaloo about being forced to dance with her cousin. Yes, her willingness to show Yumi her weaknesses should have been the true focus of that particular segment, but I'd have liked to see a brief montage of shots from the performance.[/QUOTE] Happened in Kare Kano as well. And I know for a fact that the play in that one is a killer. I would imagine that Sachiko got over it and the play went well, thus no drama in presenting it.
[QUOTE] Anyway, do you think that Sachiko is actually [spoiler]in love with Suguru[/spoiler]?[/QUOTE]
[SPOILER]Well, she said she was... but I have to wonder what such a person considers love to be. Sachiko becomes increasingly more considerate towards Yumi in later episodes. I am not expecting any heavy shoujo-ai though...[/SPOILER]
Couple of other things - you asked before about the character design. I have been looking at the novels, they have pictures on the covers with a fairly similar look. So there is little chance that the Japanese fans are experiencing any shock. I also have noticed some badly animated scenes. 13 episodes leaves no room for recap episodes of course, so any production problems are more likely to show through nowadays. Any major flaws are cleaned up for the DVD releases.
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Although I appreciate good animation, I care much more about consistent artwork. As Marimite is a fairly sedate show, I've neither expected nor seen any major drops in quality... even though its character designs are quite detailed and elaborate. There are a couple of sequences during which I feel that people's profiles (particularly their eyes) could have been better-drawn, but this is a minor gripe.

Episode 6 made me fall in love with Rosa Gigantea all over again. I did not, however, like a few of the shots shown when she's dealing with Rosa Canina. Those dark blue gradients were irritating and rather distracting, so it was nice to see them disappear during the climactic moment.

Marimite is very enjoyable if you know what to expect--a calm, character-driven drama with plenty of shoujo-ai tension. It took me a while to grow accustomed to its atmosphere, but I can definitely see why people watch this show. I'm glad you talked me into downloading the remaining episodes. ^_^

~Dagger~
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  • 4 weeks later...
*sigh* just finished watching episode 13. I thought it did a good job of summing up the major characters and the series.

All in all Marimite is a rare treat. Few series are willing to live or die by their characters in quite the way this series does; only Marmalade Boy and Kare Kano come to mind just now. Other media are capable of excellent characterization, but I think anime at its best is unbeatable in creating a sense of intensity and intimacy. This show was absolutely magical.

A fall season of Marimite looks to be in the works. Gokigen yo...
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This anime ended on a good note, although I don't really know what to expect from season 2. For me, episode 11 is the high point of the series. Flawlessly scripted, animated and acted, it's infused with a sense of true tragedy that makes the other girls' troubles seem somewhat trivial by comparison. Sure, I enjoy watching Yumi agonize over what to wear, but Sei's [spoiler]hidden sorrow[/spoiler] is more apt to bring tears to my eyes.

Marimite has the unique distinction of being the only show I've ever seen that incorporates a well-done "title moment." The part when [spoiler]Shiori pushes Sei away, telling her that the Virgin Mary is watching, was beyond perfect.[/spoiler] I personally found it to be the most emotionally charged and heartrending confrontation in the entire anime.

I was surprised to see that Shizuka figures fairly prominently in Marimite's final episode. That's hardly a bad thing, but I'd expected her to simply vanish from the series. I thought [spoiler]her date with Shimako and Yoshino's struggle to overcome her jealousy[/spoiler] were much more fascinating than [spoiler]watching Yumi shop with Sachiko.[/spoiler] *shrugs* Heh, maybe it's just me....

On a side note, have you seen Maria-sama niwa Naisho?

~Dagger~
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^_^ 10-11 were one hell of a payoff! 10-13 really put all the goings-on at the school into a context of the outside world. Nicely done especially when you consider that the chronology of the whole series was juggled around from that of the novel. I think the order of events goes 1-5, 10-11, 6-9, 12-13, meaning that 10-11 were the only episodes shifted in time.

[color=blue]edit[/color]: Compared to other shoujo titles I have seen, I would say that Marimite is more deliberate and character-driven than most. Only Fruits Basket comes to mind as a series which also builds up single-mindedly towards one true climax (although the two shows are different in tone). Also, the "gimmick" of an all-female school was rather transparent - the inclusion of the sole male character early in the series seems to have helped this.

Maria-sama niwa Naisho is a little comedy skit - an omake from the first Japanese DVD. The humor is similar to that of the manga, which often defuses the tension with chibis.

I can't resist plugging Oniisama E... (Brother, Dear Brother) here. It's like a blowtorch compared to the flickering candlelight of Marimite, covering much the same ground in baroque, almost gothic fashion. Technogirls' strenuous efforts provide the best-ever quality fansubs (available on VHS or homebrew DVD). To get more information simply google Brother, Dear Brother.
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  • 3 months later...
Here is the "spring" show, which started broadcasting on the 4th of July. The action kicks off with a New Year's Eve episode. I thought this was going to start broadcasting in the fall...

"Pastel Pure" is now a song. I don't really like the idea though; Ali Project is great, but much too obsessed with "les fleurs du mal" and whatnot. The song comes off humdrum. The incidental music for this episode seemed to be endless variations of "Pastel Pure," including one that sounded like ragtime - I hope it improves soon.

The first episode had a couple of nice moments, but mainly settled for reintroducing the cast (well, it was more of a namecheck really). It felt more like an omake than a serious effort, but I guess it can't be helped after the 3-month hiatus.

The Ayu group fansubbing the series is basically comprised of the old Lililicious/A-Source team - they were the only group to finish the last series so far.
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The first episode of Haru was a lot... funnier than I had expected. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I think your comment about it feeling like an omake was at least partially merited. I enjoyed Sei's crazy driving and the bickering session which masqueraded as a card game. At the same time, the episode lacked the focus and balance which made the end of the first season so great. Having to re-introduce the entire cast would tend to do that, I suppose.

While Suguru's interest in Yumi's poor defenseless little brother would normally be quite welcome in my book, it did seem little [i]too[/i] convenient. I loved the part when Yumi and Yuuki stood side by side, wearing identical expressions of adorable confusion--it's just that the scriptwriters might have had an easier time juggling all of the characters if Yuuki and Suguru were eliminated from this episode. Unless one or both of them plays a major role in some upcoming arc (unlikely though that may be), I don't understand why they needed to make an appearance. Over the course of the entire first season, Yuuki and Suguru collectively appeared in only three or four scenes, most of them totally inconsequential.

Hopefully Yumi will begin to develop a backbone sometime in the near future. I like her, but right now I can't imagine her dealing with a petite soeur of her own. Her Sachiko-related insecurities are completely unmerited, and she really ought to be capable of realizing this on her own.

I wish Ali Project hadn't added vocals to the OP. It doesn't sound very good, which is a shame considering that the new opening animation looks simply beautiful.

About the ending of Oniisama E: [spoiler]I was [i]shocked[/i] when Rei died. I was also quite surprised when I watched the last few episodes, which had been ripped from DVD, and realized that the show's artwork is even more lovely than I'd originally thought. Anyway, this series ended perfectly. Before Rei's death, I had begun to worry that Kaoru's past relationship with Henmei would never receive any kind of explanation or clarification.[/spoiler] Every single subplot got its share of closure, which seems to happen rather infrequently nowadays. If Oniisama E was ever licensed, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

~Dagger~
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Hearing the new OP for the second time I realize that it is badly sung...

The second episode was funny and made much better use of the cast than the first episode did, even though there wasn't all that much dialogue. The false story was nicely done; overplaying it would have been a big drag. The staginess of the way the real story was played out fits the show very well.
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Yes, I wish they had found a singer with a softer, more rounded voice.

Episode 2 was very tightly plotted, especially in comparison to the first episode. It did a wonderful job of fleshing out Eriko's personality, and knowing her better will probably make the graduation arc more poignant. I liked the fact that the cat's cameos actually amounted to something in the end. The storyline was very sweet (without becoming over-dramatic) and felt surprisingly unforced.

I wonder when they'll start to run out of ideas for creative next episode previews. So far, my favorite is probably the Gundam SEED parody from season 1. ^_^

~Dagger~
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  • 3 years later...
[COLOR="DarkOrange"]I watched the first season of [B]Maria-sama ga Miteru[/B] so fast that it really felt like I hadn?t seen it at all, lol. It could be because I spaced out certain episodes and then block-watched the second half, but either way, it went by like lightning. My opinion on it is a little mixed, and I hope that I manage to watch this series again one day knowing what to expect.

The biggest problem I had was simply being confused out of my damn mind about all the titles and names and who was who and in what position. It took me almost the whole of 7 episodes to sort it all out, lol. My first ssue was that I think I took the show too seriously at first. The pacing was a little odd in the early episodes, which contributed to the confusion, but it really straightened itself out by midway. I think within the first 3 episodes I was mostly worried that it would remain so dramatic throughout and I was having a hard time decifering such a large cast. Of course, the rest of the season was dedicated to fleshing them out, so it all turned out well in the end.

By episode 7 I had gotten into it and found the rest to be enjoyable. Being the yuri fan that I am, all the relationships were fun, and for once, these girls are really into girls, lol. I?ve had too many recent experiences where either a character acts gay but then ends up with a guy, or the girl becomes a guy (curse you Simoun!) or simly no relaionships advance. This show was actually about the relationships and nothing else, which was nice (if you haven?t guessed, I?m new to this genre) and I?m glad this show is the one i will ease myself into the genre with.

Marimite manages to be dramatic without ever having to be over-the-top or toy with your emotions as a viewer. It?s a story about the characters which doesn?t attempt to involve you. I feel like the blending of lighthearted and dramatic moments was done perfectly, and Yumi?s psyche was especially fun. I love that none of the characters ever is consistently sure of themselves, which lead to some very realistic characters and interactions.

I think the last 4-5 episodes werre where I really got sucked in, though. Once you know about all the characters? personalities and such, it becomes not about the past, but the future, and you look forward to what happens next. I think the ending was perfect not only for leading into the next season, but simply because the series ends without drama - just satisfaction and heartwarming smiles. In some ways, it feels like the series won?t leave too much of a lasting impression this way, but I don?t mind. Besides, there?s still a whole season and OVA to watch ^^;;[/COLOR]
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