This Week: Maria Watches Over Us: Printemps
Happy Valentine’s Day! I got you flowers and Catholic school uniforms that reach down to the floorboards.
Maria Watches Over Us: Printemps (Maria-sama ga Miteru: Haru)
First things first: this is the second season to Maria Watches Over Us, essentially a drama franchise surrounding an all girls Catholic high school and their extremely close relationships and social structures. So much so, it actually can be classified as a work in the Class S genre. I tackled some thoughts on the first season here, and I won’t be going too much into spoiler territory about this season, so fear not.
Something I very much enjoyed about the first season and continued to appreciate in the second is just how impervious it is to a wide variety of criticisms one could potentially lob at it.
For instance, sure, characters have a tendency to talk more like figures from a period drama in the literary fashion their dialogue often takes, but the whole production is so hellbent committed to the notion of The Academy as a location sort of beyond time and space. It not only seems ludicrous to knock it for that, but its passion for the endeavor is so high that it is very easy to get caught up in the spell it is trying to weave. Are the problems and arguments the girls face A Really Big Deal? Well, perhaps not really in the grandest scheme of things, and yet they are because while all of this high school stuff is recognized to be temporary it is also in this moment everything to them.
I mean, hell, I was a teenager once. Not a teenage girl, of course, but I get exactly where their heads often are because the show is deft in giving every character time with us as it play its cards extremely precisely.
Printemps also did the greatest possible thing one can ever hope for in a sequel series: execute on the ideas and thesis presented in the previous work, and introduce new building blocks that allow these concepts to be taken to additional places.
A major feature of the franchise is this idea of the “sœur” system, a sort of mentoring and emotional bonding wherein an upperclassman enters a guiding relationship with an underclassman, sealed with a rosary exchange. These relationships are scripted as such where over time you can read as much or as little into their emotions as you’d like, and any interpretation would pretty much be correct. These can become kind of like bloodlines, as a third year would be guiding a second year who in turn seeks out a first year to mentor, particularly critical when regarding the prestigious student council. As there are titles associated with this (which can get incredibly long), naturally one ascends to the next level when their sempai graduates.
That is not an idle threat in this series. Rather than it be something the show talks about or characters worry over but it never actually does because of some timeless Anime High School narrative tomfoolery, it brings the hammer of clock momentum down. Characters in the first season had certain feelings about that year and graduating and all the rest, and in this season we get to see it happen. And I will be honest, that was a very surreal kind of fiction experience to be sitting through because we so rarely get it in a television anime format. And the show is so very smart about how it handles it all. The graduates have what their situations are, and their underclassmen have things they are going through, and the ones who are underclassmen to them have their own processes they are working through. And we get to see all of it, as many perspectives as we really can. It succeeds in everything the first season had me hoping for concerning what that chain of events would or could look like. It earns the right to make me as a viewer tear up rather than demanding it, and I am not so proud to deny that is exactly what happened.
Where another series might stop there with that achievement, again, it does not forget this forward momentum business means a new crop of first year students also comes in. This is still all so very temporary a time, and yet still also everything for those living it. Everyone still carrying on at Lillian gets bumped up a notch. A variety of new complexities and situations come out of this, including even a new way to tackle certain ideas about the aspect of it being a Catholic school.
The only honest to goodness sticking point I have with this season is perhaps the final arc goes on for juuust an episode too long or so, because this franchise is a very carefully constructed balancing act that is better at embracing ideas and stories that it can move the camera lens around during and showcasing perspectives of the fuller set of characters and student body. But that should be taken as less me being nitpicky and more of a recognition of how very solid the series generally is regarding this issue the rest of the time, so it merely became more noticeable when the gears shifted around a single person for a more extended stretch than usual.
Studio DEEN has been under a fair amount of flack recently for various missteps and botched opportunities, some even concerning their currently airing yuri series Sakura Trick. Maria Watches Over Us is not only really an example that material trying to deal in the soaring emotional connections between girls can be doing better and reaching far higher, but that DEEN itself can and already has. Certainly, it is every bit the kind of work that makes me recall their pleasant times and great accomplishments rather than any of their wishy washy also rans.
I thought the first season was all in all a pretty good time, with some kinks here and there that are in some respects sort of inherent given everything it needs to lay out and establish. The second season took everything it did, did it even better, and delivered on pretty much every concept it raised. Many sequels fail to achieve this so clinically.
I am very pleased that there are two additional seasons of this show I get to look forward to.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime series I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.