This Week: Maria Watches Over Us 3rd (Maria-sama ga Miteru 3rd)
High school and university folks may be contemplating or finishing spring break, but for me I’m just going to jump to a summer vacation.
As this is the third season of a series, anything I lightly mention from them here as establishing material could be considered a spoiler for prior seasons.
Here I am back at the Lillian Girls Academy again, for another round of Class S / Shoujo-Ai high school character drama. This time, as an OVA series with five hour long episodes.
As such, eyes for all those long glances have extra pop, hair ribbons bounce that little bit more fluidly, and so on. Since the forward momentum of time is maintained, this set deals in summer vacation and the front end of the following fall, so we are getting to be about a year out from where the characters started.
Something I appreciated so much in the last season and this continues to deliver on is its ability to build off of previous material and to direct focus in the exact kind of scenarios it would hint at and then I was wondering about seeing explored further.
More face time from Sachiko’s arranged fiance Kashiwagi, or Yumi’s brother Yuki? Or, hell, just those Hanadera boys school folks in general? They’re rotated in. What are Tsutako the photographer or Mami from the newspaper club up to? They had largely fallen into the background in the second season, but are now much more prominent.
Hey, shouldn’t this whole soeur system of senior student – second year student – first year student guiding relationships lead to really awkward situations with the new first years? Especially given the prestige factors and as Yumi and Yoshino are now thrust into the position of each needing to soon select a younger sister? Sure it does. Isn’t the Ogasawara family so rich to be running in circles that we really should be seeing more straight up conceited horrible people? I asked, and I received.
What gets me is this is the “vacation” part of the series, given the time of year we are operating in. For a lot of shows this would be a rather disposable part of the narrative.
Yet, it takes advantage of the time to deliver on followups to previous storylines and relationships. This is in addition to building up what I imagine is to be a core story for when I watch the forth season: Yoshino, and especially Yumi, need to pick little sisters. And Yumi has been acquiring something of a fan base with the student body, so she’ll need to navigate that while being ostensibly at odds with her traditional commitment to trying to appease everyone. And then how she deals with the aftermath and being in the senior mentor position to someone else. It is an important element for this run to try and build a bit up in advance while still being largely in fun and games mode, so the next season can run with it from there.
If there was a a singular theme to wrap this entire franchise around, it would be that idea of maturation and the close guidance that gets one there. The first two seasons got us to this point in their own ways, building and showcasing characters. Now we get to by and large stew in them for a while, given the natural separations vacations, trips, and the like cause. It has taught these characters various things, put them through some wringers, and this is our opportunity to gently test them. Those little extra steps of opening up in subtle ways more, or needing to grow into taking command of issues they did not have prior.
The show backs away, in a sense, to see how well certain folks do in terms of leaving the nest, as it were.
I don’t think it is unwarranted to feel proud for various characters on one level or another if they have made it this far in the franchise. The series has tried to give so many folks screen time and narratives leading to this point, and here it eases up on the more soaring drama elements. It is as if it was giving them room to more easily be in the moment and see what they do if left more to their own devices. As both a core thematic and simple storytelling achievement, it is well timed and greatly appreciated.
I can not think of a single recurring character in this series who, at this stage, I am not interested in what they are up to or what they are dealing in when they show up on screen. Even Sachiko, who initially I was not fully sold on in the first season, has succeeded in her slower burn style of personality. I at least get how she operates now, same as our lead is figuring out.
Meanwhile, folks introduced last season like Noriko and Touko continue their drive. Shimako’s and Noriko’s entire dynamic is actually rather endearing to me to no end: a daughter of a Buddhist temple yet attending a Christian academy desiring to become a nun, and the non-Christian who really likes Buddhist statues and art who is only at a Catholic high school by nothing more than an accident of fate. That is such a swell relationship to see unfold here in small ways now that we are further away from its establishment last season. As I had remarked on how I liked Sei Satou quite a bit when she was still an upperclassman and sister to Shimako, this is especially nice.
There are still moments here and there that threaten to cause the series to fall off the high wire act it is trying to perform, but it never pulls anywhere near the same level of drama stunts as the first or second season. To an extent, this is actually something of a concern of mine going from here to the fourth season: the series has had a consistent director (Yukihiro Matsushita) up to this point, but it will shift to Toshiyuki Kato. Maybe that will lead to some swell material by shaking things up though, I’m not sure. It is from a certain perspective exciting, to see what they will do and what those episodes are like, but also a little unnerving and prime for trepidation. So, a lot like certain characters in this program, I suppose.
If this third entry of the series was a food, it would be like vanilla bean ice cream eaten the way a classy lady may on a weekend afternoon. A methodical pace of step by step enjoyment that is in no particular rush, yet is extremely purposeful even while relaxed.
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.