“Maria Watches Over Us” is a charming romance between two school girls caught in difficult circumstances.
To say the least, “Maria Watches Over Us” is gentler and far less lewd than most yuri lesbian romances. For starters, this romance story is set in the Lillian Girls Academy, a school with elegant architecture. The school has a unique petite de seours nobility system, in which the grande seours (big sisters) are the most respected, presigious students.
The story begins with Yumi Fukuzawa, a first-year student, meeting Sachiko in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary. Yumi likes Sachiko, and Sachiko surprisingly ties Yumi’s scarf for her. However, photographer Tsutako Takeshita shot a picture of Sachiko tying her scarf, and wants to publish it in the yearbook. Embarassed by the photo, Yumi asks to have it back, but Tsutako agrees only if Yumi lets her display it at the school festival.
Tsutako also wants Sachiko’s permission to use the photo as well, so she asks Yumi to come along. Right when they arrive, however, Sachiko bumps into Yumi again. Sachiko graciously wants Yumi to become her petite seour, or little sister.
It turns out that Sachiko is requesting this, so that she can get out of playing Cinderella in the school play. Sachiko doesn’t like guys, but her grande seour friends want to force her to play Cinderella, so that she can get more comfortable with men. Shy Yumi refuses reluctantly, leading Sachiko to find ways to convince Yumi to be her little sister.
This difficult beginning almost turned me off too much, but all the schoolgirls have a certain gentleness to them. Even though there is plenty of drama and bickering, the girls are surprisingly polite throughout the first three episodes. Despite the lesbian overtones, the romance is kept low-key, making for a much stronger and more engaging relationship between the two main characters. The art is gorgeous as well, with beautiful light shades of pink and blue throughout the background of Lillian Girls Academy.
Eventually, once anime watchers reach episode three, they’ll find that “Maria Watches Over Us” delves deep into difficult issues, such as arranged marriages in Japan. To say the least, the man who is playing Cinderella’s bride is not only engaged to Sachiko, but he’s also related to her in some way. Fortunately, Yumi gives Sachiko emotional support she needs, and becomes Sachiko’s petite seour.
It’s really hard to find a better yuri series out there. “Maria Watches Over Us” is a fantastic series that puts brains over violence and romance over hatred. I liked this series–it has a very solid plot, and unlike “Simoun,” it doesn’t waste time with goofy science fiction gizmos. I’ll definitely be looking forward to watching the rest of the season one box set.
By the way, there’s an awesome bonus feature in this DVD, called “Don’t Tell Maria!” In each episode of the special feature, the characters pull off cute, hilarious bloopers. This anime has probably the best special features this year for an anime series.
Image courtesy of honya.ch.com