“Someone Watching Over Me” – Maria Watches Over Us, Season 1 (anime) – 8/10 Snowballs

 

The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson. ~Tom Bodett

Genre: Slice-of-Life/Drama/School/Shoujo Ai

Review Status: Complete (13 Episodes/13 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: This has some very nice character designs, all of the girls looking very distinctive and unique. Little details make their way into each episode that really make it stand out, like how Yumi’s hair bows are a different color every day- that show that the artists and animators were really caring about how this looked, since it’s so easy to make all the characters look the same when they’re in the same uniform 90% of the time. The background work is lovely, to boot, with a good amount of detail and color.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub.

Summary: When Yumi Fukuzawa entered the Lillian Girls’ Academy, a prestigious all-girls Catholic school in Tokyo, she never imagined she would catch the eye of beautiful and demure Sachiko Ogasawara, one of the school’s most popular students. Now Sachiko has offered to be Yumi’s soeur, her “sister” and guide for all her years at the academy. The whole idea has Yumi completely flustered – after all, they hardly know each other!

The entire campus is abuzz with rumors about the two of them, but Yumi is conflicted over accepting Sachiko’s offer. While she admires Sachiko, being her soeur would also mean constantly being at the center of the entire school’s attention! (RightStuf)

Review: Catholic schools are things of mystery and wonder to many. What exactly goes on behind those walls? Are they hotbeds of sin? Places of arcane Christian tradition? Add the idea of being single-sex and you’ve got something that could be one wild ride! Maria Watches Over Us answers many of these questions very simply- they are regular schools, where regular students go to, with the sexual politics that come with being girls-only.

Within the walls of this particular school, you have the addition of Japanese sensibilities of rank and honor to contend with, the apprenticeship of younger girls to learn how to be proper students and women to the older students. The members of the student council must be the greatest examples of them all. Maria Watches Over Us follows Yumi as she explores those relationships, discovering the different types of relationships that they have, from those that are sisterly, to those like close friends, to the ones that are almost purely mentorship. Each pair of Soeurs brings something different to the Student Council, creating an interesting and ever-changing dynamic as the characters grow and change and graduate.

The plot revolves around said relationships, and what changes them and the people in them are various events in the school that create drama and tension for the characters. While the timeline in the first season is quite out of order- creating an issue since in later seasons time is shown to pass quite normally,  and making little sense because of how the relationships change through the year- the relationships progress naturally as Yumi gets to know her peers better through council events and being in the same class as one. The school play, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and a scandal that rocks the school all provide a look into the lives and personalities of the members, bringing to light that they’re all quite unique characters and stand out in their own ways.

Watching Yumi try to deal with them is cause for comedy and drama. Friends with the (not so) gentle Yoshino, intimidated by the aloof Sachiko, fodder for the nonconformist Sei, her life among the girls is never quite peaceful! There’s a reason why Maria Watches Over Us is considered one of the best Shoujo-Ai anime out there, though, since there are only vague undertones and occasional jokes made about it, never made light of when one of the girls is revealed to definitely be a lesbian, the sorrow and tragedy of her story played out with respect. This show manages to make the stories and drama work, set to lovely classical music illustrated by the change of seasons.

Overall, this is a quiet piece that manages to make the dramatic (and sometimes melodramatic) work.

Recommended: 13+. If you’re not okay with Shoujo-Ai, then this anime is not for you.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Maria Watches Over US (seasons 2, 3, 4)

Aoi Hana (anime and manga)

Aria (anime and manga)

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