Maria Watches Over Us

Maria Watches Over UsType: TV Series
Episode Count: 13
Genre: Drama
Vintage: 2004

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 27 Oct 2008

Grade: A+

The original Japanese title of this series is Maria-sama ga Miteru, often abbreviated to Mari-mite by its fans.

A very impressive drama for those with a penchant for slow-paced character-driven shows.

Plot Summary
Yumi Fukuzawa has just begun school at the prestigious Lillian Girls’ Academy. The tradition at this school is for the upperclass girls of the student council to take a first-year girl under their wing and guide them in the ways of student life at Lillian. The two girls are then known as sœurs (french for sisters), and they often become very close friends, with some occasionally developing an even deeper bond than that. When Yumi is chosen by the revered Sachiko Ogasawara to become her petite sœur (little sister), she’s not sure how to respond, given the circumstances under which the proposition came to be. The series follows the lives of the girls at Lillian through the year and all of the things that happen to them.

The Review
Maria Watches Over Us (from here on referred to as Mari-mite) is a series that didn’t take very long to win me over. It has a relaxed atmosphere (due partly to the wonderful soundtrack), dynamic characters, and has an air of elegance. I am very much a fan of character dramas, and this one excels in just about every way.

The first thing that impressed me about Mari-mite was its elegance. The character designs are very refined, and Yumi in particular manages to be irresistably adorable while not seeming out of place. The soundtrack is largely piano and orchestra based, with unobtrusive but lovely themes that blend in with the almost pastel color palette of the series. On the surface, Mari-mite just looks beautiful.

Much to my delight, the beauty of this series does permeate below the surface into its characters and story. Though not a strict narrative, the theme of the relationships between the girls is made very convincing by their varied personalities. In fact, the character interactions are so important in this series that entire events are quickly summarized to move on to the next development in the relationship in question, in some cases elapsing weeks of time in just one cut to get to the next important part of the characters’ interactions. While undoubtedly a drama, there is a subtle humor that is present throughout, and there are many lighthearted moments to break up what is otherwise a serious drama. The balance is just right though, so the comedy does not seem forced or out of place.

During my first viewing, it became clear to me that Mari-mite was going to become one of my favorite shows, and indeed by the end it had earned a place in my personal top ten. Even more to my delight is the fact that there is more of this series to be had in the form of a second television season and an OVA after that. If they are as good as this first season, it’s safe to say that I have found myself another desert island pick.

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