Review of Maria Watches Over Us (2004)

Moving picture

This review covers the first two seasons, both produced in 2004. Production resumed in 2006.

A French Catholic all-girl high school in Japan. Yumi is starting her first year and quickly stumbles into the very select student council. Sachiko, next in line for one of the highest positions on the council, randomly chooses Yumi to be her intended successor. Yumi refuses at first.

A shell of friendly intrigue over lots and lots of hints at lesbian romance, effective as a comedy. It’s filled to the brim with cute nervousness, exaggerated mystery, poetic fluff, superficiality and romantic undertones. Actual studying and religion play an extremely small part in the plot.

The word “yuri”, as in the setting’s Yamayurikai, means both lily and lesbian. A “sapphire” in some highlighted lyrics alludes to Sappho. Eventually the romantic undertones extend into stories showing pairs of girls embracing or kissing, all tastefully done. The pace is slow, the visual and sound design are solid, and the metafictive ingredients add to the humour: Sachiko is encouraged to provide more fan service to a theater audience. Sweet, subtle and hilarious. Great bonus material too. Based on a series of novels.

In the second season, titled Printemps (spring), there is a bit more talk about religion, but still no Jesus. To pray in front of Mary is not called prayer, just “putting one’s hands together”! The brief juxtaposition of Yumi’s brother with the older bishōnen in the season’s first episode reminds me of the typical boys’-love genre cover, with bizarre cosmological implications. Marimite’s world might be a more polite, universally sensitive and bisexual version of our own. Behold the infernal shōjo glory of the unfurling rose-petal backdrop when you get there!

moving picture animation Japanese production fiction series