Title: Maria-sama ga Miteru aka Marimite aka The Virgin Mary is Watching You
Company: Studio DEEN/Rondo Robe
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 8 Jan 2004 – 1 Apr 2004
Synopsis: Fukuzawa Yumi attends Lillian Academy, a prestigious all-girls Catholic school, as a first year student. One morning, on her way to class she is stopped in front of the school’s statue of the Virgin Mary by the Yamayurikai’s Rosa Chinensis en bouten, Ogasawara Sachiko, a second year student who is one of the most famous and respected students in the school. The meeting sparks a chain of events, leading to Yumi being asked by Sachiko to be her petite soeur during the middle of a Yamayurikai meeting. However, much to the surprise of all Yamayurikai members, Yumi refuses.
Characters: Relationships analysed in detail.
Art: Unique art style combined with, for the most part, good animation.
Music: Many beautiful classical themes.
Ending: Hardly conclusive, but still fitting.
Categorizing Marimite is a far harder task than reviewing it. It’s certainly shoujo, even if it’s picked up an unexpected popularity among male audiences. It’s not right to call it yuri, since it never reaches certain extremes associated with that genre and even though it has shoujo-ai overtones, they’re never prevalent for more than a couple of episodes. The best I can come up with is slice-of-life character drama with a heavy focus on relationships. These relationships, the various ‘soeur’ pairings are at the crux of this show and they are each different, yet profound and fascinating in their own way.
It may take a few episodes for viewers to get used to Lillian’s technical terminology and the Yamayurikai’s structure, seeing as Marimite throws its audience right into the deep end from the first episode with very little introduction. My advice is to bare with it. After a few episodes, the series begins to show its true colours, focusing on the characters and their relationships. The strength of the series is the depth with which the bonds between the characters are analyzed; by its end, there are no questions about the state of any of the relationships that go under the microscope during the course of the series. It also helps that every pair exhibits a noticeable chemistry between them.
As is the case with almost any series with shoujo-ai undertones, Marimite carries an amount of melodrama throughout its entire story. Big deals are frequently made out of fairly little things, and plot-points, such as a random election in the middle of the series, appear for little reason past creating an excuse for conflict. However, the execution redeems Marimite’s melodrama, and it can be at times oddly charming, thanks largely to the strength of Marimite’s characters. Marimite features a unique, yet attractive art style with detailed character designs and muted water-colour backgrounds that are, bar a few instances, well animated. As is the case with pretty much every shoujo-ai anime I’ve experienced, Marimite has an excellent soundtrack, mostly consisting of light, graceful string and/or piano compilations.
Arguably, this is an anime with a given target audience. Being a character-driven shoujo anime, totally grounded in realism, fans of fast-paced action anime or fanservice romps probably won’t find much to enjoy here. The ending isn’t very conclusive, but it is fitting for a series like this. There is a sequel series out, so people who become attached to Marimite’s delightful cast (as I did) will not have to search far for another Marimite fix. Overall, the first season of Marimite is a charming shoujo anime, even with (or maybe due to) its sporadic shoujo-ai elements and frequent melodrama. With a cast of characters that is difficult to not like, bucket loads of character and relationship development and respectable aesthetics, this series is pretty much a must for fans of the shoujo genre.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun