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Maria-sama Ga Miteru 4th season episode 1

January 4, 2009

The fourth season of “Maria-sama ga Miteru” (マリア様がみてる), also known as “La vierge Marie vous regarde”, has just begun and once again takes us to Lillian Catholic school for girls.
Picking up roughly where the third season left off (which was a 5 episode OVA), the first episode does spend a few quick scenes to introduce the viewer to each of the girls of the Yamayuri Council, but one should be familiar with the previous seasons before watching this one.

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A year has passed since Yumi joined Lillian and became Sachiko’s ‘petite sœur’, this year’s new school festival is fast approaching. As is their tradition, the Yamayuri council is organizing a play with the aid of the student council from Hanadera school for boys.
Sachiko has decided on the ‘Torikaebaya Monogatari’ (a story of changing roles), a classical Japanese tale from the Heian period where a court minister has both his children take on the role of the opposite gender for a time, his daughter posing as male and his son posing as female.

Because the Hanadera Student Council is presided by Yumi’s brother Yuki, the lead roles in the play befall Yumi and brother, much to her own shock. Yumi’s discomfort is only augmented when Sachiko decides to have all the student council boys from Hanadera play female roles and the girls from the Yamayuri play male roles.

This does not sit well with Kanako, who is helping with the play but is not enthusiastic at working alongside the Hanadera students, her hatred towards men seemingly unchanged. While trying to do what she can to soften Kanako’s hatred towards men and feeling somewhat guilty she’s forcing her to participate due to their promise, Yumi soon has her hands full.

Hearing from Noriko that Touko seems to have had a falling out with the theater club, Yumi questions whether it is wise to impose on Touko to appear in the Yamayuri council’s play, since she feels that Touko may best be with the theater club considering her love for theater. When speaking to Sachiko, Rei and Shimako about it, they state that Touko should return to the theater club and charge Yumi with the task of telling this to Touko. Off course, Yumi tells Touko in her own unique style and ends up coming to a compromise.

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Most of the episode centered around setting up the play for the school festival, and focused on Yumi, Touko and Kanako. The main plot question so far seems to be who will become Yumi’s petite sœur, Touko or Kanako?
Since her first appearance I always thought Kanako would be a more interesting match for Yumi, not only due to their physical difference but also because of their vastly different personalities. With Kanako’s firmness, dislike of men, I thought by being Yumi’s sœur she could open up more. As what happened for Sachiko when Yumi became her petite sœur.
However, the opening and ending sequences seem to clearly suggest that it is Touko who will become Yumi’s petite sœur. No doubt that’ll be a good match too since they have nice chemistry as well, as again confirmed in this episode.
I wonder how it will play out, the next episodes will tell us.

Speaking of the opening sequence, it is quite different from the previous seasons, gone are the subtle piano melodies and subdued images. The track “Chizu Sanpo” by Kuku is a positive, fairly fast paced tune and the animation that shows Yumi, Yoshino and Shimako magically jump from one location in the school to another is certainly novel for this series. This opening gives the series a more mainstream feeling, where before “Maria-sama ga Miteru” has always been quite different from most anime series.

Some good voice work by Rie Kugimiya as Touko, a welcome change from her usual role as the yelling, flat-chested tsundere. While Touko’s character is still quite spunky, she’s voiced quite differently by Rie Kugimiya and strikes the balance well between refined and daring. There is no trace of characters like Kallen or Charlotte Yeager in Ami Koshimizu’s voice work as Kanako, one would hardly recognize her. Mamiko Noto’s soft voice’s is quite recognizable in Shimako, though this is in no way indicative for her voice acting, which is flawless as always.

Overall animation was terrific, as usual for “Maria-sama ga Miteru”, though one might not notice the splendid animation right away due to the subdued imagery, the modest uniforms and background scenery.

It was nice to see more of “Maria-sama ga Miteru” and I’ll definitely be watching the rest of this season. Even though labeled in the the shoujo-ai/yuri category, those undertones are always implicit and very subdued, refined. Making this slice of life series a quite unique gem that deals mostly with the characters, their circumstances and relationships.

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