Light Novel: Maria-sama ga Miteru
The original cast. Clockwise from top left: Shimako, Sei, Yoshino, Rei, Eriko, Yumi, Sachiko, and Youko.Maria-sama ga Miteru
("Maria Watches Over Us
" [i.e. the Virgin Mary] or "Marimite
") is set in a Catholic all-girls'
High School. The school has a "soeur
system", in which an older student adopts a younger student
by giving the younger student her rosary, frequently having elements of a Romantic Two-Girl Friendship
The student body is led by an self-perpetuating oligarchy
(it's supposedly democratic in theory, but due to 100% incumbency as shown by the failed Rosa Kanina candidacy...) called the Yamayurikai
of three groups of soeurs
. The oldest students are three leaders elected in a rubber stamp election by the student body at large. Their petites soeurs
, in their second year are upgraded to Boutons
(rosebuds), and so on. This leads to lots of Gratuitous French
such as "Rosa Chinensis en Bouton Petite Soeur
Yumi Fukuzawa is a first-year student who idolizes Sachiko Ogasawara
, the Rosa Chinensis en Bouton
. One autumn day, Sachiko stops Yumi as the two pray to the statue of the Virgin Mary, to correct Yumi for having an improperly tied scarf. Later that day, Sachiko abruptly asks Yumi to be her petite soeur
, despite having only just met her. The rest of the Yamayurikai
objects... and Yumi, feeling unworthy, turns Sachiko down. Sachiko vows to win Yumi as her ''soeur''
by hook or crook...Maria-sama Ga Miteru
started out as a popular series of light novels
by Oyuki Konno, illustrated by Reine Hibiki. It got adapted into a Twelve-Episode Anime
, with a second "Spring" season and third season released as an OVA
. After a prolonged wait a fourth season aired in Japan. The show has been licensed in its entirety for North American distribution by Nozomi Entertainment/Right Stuf... with subs only. There is a dub version, but it's only available on Animax Asia
Not to be confused with a food spread made from yeast extract that's known for its distinctive and controversial flavor.
Maria-sama Ga Miteru provides examples of:
- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: This trope is played even straighter than usual, with the Yamayurikai positions being virtually hereditary (i.e., passed down from "older sister" to "younger sister"). The possible power abuse is mitigated by the fact that the Yamayurikai seem to be both benign and possessed of an acute sense for exceptional candidates.
- Alpha Bitch: Touko initially comes off as this, until she begins accumulating Pet the Dog moments and Yumi discovers things that made Touko build emotional walls around herself. Better examples would be Kikuyo, Kieko, and Yukari, Sachiko's social-climbing distant cousins in episode 1 of the OVAs. They take an immediate dislike to Yumi — as much out of jealousy for her closeness to Sachiko as for her relative inferiority on the social ladder — and spend most of episode 1 trying to humiliate her. Fortunately, Sachiko doesn't buy a word of it, and the end result is Yumi's modest "finest hour."
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Yumi and Shimako seem particularly to suffer from this during one of the school festivals)
- Ambiguously Gay: Essentially all the girls.
- Animated Actors: In the chibi "Maria-sama ni wa Naisho" omakes.
- Arranged Marriage: Sachiko and Suguru. Called off later in the novels. The engagement was purely based on their parents' assumption that they really love each other, only to realize that as time passed Sachiko no longer loves Suguru, who never loved her in the first place.
- Art Shift: From the third series onwards there has been a change in animation style, resulting in — or possibly due to — the characters' aging.
- Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: Sachiko's overtly romantic courting of Yumi in the first few episodes transforms into mere sisterly affection as soon as both girls become soeurs. Many of the other relationships are subject to the same trope as well.
- Beta Couple: Two — Rei and Yoshino, and Shimako and Noriko.
- Bifauxnen and Lad-ette: Rei and Sei. Even their names fit the trope!
- Big Fancy House: Sachiko
- Bland-Name Product: Tsutako's "Ganon" camera.
- Boke and Tsukkomi Routine: In many of the Post Episode Trailers, sometimes with Yumi using a Kansai Regional Accent.
- Camera Fiend: Takeshima Tsutako. She's not a member of the school newspaper's staff, but she frequently takes pictures for them and is rarely seen without her camera. Sei remarks her reputation for this is well known despite being a freshman.
- Can Not Spit It Out
- Catchphrase: "Gokigenyou!" also "Onee-sama!"
- Character Development: One of the principal driving forces behind the series.
- Cherry Blossom: Combined with Meet Cute on two occasions. Must be a White Rose thing.
- Crash-Into Hello: Yumi and Sachiko
- Comic-Book Time: The plot in the light novels has undergone an immense time dilation to postpone Sachiko's graduation.
- Cool Old Lady: Several, all of them former students of Lillian:
- The principal — during the Forest of Thorns scandal, she supports Sei's innocence... because she knows she was part of the original story.
- Yumiko, Kei's landlady, who is revealed to have been soeurs with Sachiko's grandmother, with whom she had a decades-long estrangement, only to resolve in in time before said grandmother passes away.
- Yukari's great-grandmother, who is unmoved by her descendant's petty social maneuvering, but finds Yumi's simple heartfelt singing charming.
- Dark Is Evil: Invoked when Kanina Shizuka asks Yumi what she thinks a rosa canina flower (her nickname) looks like, and Yumi replies: "A black colored flower." Shizuka tells her she's right, but Yumi then looks it up and discovers it's actually pink. Kanina later laments: "It would have been cooler if it was black." Subverted in that Kanina's actual motivations aren't bad at all.
- Date Peepers: A very jealous Yoshino on Rei. As well as the reporters trying to get good photographs for the newspaper.
- Discretion Shot: To avoid Sei and Shiori's kiss, and to avoid exposing Yoshino's chest when she shows off a scar left by her heart surgery.
- Does Not Like Men: Sachiko and Kanako especially. In Sachiko's case, so much so that she's utterly repulsed by the touch of a man, and actually faints just by seeing an all-male student council. Surprisingly, Sachiko has no problem being with Yumi's younger brother Yuuki, possibly because he looks like her. Knowing this might lead people to ''certain ideas''.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!
- In the fourth season, Touko's reason for rejecting Yumi's rosary.
- Yoshino also had this attitude toward Rei at some point, which lead her to decide to have a heart operation so she's not so fragile anymore.
- Dramatic Wind
- Drives Like Crazy: Sei could give Yukari a run for her money. Suguru's driving is crazy some of the time, and otherwise perfectly normal.
- Elaborate University High: Averted, which is interesting considering that just about every parody of the show portrays it as one. Lilian only has small facilities that you'd expect in any regular high school, it has no boarding division (everyone commutes) and most auxiliary buildings are made of wood. It does, however, border an actual university (which admittedly doesn't look like more than a community college, though).
- Enjo Kosai: One episode revolves around rumors that Eriko engages in this. It turns out that she was just being forced to go out with her brothers and father.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Happens to all of the popular girls, which makes sense considering the setting. Especially Sachiko receives a lot of admiration, but after a while gets outshined by Yumi.
- False Camera Effects
- Fanservice: Generally averted. Amusingly enough, however, one early episode has Youko insisting on Sachiko wearing a low-cut dress as service to her fans in-universe.
- Flower Motifs: Lots of them.
- Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: Yoshino is particularly fond of this.
- Giving Up the Ghost: This occurs in one of the Niwanaishos. Yumi and Youko are trying to get a scene right that involves drinking a nauseous mix of strawberry juice and milk. They mess the scene up two times. During the last take Yumi passes out and gives up her ghost.
- The Glomp: Sei → Yumi. Also Youko → Yumi on one occasion, much to the latter's surprise.
- Het Is Ew: While probably not intended, a mild case of this seems to be in effect throughout the series, as the majority of male characters are philandering assholes while the relationships between the girls are presented as pure and beautiful.
- Hidden Depths: All the girls, but the Foetida Roses especially.
- Hidden Eyes
- Hide Your Lesbians: Despite a plethora of subtext, there is only one explicitly lesbian relationship in the whole series.
- High School Rocks: Lillian is the platonic ideal of an all-girl high school, populated as it is by thoughtful, beautiful and fun-loving students.
- Hilarious Outtakes
- Hime Cut: Yoshino and Touko.
- Honorifics: Punched up a notch — upperclassmen are "-sama", rather than "-sempai". Underclassmen are usually "-chan".
- Hot-Blooded: Yoshino
- Ill Girl: Yoshino suffers from a congenital disease, which is later removed through heart surgery. She has since been making up for it... in spades.
- Important Haircut: Sei, twice, and Mifuyu.
- Instant Fan Club
- Instrumental Theme Tune: The first and third seasons have Pastel Pure. The second season subverts this as it is a song set to Pastel Pure. Both the song and instrumental music also are cases of Ear Worm.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While he might be a jerk Suguru genuinely cares for Sachiko and her friends in his own way. He has behaved defensively on Yumi's and Touko's behalf, and has been supportive of Yumi and Sachiko's bond. In the fourth season he even warns Touko that she'll ultimately alienate even the few people who still care for her if she keeps up with her Jerkass Façade.
- Kissing Cousins
- Sachiko's arranged marriage with Suguru, which is ultimately called off after their parents (who misunderstood their situation) realized they never loved each other at all.
- Also, if one interprets their relationship in that way, Rei and Yoshino.
- Left Hanging: The series ends before Yumi's graduation, and many things are left unresolved, most notably how the relationship between Yumi and Sachiko will progress.
- Long-Running Book Series
- Melodrama: Yoshino is melodrama personified, although Yumi and Sachiko sometimes get in on the action.
- Official Couple: Yumi & Sachiko. Also Noriko & Shimako, despite having a totally different dynamic.
- The Ojou: Sachiko. Most of the cast fits since they come from rich families. However, the Chinensis family seems to be a natural Ojou breeding ground. Sachiko and Youko have a regal air about them (with Youko as the undisputed "queen" of Lillian during her term as Rosa Chinensis and Sachiko as her princess). Even sweet, down-to-earth Yumi has a following among her schoolmates worthy of an Oujo; also, her incoming petite soeur Touko definitely counts as a haughtier variant.
- Omake: Maria-sama ni wa Naisho (Keep it a Secret from Mary)
- One-Gender School
- Ordinary High-School Student: Yumi starts off as one of these, until she receives the attention of a certain Ojou.
- Parental Abandonment: They're there, but we almost never see them. This also fuels Touko's Jerkass Façade: with her parents killed in a car crash, the infant Touko — the sole survivor — was adopted by Sachiko's distant relative, who happened to be a classmate of Touko's mother in Lillian... only to grow to resent the fact that she mostly receives help out of pity for her situation.
- Phenotype Stereotype: Most people the girls interact with during their class trip to Italy are blond and blue-eyed.
- Pinky Swear
- Real Place Background. The anime uses many locations in Musashino and Kichijoji, which are towns in the Greater Tokyo region.
- Relationship Ceiling: The relationships between the girls never quite seem to make the jump from subtext to text, no matter how much they feel for each other—which is especially egregious in the case of Yumi and Sachiko.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Nearly everyone. Lilian seems to have nearly institutionalized these kinds of relationships.
- School Festival: Two of them per year — Lilian's and Hanadera's.
- School Newspaper Newshound: Minako and her soeur Mami.
- Schoolgirl Lesbians: Just one explicit case, even though references to the show in other media always invoke this across the board. At the same time, it is noteworthy that few of the girls are ever shown to be interested in romance, period, though they may express an intent to find romance one day, when they're "older". Romantic relationships would likely only distract from the premise of "maidens" with strong emotional bonds. Even the author admits that the series should best be seen as a fantasy story. None of the girls even use mobile phones, even though it's obviously set in the present.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Mifuyu's story in the "Valentine's Day Contest" arc.
- Shout-Out: During the Foetida Roses Feud/Crisis in the first season, at one point Youko and Sei are in a pose very similar to the trademark pose by Commander Gendo and Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki
- Shrines and Temples: In the "Spring" season.
- Sitch Sexuality: The entire school turns out for a contest to win dates with some of the popular girls.
- Souvenir Land: The amusement park in the anime appears to be more or less like this. Not that Yumi or Sachiko mind.
- Spinoff: There's a series of light novels called Oshaka-sama mo Miteru, or Buddha Watches Too in English, based around Yuki's brother and his schoolmates.
- Squee: Especially that scene between Sei and Yumi.
- Stalker with a Crush: Mifuyu and Kanako.
- Straight Gay: Suguru.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Sei (this is from when she was asking to borrow Yumi in order to have them get food for her while she read a novel) "It's not like I am going to strip her naked and play with her body."
- Team Mom: The Rosa Chinensis seat seems to be reserved for this role, though Youko and Yumi have generally comported themselves better in the role than Sachiko.
- Theme Naming: Samurai and noble families, fitting with Lillian being an upper-class school.
- Title Drop: The first episode, when Sachiko tells Yumi to pay closer attention to her appearance because "Maria-sama is watching." Also after Shiori pushes Sei away in the church when Sei tries to embrace her.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Subverted by Rei and Yoshino. Rei, in spite of being tall and boyish-looking (and being captain of the school Kendo team) has rather girlish interests, while short, long-haired Yoshino loves thriller stories and watching sports.
- Transsexual: Arisugawa "Alice" Kintarou. She describes herself as having received "a male body by mistake," and that she really wanted to attend Lillian. When she's not wearing her school uniform, she dresses as a girl. Her friends in both schools usually address her as Alice and behave supportively.
- True Companions: The Yamayurikai, which is also a periodically self-refreshing one.
- Two-Teacher School
- Whole Episode Flashback: Sei gets one in both the first and second seasons. The first was about the backstory in the "Forest of Thorns" arc, and the second was about her meeting with Shimako.
- Will They or Won't They?
- Xanatos Gambit: Sei's wager with Sachiko. If Sachiko wins, Sachiko gets a cute soeur and the Cinderella show will go on. If Sachiko loses, the Cinderella show will go as originally planned. Sachiko's "sore-loser" personality ensures that even if she doesn't make Yumi her soeur before the show, the two will grow very close and will eventually end up as soeurs anyway afterward. This is exactly what happens.
- Yaoi Guys: Suguru is rather hot for Yumi's younger brother Yuuki.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Yumi's is very conspicuous in the 4th season of the anime.