Maria-sama ga Miteru ("Maria Watches Over Us" [i.e. the Virgin Mary] or "Marimite") is set in a Catholicall-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."
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.
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.
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''.
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.
Mr. Fanservice: Subverted in that Yumi is extremely popular with all the girls at her school as well as the majority of the boys at the nearby all male school.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
And then of course there is the milder variety with all those girls chasing other girls to become their soeur.
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.