RATING:   13+
  RELEASE DATE:   12/09/2008
  REVIEW DATE:   04/26/2009

The spring term is beginning for the students at Lillian Girls’ Academy. Friends are reunited, but for the Yamayuri Council, it’s a bittersweet time. Yoko, Eriko, and Sei are busy preparing to depart Lillian while Sachiko, Rei, and Shimako are doing their best to ensure that their dear sisters receive a memorable commencement. Sei’s departure will leave a sizable hole in the White Roses, and filling it won’t be easy. But is there anyone who would appeal to Shimako enough to become the next Rosa Gigantea en bouton?

If anything, the second season of Maria-sama ga Miteru may be even more heartwarming than the last. In Printemps which means Springtime in French, the girls are met with the shake up as the three top heads of the student council graduate and filling their shoes proves to be more problematic than anyone could have guessed. The door to soft drama continues in the latest school year of pure hearted maidens in this charming anime. In the anime series so beloved that fans have termed it “MariMite”.

New Year’s is a melancholy time for Yumi who misses her mentor, that is, her soeur, Sachiko. Sei calls her up for an impromptu council meeting and it just happens to be at Sachiko’s mansion. It helps shake Yumi out of her doldrums and before she knows it, she’s having her first ever sleepover with Sachiko and Sei. This first episode sets the gentle pace the series will continue to follow throughout the season while providing enough of a recap for newcomers that they can ease their way into the show without having seen the first season, though it is highly recommended to do so in order to enjoy the nuances of the show and the relationships depicted therein as fully as possible.

The light mood quickly slides into melodrama when the soon to be graduating Eriko is caught spending the evening with a different older man every night. Nasty rumors run rampant among the halls and sweet and easily overwhelmed Yumi is beside herself as to what to do to help smooth the situation out. She tries to uncover what is really going on but the mystery to this secret is a surprise that will shock everyone. Since this is MariMite, fans don’t have to worry about anything getting too intensely over the top. Happy endings mixed at times with bittersweet moments abound in this delightful anime. This episode is no exception.

A lot of the second season manages to focus more on the other council members instead of the greater focus on Sachiko and Yumi in the first season. We learn about Eriko, Yoko, and a great deal about Shimako in this season. Sei is shown as a supportive yet playful constant in Yumi’s life which is built up for their tearful and touching farewell upon Sei’s graduation. It was Sei who came to get Yumi to take her to a lonely Sachiko on New Year’s, and it is Sei who helps out when Yumi puts her health at risk trying to do everything she can and then some to help with the farewell ceremony for the graduating 3rd years. The graduation ceremony itself provides a reflective time for the 3rd years as they each recall how they first met each other and came to be such close friends during their years at Lillian. It is an emotional goodbye to Sei, Yoko and Eriko but they do manage to make the odd cameo in the season after they graduate.

The parting of the three seniors lies heavy in the hearts of the girls, but perhaps none more so than Shimako who relied so heavily on Sei. She has always kept herself closed off to the others. She is always supportive and helpful but has constantly kept her heart hidden and never gotten too close to others as if she were afraid to. A special episode reveals how Sei and Shimako first met and the dramatic circumstances that led to them becoming soeurs.  It is a crucial insight as she is left as the only White Rose left with Sei gone and she must choose a new bouton, petit soeur to join the Yamayuri Council and be her dear ‘sister’.

That opportunity presents itself when some new first years arrive. Noriko is a self-assured student who also keeps to herself and when pushed, can become outspoken. She too has a secret and when her and Shimako grow closer because of there hidden knowledge of each other, the girls of the council take notice and decide it’s high time for some much needed and helpful meddling. Shimako has been kept prisoner by her secret for a long time and it takes a crafty set up to have her set free and at last open up her heart to someone new – Noriko.

That three-part arc is one of the more moving of the entire series. But Noriko isn’t the only first year to make an impact on the council members of the Rose Mansion. A one-shot tale follows about a brief and not too dramatic argument between cousin and soeurs Rei and Yoshino when Yoshino wants to join the kendo club despite having recently recovered from heart surgery. It is a gentle rift that is more easily mended than one might suppose. It is merely a prelude to the drama that overcomes Sachiko and Yumi in the final act of the series, spanning the last three episodes. The new 1st year Toko is an obnoxious busybody as far as Yumi is concerned. That she is a relative of Sachiko doesn’t change the jealousy invading Yumi’s heart as Toko monopolizes Sachiko’s time and breezily pushes Yumi off to the side. One date cancelled after another and Yumi begins to fear the worst – that Sachiko has chosen Toko to be her soeur, breaking ties with Yumi. What else could she think with the way she is being ignored and forgotten? Rumors of Sachiko’s ‘infidelity’ roam the halls and the stress finally gets to Yumi. Yumi runs into Sei’s arms for some much need comfort. Extreme measures (extreme for this series at least) are taken to finally reunite these two girls and allow Yumi to get to the bottom of Sachiko’s mysterious behaviour and her heart. A lovely declaration is made. Viewers should be sure to wait until the end of the credits of the final episode to hear Yumi’s heartfelt response.

Maria continues to be an anime that touches the heart and is an all around feel good series. The maidenly love shared between the girls never reaches beyond the platonic but it does get rather intense many a time to make it quite the memorable shoujo series. The trials and triumphs of these girls in their special world at Lillian is a beautifully rendered and gentle tale that is sure to warm people’s hearts and put a smile on their face.

The animation in the second season continues to be done by Studio DEEN who also did such wonderful dramas as Fruits Basket and another international hit, Rurouni Kenshin. The art style is lush, soft, and as gentle as the maidens it portrays. The imagery in the opening and ending themes are particularly beautiful. The show does a fantastic job of capturing the gentle atmosphere at the Catholic girls’ school admirably, making it seem like a world set apart from the rest of civilization, their very own private Eden.

The script was done by Reiko Yoshido who has done other popular shoujo series as Boys Over Flowers, the fantasy Story of Saiunkoku and another slice of life and visually arresting anime, Aria. 

Bonus features include the complete season 2 “Specials” 1-6, which are cute omake style comedic anime shorts. There are also liner notes and Nozomi Entertainment trailers.

An anime guaranteed to put a smile in your heart.

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