The previous seasons all sort-of picked a bunch of characters, who surrounded the two lead characters of Yumi and Sachiko, and developed them. This season however, is different. It leaves most of the characters for what they are, and instead just picks one: Touko. While she might not have the most airtime, the entire fourth season is so written to explore her character to the fullest. Considering that she already had quite a bit of depth thanks to the second and third season, it’s perhaps not much of a surprise that this fourth season of Maria-Sama ga Miteru is my favourite one yet.
You could see Maria-Sama ga Miteru as a slice-of-life series, and indeed there are a ton of scenes in which we see the regular lives of the characters. However, I prefer to see it much more as a character-study: it’s always thinking to show off new sides of characters. It’s always thinking of ways to evolve them or give them more depth. You can see this not just in the main ones, but also the side characters. And really: we’re four seasons in at this point. When you add everything, the total amount of character-development in this season reaches higher than ever.
But the real star of this season is Touko. Basically, the creators try to pull something similar as to the climax of the second season, but it’s much more well balanced, and the conclusion is much more satisfying. The interplay between Touko and Yumi is explored really well. It’s emotional, and yet it doesn’t try to be too melodramatic (especially not when compared to the standards of most other anime).
Unfortunately, the animation isn’t up to par with what we’re used to from this season. Granted, it did have to follow up the great standards of an OVA, but I guess that at the time of this series’ production, Studio Deen’s best artists were working on… Jigoku Shoujo, Higurashi Rei and 07-Ghost, I guess. Faces in the background are often distorted and ugly and lack a quality check. There’s enough movement, though, so at least the creators didn’t try go take the cheap way out. This show certainly can’t complain about its inbetweeners.
But yeah. This is pretty much what you get when you give series the opportunity to fully shine by not suddenly cutting them off after 26 episodes: they really get to show their full potential. With nearly 50 episodes at its disposal, its character-development really set itself apart from most other high-school series out there. Here’s to hoping that many more series get this chance.
|Storytelling:||9/10 – Well balanced slice of life and drama. Makes really well use of its setting as an elite high school.|
|Characters:||10/10 – Continues building up to the huge amount of character-development that this series already had.|
|Production-Values:||8/10 – Great inbetweeners, key-frames often lack quality checks.|
|Setting:||8/10 – There are already tons and tons of high school series. This is one of the few that actually makes this setting stand apart from the others.|