With Yumi growing due to her time being Sachiko’s little sister, now it’s time for her to take on one of her own.
What They Say:
Yumi and the Yamayuri Council have found two new helpers in Kanako and Toko. Unfortunately, their assistance comes with tension, as neither girl is particularly fond of the other and both seem likely candidates to be Yumi’s petite soeur. Will either be a good fit for Yumi? As the school year marches on, the work for the Yamayuri Council piles up, and pressure begins to mount for Yumi to make her final decision.
Contains all 13 episodes of season 4 and specials 1-11.
The audio presentation for this series is that it contains the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The mix for this serves the show well overall as the whole thing is a dialogue driven work without really anything in the form of action or big moments. There isn’t even a lot of very noticeable music throughout the show so it‘s not a terribly dynamic piece. That said, the dialogue does come across very well here as it fills the center channel nicely and is problem free throughout. With the dialogue being so important, the clarity is spot on and the warmth of the characters comes through very well.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across four discs with three episodes per disc and with the last one having four. Like many shows of this nature, Maria Watches Over Us is one that tends to not have a lot of action or movement to it. It’s all about the atmosphere. The authoring for this is pretty good as the background and character animation maintains a solid feel even at lower bitrates simply because of the lack of motion. Colors are rich and vibrant when required and generally solid throughout. The TV series has a very good look to it and these episodes are similar to the OVAs with better colors and a large canvas because of it being done in widescreen. The presentation here is excellent and it all shines beautifully..
The packaging for this release is definitely quite different from the previous box set edition as we get a solid litebox edition here. Contained within a single sized keepcase, The discs are all contained inside along the interior walls overlapping each other as we see with other litebox releases. The front cover artwork is standard but well done as it gives us both Yumi and Toko together in their school uniforms set against the main house, their expressions making their personalities pretty clear. The logo is kept simple and the overall approach is a solid one that fits the show very well. The back cover gives us a few shots of some of the main characters along the left that looks good and highlights the designs well. The right is very simple overall with its premise, but the premise isn’t exactly a difficult one here to explain. The discs extras are clearly listed and the technical grid covers everything cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover. f
The menu design for Maria Watches Over Us is one that pulls easily from the well designed packaging as it uses the cover art framing on each volume as the centerpiece to each menu. The layout is very easy to navigate with the selections along the right side that load quickly and are laid out smoothly. Submenus load quickly and language selection is a breeze depending on what you want out of it as it offers a subtitle track without honorifics and one with it. This may confuse some people at first, but a series like this is one that is appealing far more to the hardcore fans who will understand it more than the couple of casual buyers who will likely end up with it. And if anything, it may get them to be a bit more interested in the nuances of the show which is a positive.
This season has a nice collection of extras that are similar to what the previous TV seasons had. We get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a new round of liner notes across all the discs that detail episode specific items that come up. The big extra is again the special episodes of which there are eleven here. They rarely run more than a minute long but they’re absolutely lovely little outtakes that treat the characters as if they’re acting in a drama and we see the silly moments that make up certain scenes. I loved this in the previous release and I’m very excited to see more of them here again.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After two successful seasons and a brief but very enjoyable OVA series, Maria Watches Over Us brings out thirteen more episodes to tell us more stories of the girls of Lillian Academy as they continue to grow up. The original material for this is still going strong, some thirty plus light novels to date in Japan, so there’s obviously plenty of places for the show to go and numerous characters to explore. This season takes us through more of Yumi’s story, but it doesn’t focus so directly on her exactly and it shuffles Sachiko off to the background a fair bit which was a surprise. With it now being just about a year since Sachiko gave Yumi her rosary beads, events are moving forward that will have the senior girls preparing for their own journeys forward.
The fourth season plays with some familiar material to the world of high school by having the student festival kick things off, which means the boys are back in town for a little bit. The whole thing gets rather convoluted in its own way as they have the boys and girls working together and then decide that, while dealing with a gender swapping story, to double swap genders to make it all the more confusing. It’s not a bad little piece but I found the little chibi version in the extras to be more enjoyable as they blended various stories together into one for good comedic effect. The area where the story spends a fair bit of it focus is on Toko as she’s having some conflicts in being involved in the Rose’s play while also dealing with the drama club.
And it’s from there that we can quickly surmise that this season is going to focus heavily on Toko. Toko’s certainly gotten close to the girls and Yumi has taken a strong liking to her, though she’s distracted at first because it is the anniversary of when Sachiko gave Yumi her rosary beads. That memory has brought up an interesting reaction from both as Yumi wants to know what she and Sachiko may do while Sachiko realizes that contrary to her own usual ways, she must do something for Yumi because things will be changing. In reality, it won’t be long until Sachiko moves on to the Lillian Women’s College and is away more, even if just across campus. And that has Sachiko realizing that just like how she was pushed, she has to give Yumi the right push so she can get her own little sister.
It’s certainly not what Yumi was expecting to happen anytime soon, though she was just in a state of denial about it. But once it’s in her head, she’s all about making the girl she cares the most about outside of her immediate sisters her little sister. And that focus falls pretty easily on Toko, but it’s not something that comes with ease. Yumi’s become rather popular since becoming Sachiko’s soeur and the biggest problems she had as that came, perceived by others at least, when Toko become involved with Yumi in the past year. So other members of the student body have an issue with Toko and Toko herself has quite a few issues that are weighing her down. Enough so that she doesn’t want to become Yumi’s little sister and drag her into it. The two end up in a rather slow series of complications, misunderstandings and issues along the way that makes their journey together very difficult. Particularly so because Yumi wears her emotions on her sleeve while Toko plays the actress and hides everything under a mask.
There’s a huge focus on these two characters and plenty of support material with those who want to see them succeed along the way. Unfortunately, a lot of the other cast members get a much smaller role this time around and it feels a bit lighter in general since we’ve had the graduating class going off previously as well. Shimao and Noriko have some nice moments and there are some amusing bits to be had with Kanako as she towers over everyone while trying not to be seen. Time is given over again to the search for a little sister among all the students, though the majority of that small arc is used to get Yumi thinking about who she’d want as hers. The lack of focus on some of the others, especially Sachiko, gives this season a very different flavor. But it’s a welcome one as it’s forcing Yumi to grow up a bit more and to take on more adult responsibilities and views of things, something that’s definitely been needed after a year of being like a puppy and racing after Sachiko..
This season definitely feels a bit off in comparison to the first three, especially with the severely reduced amount of time spent between Sachiko and Yumi together, but it works out realistically as time is moving forward. With one year having already graduated and moved on, only to appear here and there afterward, it’s little surprise that we’re seeing that forward motion again when we’d rather revel and enjoy the time we have with the cast as they are now. I liked this season a lot overall, though it took too long to get to Toko’s real issues with Yumi and there wasn’t enough of an epilogue to make it all feel really complete. It’s a lot of fun and seeing the cast again is great, but it falls just a touch short of how enjoyable the previous seasons were.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Liner Notes
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: March 5th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.