After a “season” of original video animations (OVAs), Maria-sama ga Miteru (Maria Watches Over Us) returned with one final cour of broadcast anime in 2009, five years after the original debuted. While the first two seasons of television anime had been spent largely setting up the world and building the character dynamics of the various Rose sisters and their particular eccentricities (let’s face it, not a single one of them except Yumi is “normal” for the most part), the third OVA “season” was more about marking the changes, especially how the close bond between Yumi and Sachiko had worked to soften some of Sachiko’s harder edges (and neuroses) while Yumi began to gain the confidence that she so sorely needed.
It’s not that the earlier seasons were free of transitions: we saw a changing of the guard as the three Roses at the start (Sei, Youko and Eriko) graduated, leaving Sachiko, Rei, and Shimako to take over as Season 1 moved to Season 2. But this final season put us on the path of a much greater alteration in the landscape: Sachiko’s inevitable departure through graduation, leaving Yumi as the only member of the Chinesis family from the group we began the story with. While Maria Watches Over Us has always been for the most part Yumi Fukuzawa’s tale, it was hard to imagine her being entirely on her own, since she was so intertwined with Sachiko for so long. The central focus of this final season of anime is what Yumi’s future will be. Not in its entirety (as the anime merely gives a stopping point, hardly a conclusion, to the larger story, which the novels continue beyond where the anime ends; there is, at least, a measure of closure), but for the near future, past Sachiko’s departure to the Lillian Girls’ College next door.
Perhaps one thing that is both slightly annoying and also highly satisfying is that the season ends with one of the more deeply moving bits of melodrama from the entire work. I won’t discuss it in depth since it’s basically a spoiler mindfield. I know, 10 years have passed, but there may yet be new viewers who have not learned of what happens. So I will keep quiet other than to say that many claims will be made about dust getting in eyes.
The things I recall most about that final season are minor details and major changes. This was the first time that some version of “Pastel Pure” was not used as the opening theme (instead we had the less mournful, more vibrant, and quite different “Chizu sanpo” (“Map walk”) by kukui). We could sense far more how Yumi had matured, even though it was merely a year later in time from where the story began in Season 1. There was a very keen sense of what was going to be lost (with the departure of Sachiko and Rei) and what had yet to be gained (a clear idea of a future where Yumi, Yoshino, and Shimako would be running the Council).
Drawing on my memories now, it is interesting how a world that seemed intended never to change, never to grow old and disappear had done just those things as the place changed, the characters grew up and the world we started out with began slowly to fade away.