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Maria Watches Over Us: Season Four, Early Review
By Marc | July 11th, 2010

Right Stuf/Nozomi/TRSI/any other name you can come up with is back with another DVD release.  And this time it’s a return to Maria Watches Over Us.

Season 4 of Marimite (ha ha, short show nicknames make the job easier!) returns to a few different major and minor plot threads that in various ways reach back to every season.  TRSI loves the niche, but can Marimite hold onto its audience through a fourth season?

Marimite Season 4 has great packaging that matches the other seasons, switching to a pink color theme (each season has had its own color for the packaging, leading to packaging that is both distinct for each season, but also packaging that matches.)  We start with a nice chipboard box.  The box has the logo and nice pictures in the same place as they were on every other season.  The only oddity with the box itself appears to be a small inconsistency with earlier seasons. On the first two seasons, the boxes are listed as ‘Season One’ and ‘Season Two’. Season Four is listed as ’4th Season’.  The third season was listed the same was as the fourth, so seemingly it is a running change.  It isn’t a flaw or anything negative; it’s just an odd little change I noticed looking through artwork for the seasons on the Nozomi/TRSI website.  The one other thing worth noting on the box itself is a distinct change with one of the pictures on the box.  The first three seasons had one side be an image of Yumi and Sachiko.  The other side would be a group shot of some sort.  This season replaces the Yumi and Sachiko side with Yumi and Toko.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you consider the plot of this season it comes across as a thoughtful change to make.
The cases themselves are nice clear thinpak cases.  The inserts all continue the theme of the box with good character artwork on the front inside of a frame.  The back of each insert has a few screenshots and a good description of the franchise in general.  The one issue with the description is that it isn’t specific to the events of the season, but rather a very generic description of the concept behind the series.  Having a description that has neither an explanation of this season, nor of any of the characters in the series itself just comes across as far too generic.  The flip side of the inserts are just plain white.  The packaging overall is very good, but a few small issues keep it from being perfect.

Marimite Season 4 is a great continuation of the franchise for fans. It also makes a few distinct changes that the characters themselves pick up on and mention without breaking the fourth wall.  Sachiko and Yumi being sœurs (quick explanation for those not familiar with the franchise- sœur is the relationship girls in the school have between older and younger students to help guide them through their years at the school) no longer provides any actual drama in and of itself (the last bit of that having been in season 3.)  This leaves a feeling of calmness and even maturity among what had been the driving force of the series.  It forces the series to slightly evolve with some primary characters slightly moving to the background and no longer being the center of the relationships and dramas.  This also goes back to the cover change where Sachiko no longer appears large and in front of the cover with Yumi.  This time around Toko takes a more center placement with Yumi’s sœur problem being front and center, with Toko being the person that Yumi wants to choose, but Toko may or may not have other things in mind.  At times she comes across as someone who wants to spend time with Yumi, and at other times attempts to antagonize her in ways that flash back to past seasons when you almost wondered if Toko would be a villian character.  There are other plot threads running through the season, but the primary plot is about Yumi and Toko and what exactly their relationship is.  Early in the season we are told Toko has a secret and if Yumi finds it out she will gain a greater understanding of Toko.  We get to find out that secret before Yumi does, and once we are told all the pieces fall into place on who Toko is.  It’s sort of like finding that one puzzle piece.  Once you add it to the puzzle, all the other pieces just seem to slide into place perfectly with no trouble.
Marimite is a well written series, but it can be hard to not want to yell out lesbian jokes with how the characters act sometimes.  Obviously these things go back to the novels and that was how it was written, and that’s fine.  It’s just a bit better to come into Marimite prepared.  Bit easier to keep suspension of disbelief when you know about it ahead of time.

The video on Marimite season 4 isn’t great.  Season 4 of Marimite is 480 and interlaced.  Often lines will appear a bit fuzzy, then there will be a scene change and everything will appear fantastic. Then it will switch again and things are fuzzy again.  Some panning scenes are very jumpy also, along with ghosting (a few scenes are particular noticeable.)  These problems are likely source issues based on complaints from Japanese fans when the series originally aired about animation problems.  We know Nozomi waited to release the series until better quality DVD masters were available due to those problems.  Should also mention that since some people cared about it in regards to Code Geass, that Marimite does keep the Pizza Hut logos when they appear.  Despite the problems the show is still watchable, but it does bring to mind the recent Toradora debacle in a few ways.
One last thing worth mentioning is that the DVDs used are single layer.  Episodes are split between disks in numbers that guarantee that over-compression isn’t the source of any video problems.  This was likely done to lead to a classier and fancier looking packaging.
edit- Looking at a few sites that translate Japanese articles and Japanese forum discussions it appears there were quite a few complaints about early DVD volumes of season 4 in Japan. Unfortunately I can’t find confirmation if the lack of complaints on later volumes was because the quality improved or if fans were simply resigned to them.

Audio is quite clean and matches the series well.  It receives a single Dolby track at 192k.  The audio isn’t spectacular, but even if it had been, I’m not sure it would have been noticeable on Marimite.  Its single audio track is more than serviceable.

The subtitles on Marimite continue the theme that we’ve gotten for the series thus far.  One track is translated and has honorifics translated into English equivalents.  The second track keeps honorifics intact.  The translation is good and I didn’t notice spelling errors while watching.  The only thing worth mentioning is that in the DVD shorts you only receive the fully translated track with no option to keep honorifics.

Marimite continues to have great extras.  We start off with excellent liner notes.  The liner notes explain certain aspects of the show and Japanese culture that may not be immediately obvious to the viewer.  After that we get the expected clean opening and closing.  Season 4 introduces a new opening theme replacing the one that Marimite has had thus far.  Nothing wrong with the new one, just a bit odd to have a new one after three seasons.  After that we get to what makes the extras specials: eleven shorts.  Each of these shorts run under a minute and provides a hilarious take on something that happens in the series.  The shorts are still great fun, but at times seem a bit less on target than the shorts for prior seasons (which makes sense when you consider how the show itself evolved for this season, giving less of a static target for the shorts to make fun of.)  Marimite has some great extras that help it stand out a bit.

Maria Watches Over Us Season Four is just as good as early seasons of the series, which is to say it is fantastic.  It feels different just in noticing the very different focus this season has.  It’s a great series, but jumping on here would be a disservice to anyone wanting to view it.  You really need to start at the beginning.  Fans of the series probably don’t need me to tell them this is a must see.  It’s a great drama with a good sense of humor.
Show: A (It’s a great new season of a show that has always been quite good.)
Packaging: A (Good and relatively consistent with past seasons.  Only obvious thing to mention is that the flip side of the inserts could have had some nice artwork on them.)
Video Quality: C+ (The video is disappointing for a show that only aired a year and a half ago.  The general lack of action and high movement saves it from getting a lower score.)
Audio Quality: B+ (Audio sounds good.)
Extras: A (The shorts add a great bit of value to the series.  The liner notes also help with appreciation of certain details quite a bit.)
Overall (not an average): A- (I really enjoy the show, but the video does take this one down a notch.  Based on your TV you may not notice anything, but I expect the video will annoy a few people.)
Gallery and copyright information under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in MPC-HC, feel free to request more. (Caps are sized 853×480 so as to display properly on computer monitors, they were modified to this resolution via Photoshop CS4 as MPC-HC takes screen captures at 720×480 on the disc. Having the caps be 853×480 makes them appear at the properly intended aspect ratio.)
This show was reviewed using a screener in retail packaging.
This DVD is labeled to work in Region 1.



MARIA WATCHES OVER US (Maria-sama ga Miteru) 4th Season © OYUKI KONNO / SHUEISHA • YAMAYURIKAI III Licensed by d-rights Inc.


Categories: Anime Review, Early Looks, Reviews