Maria Watches Over Us Episode 1 Sampler -

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  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
  • MSRP: N/A
  • Running time: 24
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Maria Watches Over Us

Maria Watches Over Us Episode 1 Sampler

By Chris Beveridge     April 29, 2008
Release Date: July 29, 2008

Maria Watches Over Us Episode 1 Sampler
© Nozomi Entertainment

What They Say
When Yumi Fukuzawa entered the Lillian Girls' Academy, a prestigious all-girls Catholic school in Tokyo, she never imagined she would catch the eye of beautiful and demure Sachiko Ogasawara, one of the school's most popular students. Now Sachiko has offered to be Yumi's sur - her "sister" and guide for all her years at the academy. The whole idea has Yumi completely flustered: After all, they hardly know each other! The entire campus is abuzz with rumors about the two of them, but Yumi is conflicted over accepting Sachiko's offer. While she admires Sachiko, being her sur would also mean constantly being at the center of the entire school's attention! Contains the complete 13-episode first season, plus the Season 1 "specials."

The Review!
Ah, the politics of high school girls in an all girls catholic school...

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on a series of light novels by Oyuki Konno, the ongoing books have been adapted into a couple of anime series now with this being the first thirteen episode one. Titled Maria-sama ga Miteru in Japan, the first episode has been provided as a sample to check out and it certainly stands out in a number of ways.

The premise behind the series is one that appears to be quite simple as it focuses on the Lillian Academy, an all girls Catholic school. Within the school there is a tradition that is carried on to this day where students from the second year onward take on the role of big sisters for the first year students. Through various little ceremonies and traditions, they choose one who accepts a rosary from their new big sister who then guides them through their first year of school at the academy. Some first year students don't get big sisters while quite a few older students obviously aren't involved either since there's such a disparity in numbers. When the sisters are paired though, it can cause some problems as the actions of one reflect on the other, so there are pressures to be had by it. The benefits of it are apparent as well as you become more socially connected within the academy and become more involved in various organizations and activities.

For the opening of the series, we're introduced to the basic ideas behind the school and a whole lot of French phrases revolving around the traditions and titles of many of the student council members and other elite characters. The characters we become closely tied to though are quickly apparent and ones that work well. The main focus is on that of Yumi, a first year student who like many others have a "crush" of sorts on one of the older students, a beautiful if cool young woman named Lady Sachiko. Yumi ends up meeting her, something that's photographed even, in a rare moment when Sachiko stops to help straighten Yumi's collar. This starts a small series of events that brings the two of them together where Sachiko suddenly decides to take Yumi on as her little sister, something that certainly surprises Yumi and causes her to question exactly what's going on. And that leads to... the rest of the series.

What struck me the most about this first episode is that with its relaxed pace and very pleasant music throughout, it has a very strong sense of elegance and beauty about it. The animation for it doesn't overwhelm with its ornate nature or beauty, but rather it sort of seeps into your view over time and you feel that kind of atmosphere to it. The character designs are all quite lovingly crafted and are highly appealing while still working hard to be realistic. There are no outlandish stereotypes here that are colored in certain styles or are more outgoing than everyone else. The show is very much dialogue driven and character oriented so it's designed to look in a way that draws attention to that. These are all characters that are unique in their own way but are ones that you can instantly connect with as recognizable and as someone who you feel could exist within the real world in this framework.

In Summary:
Having seen a number of shows that take place in the all girls academy motif, having one that's this relaxed and atmospheric is certainly a good thing. From the opening sequence alone you get a very strong feeling as to what the shows nature will be like and that it is all very much about the characters and the interactions behind them. This isn't a show that screams out that there will be wacky adventures or outrageous misunderstandings throughout, but rather one that puts these young women in interesting situations where they have to grow and change into the women that they will become. With great looking character designs and smooth animation, the atmosphere is wonderfully set in conjunction with the music. Though the first episode throws a lot of terms and names at you, it leaves you wanting to see exactly what will happen next between Yumi and Sachiko. July cannot come fast enough.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
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.


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