O Maidens in Your Savage Season – Anime Review
Synopsis: When the girls in a high school literature club ask themselves, “What do you want to do before you die?” one of them voices a shocking ambition — and now they’re all preoccupied by their friend’s unexpected answer! (Official HIDIVE Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: O Maidens in Your Savage Season began the season as something just a tad deeper than your typical romantic-comedy anime series. But over the course of its run it began to address harder hitting issues about a young girl’s budding sexuality: Exploring complicated and messy topics. This ranged from one girl gradually coming to realize she’s perhaps more attracted to other girls than she is guys, another suffering an intense obsession with obtaining the physical interest of her teacher, and even further with one of our leads suffering the aftermath of a pedophile’s interest in her pre-puberty and the mental tole that took on her mental health and image of herself. O Maidens handled each topic to extreme and varied degrees of success. Yet despite such weighty topics than you’d hardly expect in any kind of comedy, O Maidens loses interest in addressing the very controversial material it brought front and center, choosing instead to present a conclusion that sweeps all that under the rug in favor a light, fluffy and wholly unearned ending, as if the series had not one single answer to any of its difficult and uncomfortable subject matter.
Linny: Indeed O Maidens starts off feeling like a sweet, innocent and earnestly awkward exploration of young love, featuring typical rom-com staples such as the hilarious misunderstandings between Kazusa and her childhood friend/next door neighbour, Izumi, who she begins to see in a whole new light. Most viewers should be able to relate, or at least find realistic, the emotions and experiences that Kazusa goes through as she battles not only with her first crush/love but also the personal insecurities she feels about her own appearance and inability to stand up for herself during tense situations. These are things that a lot of people have gone through and experienced at one point in life, even well into adulthood, and thus really gives some depth and heart to the show.
Tom: It’s as we move past the opening plot threads that O Maidens gets a bit more raunchy. Focused on five girls in the struggling literature club, each of the five gets their own plot line that challenges them on the subject of love in some way. Besides Kazusa, O Maidens features two other innocent plot threads. But the show becomes uncomfortable as it delves into two other, much more challenging, but altogether real stories. Hongou, pictured in the middle above, becomes infatuated with her teacher, or perhaps obsessed is the better way to describe it. Her story talks about the issue of such a ‘romance’ quite directly and suffers from a few iffy choices, particularly in the way her teacher chooses to rebuff her. But Niina Sugawara, the beauty of the group, has a much more uncomfortable narrative. Maidens uses Sugawara’s past grooming with a pedophile to heavily influence her skewed definitions of sex and romance, paving way to talk about the misunderstanding between lust and love. The inclusion of grooming and pedophilia is uncomfortable, but a worthy topic considering how prevalent a problem it remains for girls and children in general. However O Maidens has no interest in addressing the topic directly and frequently skirts the issue, either ignoring the topic entirely, or turning the whole topic of this pedophile character into a short-lived, dismissive gag. It’s frustrating, if not maddening, as the series utterly trivializes such an abhorrent topic that it itself decide to bring up in the first.
Linny: The troublesome plot lines, involving Nina’s connection with a pedophile and Hongou’s very controversial interactions with her older male teacher, Yamagishi, only grow more aggressive as the show continues. Even when we see Nina finally physically reject the touch of her manipulative assaulter, she continues to engage in extremely reckless and damaging behaviour that seems to be a direct result of his influence. One could be fooled into thinking this is Mari Okada’s (The manga’s original author) attempt to depict how victims of abuse are often left with long lasting scars and self destructive habits they cannot recognize or control, but because of how the show then gets light hearted and outright silly in its final two episodes, it’s hard to take that interpretation seriously or let it have a truly poignant message. It’s not at all helped by the fact that said Pedophile is dropped from the story entirely, not offering an ounce of closure for the viewer. In the case of Hongou and Yamagishi, the show tries to claim that Yamagishi is basically playing a game of ‘chicken’ with Hongou in order to scare her straight and get her to back down, yet the things he makes her engage in and the lengths he goes to definitely cross the line more than once.
Tom: For a series we initially praised with its first episode, and offered more lukewarm praise at episode 6, I now find myself now with true detest for it. It’s largely due to the series light, fluffy and altogether tonally inconsistent ending. O Maidens skirts the poignancy of its tougher topics by removing what realism it contained in favor of an outlandish ending pulled from a totally different series altogether. Sugarawa’s struggles with the pedophile who groomed her? Swept aside. The angst ridden torment of a group of friends pulled apart by deepening rifts? Magically fixed thanks to a sleep over at the school. Even the show’s climax, a confrontation with the school administration banning fraternization with the opposite sex, is resolved in the blink of an eye with absurd antics that shatter the show’s believability.
Linny: The fact that O Maidens starts employing a lot more comedic art style from its eleventh episode onwards, aka the one where things start to really deviate from its earlier, almost grounded tone, acts like a visual acknowledgement of the abrupt detour the story has taken. It goes from bringing up several uncomfortable and/or serious and realistic topics regarding young girls and their experience with puberty and adolescent hormones to becoming an outright comedy, completely forgetting or underplaying any of the more heavy and meaty topics. To specify, the Principal and Vice Principal of the school go from expelling students for engaging in relationships to just shrugging and going home when other students pull off a lock-in, kidnap a teacher and threaten to hurt him. Realistically, this would have resulted in the police and parents getting called and all students involved getting expelled but nothing of that nature occurs. And then there’s the case of one of the girls, Momo coming to realize that she may be attracted to girls and even going so far as to confess a desperate affection for/to one of the other girls, Nina. Yet the finale episode goes from Momo begging Nina to not date anyone else to them then playing a game of tag and her saying she wants to be friends. In fact, when we get a time jump in the epilogue, Nina and Momo are shown walking together but the nature of their relationship is purposely left ambiguous. Did they end up dating or did they just mend their friendship like Momo claimed she wanted to? Rather than giving us a deep and well fleshed out tale of a young girl discovering her sexuality/orientation and finding her way to love and a relationship, we just get a soft and vague fluffy ending. Its like the show wants to have its cake and eat it too without getting its hands dirty.
Tom: The fact that Maidens felt generally realistic, even with its more uncomfortable choices, is a testament to how honest Mari Okada’s writing was, discussing both sweet and uncomfortable topics with developments that felt near entirely within the realm of possibility. What drives me mad is that the show then squanders that effort, refusing to offer its own answers to some truly weighty topics, making it feel like earlier, difficult subject matter, was merely brought up as a goof, to shock, to play with, but never truly take seriously. Ultimately O Maidens ends as an utter disappointment. Based off a manga that’s only recently concluded I sadly can’t say whether it’s merely the anime that botched the adaptation, or if the manga is similarly dismissive of its deeper topics. Having read three volumes of it however, I wasn’t getting any hints that the anime was taking great liberties. At times the series shone with brilliance and in others displayed incredible ineptitude. Because the series shifted so greatly in tone from beginning to middle and to end, I can’t say O Maidens is actually for anyone in particular and is probably best left as an unpolished, rough, discarded ‘gem’ for true anime enthusiasts to stumble upon now and again.
Linny: I made no secret in the past of how excited I was to be able to finally experience the entire story of O Maidens having only been able to read the first volume before the series debuted. And even now, I will argue that it starts off brimming with so much promise as it tackles a subject that’s usually avoided and rarely addressed in anime and a lot of media. However, once it starts injecting controversial and heavy topics that it then fumbles with and even completely tosses away playfully, it is all downhill from there. It’s hard to recommend this series knowing that most viewers will likely end up disappointed or even disgusted with how it chooses to wrap matters up in a comical and happy manner that undermines and even ignores everything it built up. If you’ve read through this review and feel that the problems we had aren’t as show wrecking to you, then by all means, check it out as there’s always an audience for every show. But if our criticisms and complaints have raised doubts then let us save you some time and keep this one off your watch list.
O Maidens in Your Savage Season is available for streaming via HIDIVE.