It’s been some time since we last checked in with O Maidens in Your Savage Season. The show has had time to (mostly) conclude one of its primary plot points since then. Our lead couple are now officially dating, but with everything else going on in the series, that almost seems minor. The most recent episode stitches together all of the girls’ stories, even as they, in fact, drift farther apart. It’s not accidental, and at the risk of getting ahead of ourselves. It does seem entirely possible that this will be the sort of Okada story with a dramatic ending rather than a happy one.
Hongo has had possibly the strangest journey of any character in Maidens. Her relationship with the club advisor has walked a razor-thin line between being an interesting exploration of a teenager priming herself to make a huge mistake and being simply gross. It’s a plotline that finally (mostly) resolves itself here. The club advisor is fed up with her attempted seduction, and in the last episode, offered to simply take her to a love hotel. They do in fact go there here. It’s telling though that much of this part of the episode is framed less like anything steamy and more akin to a horror movie.
Before it gets there though is the first part of this segment. Hongo dreams up a fantasy about seducing him on their way there when they inevitably stop at a red light. The imagine spot is rendered with a literal red glow, and hilariously, it collapses before it can ever take shape. They don’t hit any red lights on their way to the hotel.
Hongo’s disillusionment continues for a few minutes here. It’s to the show’s endless credit that it can present this with some levity even as she’s marching to what seems like an inevitable mistake.
Peeled Paint & Pain
The scene set in the hotel itself proves to be a different story. It’s here where the horror framing kicks in for a while. Hongo can’t help but notice all the tiny imperfections in the hotel room. There’s a strange thrift store painting, the floor tiles are coming up, the paint on the wall is peeling, and the room itself is uncomfortably tiny. Maidens does a great job of making the idea of losing your innocence in a cheap love hotel seem positively revolting. You can practically hear “Third Rate Romance” pumping off somewhere in the distance.
This entire experience is, for Hongo, offputting, borderline horrifying. You can feel your skin crawl along with hers as she ducks into the neighboring bathroom. She claims she needs to take a bath, but what she actually does is desperately push thoughts of cleanliness out of her mind while frantically Googling “techniques”. It’s a little bit funny, a little bit depressing, and 100% in her character.
We do finally though get some internal insight into the club advisor, the man she’s hopelessly crushing on. The guy’s plot seems to be that by going along with her shenanigans as long as possible, he can wound her pride, and thus get her to stop.
This is another iteration of what’s become a commjon theme in Maidens. Men thinking they understand women better than the women themselves do. It should be no surprise then that Hongo here actually manages to get the drop on him. Near-literally, in fact. She basically pounces on him as he’s reclining on the hotel room’s stuffy couch, thinking Hongo is taking a bath in the neighboring bathroom.
She only stops at almost the literal last possible second. She notices that he’s not aroused, and breaks down crying, screaming about how she feels ugly. The two–almost impossibly–reconcile, and he acts like an adult for the first time since he was introduced. It is the kind of moment that will prompt a sigh of relief from many viewers, a serious mistake averted at the last moment.
The same cannot be said for other characters in this episode.
Niina, by now, is probably the closest thing Maidens has to an “antagonist”. This is in many ways her own, explicit, in-universe doing. Several episodes ago, Niina and Kazusa both confessed to Izumi. In an ordinary romance anime this would set them up as explicit rivals. We’d be expected to root for one over the other, and it would all be very cut and dry. Maidens, of course, doesn’t work that way.
Niina is convinced by her “friend” the Director to “be interesting”. In her own interpretation, this seems to entail trying to steal Izumi from Kazusa. She invites him on another train ride, and while they’re in the crowded rail, tells him that someone is groping her. This turns out to be a lie, and part of a plot to seduce him. He ends up rebuking her efforts, but not without Niina spitefully pointing out that he was obviously aroused.
This is all very complicated (not helped by being compressed to just a few sentences), but it’s important to understand why she’s doing this. We know from prior episodes that Niina has spent much of her life with people assuming that she’s trying to steal their boyfriends. In deliberately placing herself in that role, she seems to be trying to unconsciously reverse-justify the irrational hatred that those people had for her. It is, in this light, heartbreaking.
Long Walks Down Short Streets
They end up parting, and Niina, in one of the most beautiful sequences in the medium this year, strolls down the streets of the red light district. A barfly in a nearby karaoke bar belts out an old love song and she tries to puzzle out why she feels so dejected.
She runs her fingers through her hair. The camera pans up to a shot of the red moon (a weirdly common motif this season, across several shows). Then she gets a phonecall, which sews in another character’s story.
Momo is plunking some quarters into a Street Fighter V machine (which appears here, apparently licensed) when her segment begins. Momo and Niina had something of a fight in episode 9. Niina essentially told her that she’d rather go after Izumi than continue to be friends with her and Kazusa. Her appearance here, just trying to distract herself, makes perfect sense.
It is unfortunate that her zoning out is interrupted by this guy.
This is Satoru. Satoru is a recurring minor character and, it’s fair to say, a thorn in Momo’s side. Satoru is dead convinced that Momo has a crush on him, and seems to think of himself as something of a ladies’ man. He is legitimately insufferable. He might well hold the distinction of being the most unlikable character in a series that also includes the Literature Club’s advisor and Niina’s “friend” the director.
In the course of their brief conversation here, Satoru manages to; accuse Momo of leading him on (despite an obvious lack of interest on her part), call her a slut, threaten to get his “friends” to socially ostracize her, and say this with a completely straight face.
She understandably tells him off and goes to leave. He grabs her wrist, and she shrieks, prompting Satoru to call her “crazy”. The man would be a bundle of cliches if not for the depressing number of women who know or have known someone exactly like this, myself included.
Two of Hearts
Momo ends up calling Niina, tying their stories together. Momo tells Niina she feels dirty, and asks if they can meet up. Then, unexpected to both characters, but certainly not to the audience, this happens.
Niina doesn’t know how to handle it, and after only a small amount of further conversation, they hang up. Momo is at a loss, and the future of most of our characters is once again up in the air. There’s enough here to make you hope that the two end up together, or at least as friends again, but as with almost everything in Maidens, it’s ambiguous.
Maidens understands, more than many of its stylistic peers, that teenagerdom in general is rough, messy, and full of mistakes. The show succeeds because it shows us these mistakes being made in real time. The characters triumph or slip up in turn because they–as hormonal teenagers–are acting upon these things for the first time.
As Deep As The Ocean
I think, impressively, I may have in fact underestimated Maidens the first time I covered it here. The show’s skill at writing these teenagers and their messy, messy lives really has very little competition. There are things I haven’t touched on. An extended Alice In Wonderland allusion comprises some of Rika’s screentime in this episode (her and her newfound boyfriend are also the happiest couple here, at present).
Essays could be written solely on the techniques the show uses to do facial closeups. The series really takes the whole “eyes are the windows of the soul” thing to heart.
More than anything, it’s the sheer emotional intensity that makes Maidens. It’s an easy Anime of The Season if you’re a certain kind of viewer. If you’ve been holding out, I really recommend taking the plunge. Love lives are complex, fussy things, and Maidens understands that better than the vast majority of its peers.
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