Content Notice: Please be aware that this article, and the series it is about, contain discussions of sexuality as well as potentially upsetting subject matter. Reader discretion is advised.
It’s been a while since we last checked in on O Maidens in Your Savage Season. You might guess–correctly–that a lot has happened since the show’s premiere. The episodes since have followed the same rough formula as the first two. Character arcs are cut and splayed across episodes, rather than things following in strict chronological order.
It hasn’t changed that Maidens remains easier to follow on a character-by-character basis than by looking at the story as a whole, though there’s a lot going on there too. The most recent arc concerns the Literature Club being taken on a field trip to an inn in the woods. They’ve been tasked with penning an “urban legend” to help boost interest in their school’s school festival. As one might expect, none of this is as clean-cut as it might first seem.
Where better to start than with our ostensible lead?
Kazusa is the simplest of the core cast, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for her not being interesting. Her everygirl demeanor and common, straightforward love problem (not being able to confess to her crush), is the sort of thing lots of people can relate to. The particular turn this has recently taken is a gnarled twist-up with Niina’s own issues. The second most recent episode saw Niina invite Kazusa’s crush, Izumi, out for tea, which she happened to see. You may have already guessed that this has caused some misunderstandings, but Maidens handles nothing the easy way.
Niina, dealing with an absolute mountain of issues in her own right (we’ll get to those), does not simply clear up the misunderstanding. She, instead, deliberately escalates things. She fuels Kazusa’s misunderstanding, letting her think that she also has a crush on Izumi. Niina’s reasoning is that she’s dealt with so many people who assume that she’s trying to steal their boyfriends, simply because she’s pretty, that she’s not inclined to be nice when Kazusa assumes the same. It makes a kind of bent sense.
This comes to a head in the most recent episode when Kazusa lets her suspicion slip, and Niina tries to fight her about it. She even outright says as much.
Something does ultimately resolve their dispute–at least for now–but it’s not anything a more conventional series might go with. A standard romcom anime might have a heartfelt talk, a mutual apology, that sort of thing. Maidens is smart enough to recognize that life is messier than that. So how do the two call a truce? With the help of the rest of the Literature Club. Them and a classic sleepover tradition, the pillowfight.
To be fair to all those other romcoms, we also do get a sort of mutual apology before too long. After their trip ends, Niina and Kazusa talk in the bathroom at school. Kazusa reflects on her actions while literally reflecting in a mirror. I bring this up mostly to point out how quietly impressive the visuals in this show often are.
Well away from the drama unfolding at the series’ forefront is another, quieter story. The twintailed Momoko Sudou is probably the least prominent member of the show’s cast in terms of screentime. This might imply that she doesn’t have much going on, but that’d be wrong.
Momoko is being heavily, transparently telegraphed as the only gay member of the core cast. She is still, at this point, seemingly ignorant of this fact. It’s really quite hard to deny it, though. Just for comparison, here is how she looks thinking about Sugawara (who she was just prior in the bathhouse with), and how she looks having just gotten a text message from a boy who is interested in her.
This particular plot line is only just starting to get off the ground, so who knows where this ends up. It’s still nice to see, and it’s a break from the somewhat more heavy stuff happening with the other girls.
Speaking of that, Niina’s plot is almost inarguably the darkest in the show. It touches on a number of heavy subjects, and really provides some context for her actions. Niina, as we’ve known for some time, was a child actor. What we didn’t know until relatively recently was the nature of the director who scouted her.
The Director, as we’re introduced to him, is a deeply, deeply unpleasant man. Niina herself flat-out calls him a pedophile. His bizarre, grimy monologues about the fleeting youth of young girls are deliberately off-putting, and it’s immediately obvious that this is where Niina’s self-worth issues come from. It’s hard to say how (or even if) the man will get his comeuppance, but the most recent episode ends on the absolutely gross note of Niina kissing him after asking him for some advice.
Maidens certainly understands life’s ups and downs, but this is one area where its penchant for messiness may well go too far for some viewers. I think, in the show’s defense, that it knows this is deeply troubling, and that it is building to some productive end, but it’s a lot to handle.
Lastly, there’s Hongou, whose plot is veering dangerously close to Niina’s. Hongou is introduced to us early on as a writer who pens romantic (and sometimes outright erotic) stories to sell to magazines. Her editor is a jerk, and constantly tugs the girl around. She also has an active cyber-sexlife with someone who turns out to be one of her teachers. The natural solution to this problem, as she sees it, is to blackmail him into become the club advisor for the Literature Club (that’s how that little plot line got resolved, if you were wondering).
I say that Hongou’s story is veering near Niina’s specifically because of said teacher.
Hongou and the teacher have a relationship that is best summed up with the word “weird”. Her attempts to get him to sleep with her fail (thankfully), but he doesn’t really rebuke her either. Instead, he jerks her around, encouraging her to experiment with “indirect eroticism” like wearing show-offy underwear and flashing him from a distance.
It’s off-putting and speaking frankly, it’s the only one of the many plates the show’s spinning that I’m concerned it might drop. There are still 5 more episodes left in Maidens. There’s thus certainly time for whatever this is to be rectified, but, as singular as Marie Okada’s authorial voice is, I’m not sure it can handle this. I would of course, love to be proven wrong. I am trying to hold faith that I will be.
The only real upshot of Hongou’s arc so far is that she is arguably the most expressive of the maidens. I mean, seriously, look at this.
There is one more thing I want to touch on. It can be hard to remember it, given the focus on some rather intense plot lines, but Maidens is, in fact a dramedy. The show’s sense of humor is as intact as ever, and in fact it’s only gotten funnier over the past few episodes. Niina’s deliberate drama firestarting is troubling, sure, but when she outright rejects a request from Momo to stop with “I’m going to make it worse”, it’s hard to not find it pretty darn amusing.
Elsewhere, we have Kazusa’s newfound obsession with breasts–her own and everyone else’s–a kind of juvenile humor that is nonetheless timeless. She describes the pillowfight the girls get into as “ten [of them] bouncing around one room”, which is the kind of poetically stupid sentiment that more outright comedy anime could stand to have.
All in all, Maidens remains one of the most compelling series in a pretty strong season. It certainly has its flaws, but I still heartily recommend it.