The final two episodes of season highlight O Maidens In Your Savage Season both form a small arc all their own and bring to a final close every single plot line that had been left open. They are, for reasons we’ll get into, an absolute masterclass in the kind of unapologetically messy emotional writing Mari Okada is known for.
Let’s quickly recap how we got here. In episode 10, Sonezaki and her boyfriend happened to catch Hongo and the club advisor, Yamagishi, entering a love hotel. They, in turn, were caught by someone else (implied to be Hongo herself, but it’s never spelled out explicitly).
This was reported to the ornery vice principal we met all the way back in the show’s first arc. Sonezaki and her boyfriend were then expelled. On top of that, the school institutes a full-on ban on non-platonic relationships between the sexes at all. Yamagishi approaches the principal and vice-principal, explaining the situation, but is rebuffed. He’s essentially told the two are being made an example of.
That brings us up to episode 11, where things go from merely dramatic to deliciously, Okada-ly, melodramatic.
A Revolution In Your Schoolyard
How would most teenagers deal with their friend being unjustly expelled and their school turning into a draconian YA novel nightmare? I imagine many would simply deal with it, but let’s say that they wanted to do something. Petitions, protests, these are the kinds of things a grounded approach might entail.
Instead, the Literature Club kidnaps Yamagishi. They hold him as a hostage.
They bunker up in the school building and make their demands known; the immediate un-expulsion of Sonezaki and her boyfriend, and a lift of the ban. This is in fact where episode 11 ends, on what is probably the roughest cliffhanger the show’s delivered throughout its entire run.
The school staff are called to the scene, but, to our girls’ surprise, they don’t take them particularly seriously. The principal in particular seems to think that just letting things go for a night will fix everything right up. To his credit, we do not get actual violent revolution in a high school here. The girls are at a loss after the staff leave, and it’s here that things get interesting.
Lit. Club Tea Time
Sonezaki and her boyfriend (and Izumi too, in short order) arrive with the intent of smoothing things over. Hongo’s having none of it. We get a shot that summarizes the show’s entire ethos, where Kazusa asks this.
“This crazy thing” could sum up most of what happens in the series. She doesn’t get a chance to get a straight answer before an argument breaks out. Niina, herself, and Momo are all caught yet again in a bundle of feelings they don’t understand. Niina wants to confess her affections to Izumi. Kazusa gave her permission to do that though understandably she’s worried about what’ll happen. Momo on the other hand is having absolutely none of it, and begs Niina to, if she can’t return her feelings, at least stay single.
The argument eventually moves from the Literary Club club room to the hall. Izumi, as he’s being argued over in the hall, sneaks in through the window. The kid has both the social grace and comedic timing of a gun backfiring on Elmer Fudd.
Moon Through The Window
Everyone continues arguing, and everyone says the worst possible thing. Izumi’s overheard Niina’s confession and reaffirms that he loves Kazusa (good!), but that he has difficulty being physically attracted to her because they’re childhood friends (bad!). He then digs himself deeper by saying that while he doesn’t love Niina, he is physically attracted to her (worse!). This sets everyone in a tizzy.
Even the nearby pair of Sonezaki and her boyfriend get pulled into things. She finds out he has prior “experience” and her old puritan personality resurfaces.
The thing that prevents all of this from being a bit too heavy is that it’s also incredibly funny. The show really pulls out all the stops on its pull face game here. These are some of the best the series has to offer.
You might (understandably) wonder how all of this gets solved. Well, it’s Kazusa to the rescue.
Fights, yes. Kazusa suggests “fighting” in blanket, but it’s actually Yamagishi who provides a more workable solution. He, amusingly, hops into the hallway, still tied to his chair.
He brings up color tag. This is a variant of the classic schoolyard game where if you find an object of a specific color and touch it, you’re safe from being tagged. It’s easy to overlook the metaphor here. Maidens isn’t just about the messiness of teenage youth (although that’s a huge part of what it’s trying to do, for certain). It’s also about how girls supporting each other and finding a way to work through their differences can overcome the hardships that messiness brings on. It is only this, a simple game of tag, that lets the girls sort out their differences.
There’s even more here, though. Color perception is to at least some point, subjective. Color tag thus requires–and Yamagi spells this out explicitly–that the players try to understand each other’s point of view to be workable.
The color symbolism is honestly, even for Okada, rather on the nose. But what works works, and we should also mention director Masahiro Ando here. This entire sequence works amazingly animated in full color, but I imagine it was harder to pull off (and less visually resonant) in the original manga.
The sequence continues by pairing off characters, and true to Yamagishi’s prediction, the game does help them understand each other. Sonezaki grills her boyfriend about his past “experiences” before being silenced by a kiss to the forehead, which sweeps all of her remaining latent prudishness away. Momo and Niina hug it out in what is just one of the sweetest scenes I’ve seen in the medium all year.
It should be unsurprising though that the most in-depth scene goes to Kazusa and Izumi. The visual interplay here is fantastic. Kazusa ruminates about the blues of youth (the color she’s been tasked by Niina, who’s “it”, to find), as the hallway is bathed in literal blue moonlight. Again, on the nose? Yes, but it’s stunningly effective even so.
Through Your Eyes
She meets up with Izumi, and the series here returns to its eye fixation for the final time.
Izumi gets the chance to explain himself in a measured way without tripping over his own words. He explains that he really does love Kazusa, it’s just that things feel awkward because they’re childhood friends and Kazusa has always felt like part of the family. Kazusa, for her part, nods vigorously (and adorably). These are the same fears that she’s been going over in her own head through the entire show.
It’s not just that the two openly share their honest feelings–though that they do is important–it’s that Izumi owns up to his mistake of not being more honest in the first place, and hurting both Kazusa and Niina in the process. This level of emotional depth for the male leads in a romance anime is quite rare, and it’s amazing how the show manages to make all parties sympathetic. In almost any other series, it’d be hard to like someone as dense as Izumi. Here, his actions seem like the result of the same fog everyone else is in. The delirious craziness of youth.
O Maidens, In Your Savage Season!
This is almost, but not quite, where O Maidens In Your Savage Season ends. The girls have mostly hashed their feelings out, true, but the problem remains that Sonezaki and her boyfriend are still expelled. The ban on opposite-sex relationships remains in place.
They come up with a radical solution. Revolution? Not quite, but, the sentiment is there. It’s not actually clear what the girls are up to until almost the final scene of the show. The staff arrive back at the school and find it covered, top to bottom, in loud, colorful signage denouncing their oppressive rules.
This is how Maidens goes out. Proving that girls working together can accomplish anything. All this, and the series ends on a legitimately powerful shot of the Literature Club passed out, surrounded by their art materials. Girls only, of course, the boys were sent home the prior night.
The series has the audacity to make its final line a near-title drop. Yamagishi waxing poetic about how they are “well within their savage season”. Which is just another way to say “the craziness of youth”, really. That, at the end of it all, is what Maidens is about. The strange, wild, crazy, surreal world of being young. An explosion of color.