O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 03 – Tough Kids Drink Milo

While Rika is checking a magazine to see how much she actually resembles Erika, Hitoha notices a new book has been published—but not her’s. Her editor says her stories aren’t “realistic” enough. For Hitoha, the message is clear: in order to break onto the young erotic fiction scene, she needs actual experience. So she arranges an IRL meet with “Milo” on the dirty chatroom.

When Izumi talks with Niina in private about the footage she shot, he doesn’t realize how much of a message he sent by taking her arm in class with everyone watching. Still, she’s impressed that he’s quicker on the uptake than she expected, taking her criticism and apologizing rather than bristling.

Even so Niina senses an “old-fashioned” quality to Izumi, and before returning to class (without saying she’d delete the footage) she assures him it’s not just boys who think about “doing it” all the time. Girls think about it too…even Kazusa. And it’s perhaps for that reason that every available male faculty member outright refuses to become the lit club’s adviser, keeping its future in jeopardy.

When Izumi’s mom drags Kazusa in to take home some meatloaf, she asks her to go up to his room to fetch the ketchup. Upon entering (again, without knocking! Girl!), she imagines him with his pants down at the desk again before it fades to an empty chair.

She gets a pang of nostalgia (which must come as a relief) when she sees the DVD for a Ghibli-like film on the desk, but when opening the case, she’s mortified to learn it’s something else entirely: a porn blu-ray, rather inartfully titled The Wheels on the Commuter Bus Go “Oh Yeah, Harder!”

Meanwhile, at the Hongou residence, Hitoha is ready to head out on her date when two misogynists on the TV talk about how mismatching underwear is a turnoff, and steals her sister’s blue bottoms to match her blue bra. As she waits until 1:00pm on the dot to leave the station and head for the statue where she’ll meet her date, she’s understandably nervous, repeating over and over to run if he looks like a shitty (or shitty-looking) guy.

So imagine her shock when “Milo” from the dirty chatroom is a handsome, glasses-less, stylishly-dressed…Yamagichi-sensei! Once he recognizes Hitoha, he bolts. I’d admire him for that, since it means he has no intention of sleeping with Hitoha, but then I wonder how he’d have reacted if it was a different girl her age, and immediately lose the ability to admire him for anything. Regardless, Hitoha follows; she can use this.

Desperate to learn something about sex, especially of the kind between the flowery literature or crass commuter bus porn (that’s quite a range), Kazusa beseeches her parents, who proceed to misunderstand her question and tell her about the day she was born, not the night they conceived her. They’re as ill-prepared to have “the talk” with their daughter as she is to ask them about it. Meanwhile, next door, Izumi panics over his lost porn…until he remembers Kazusa was in his room.

The next day, the principal and vice-principal, clearly scared of young women having a free and open forum to discuss literature of a mildly lascivious nature, are ready to pull the plug on the lit club after their unsuccessful search for an adviser, when Hitoha bursts into the office with a defeated, blackmailed Yamagishi by her side. He’ll be advising the club.

After Yamagishi eloquently analyzes Hitoha’s reading in the club, she twists the knife a little by giving him the same nickname in club (Milo-sensei)as his chatroom name, assuming it comes from Venus de Milo. Before he drives off, she thanks him for letting them continue the club, but he corrects her: he got it from something much more innocent: “Tough Kids Drink Milo,” the slogan of Nestle’s Milo chocolate drink (a personal favorite of mine…I guess I’m a tough kid!)

That evening, with the Norimotos apparently out, Kazusa uses the spare key to slip in and return Izumi’s porn DVD, but before doing so, has another ephiphany, realizing that her childhood friend, ever a lover of transportation, chose a commuter bus porn DVD rather than tarnish his even more beloved trains. Just as when she initially noticed the misleading Ghilbi case, Kazusa feels relieved, even happy that Izumi hasn’t changes as much as she thought.

It’s very sweet moment—and pretty hilarious!—moment. And then Izumi enters his room, correcting her on the format: it’s a Blu-Ray, not a DVD.

He goes on to try to explain and clarify that while he does watch porn (something now painfully clear), that doesn’t mean he’s interested in doing it with anyone; not Asada or any of the other girls at school, and not her, either. No doubt he probably doesn’t think he’s hurting Kazusa with those words, but he cuts her to the quick, and as her eyes well up she races out of the room, so fast that she stumbles down the stairs, and Izumi tumbles after her.

He lands on top of her at the bottom of the stairs, his face just an inch from her’s. How Kazusa doesn’t suffer a concussion in that fall I have no idea, but it’s a contrived-enough fall without an accidental kiss! Izumi jumps back to his feet and reiterates he doesn’t want to do it with “just anyone” and honestly isn’t even thinking about it that much. Kazusa responds by asking him to say “Willy’s Real Rear Wheel” ten times fast, while she slowly gets up and walks out.

It’s probably going to be like this for a while, as these two are nowhere near on the same wavelength and may not even want the same thing. Things will get even more dire for Kazusa if the more assertive Niina starts cultivating an interest in “Mr. Old Fashioned.”

But whatever hardship befall these five girls (well, four, anyway; Momo barely registers) and Izumi, I’m thoroughly enjoying this highly approachable, engaging, down-to-earth coming-of-age drama that reminds of my own awkward, clueless, stumbling, yearning younger self.

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O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 02 – Holey War

After Kazusa reads about masturbation at the bookstore (no doubt learning it’s natural and healthy and thus way less of a big deal than either she or Izumi are making it out to be, even if it was super-embarrassing) she finds Niina in the clutches of some mouth-breather, and gets a text asking her to follow, along with other instructions.

When Kazusa joins them at the cafe, Niina is acting like “a different person”, talking about having to “take on three guys at once” later, then asking the dude if he’d hook up with her “super slutty friend” instead. That’s when Kazusa declares, loudly and proudly, that her crotch is really itchy. The guy flees.

Turns out it was all according to a script Niina’s friend at a theater troupe gave her to use as a defense against the many guys of all types who have projected their fantasies on her due to her ethereal, girlish good looks, and in doing so push past normal social boundaries. It’s a sad but very accurate commentary on the need to know how to deal with such men; many of whom won’t take rejection well.

Because of her looks, Niina grew up a little faster than the other girls. As for Kazusa, she really only grew up when she walked in on Izumi, who her clueless dad invites over for pizza. Izumi and Kazusa have a mature and productive chat about it briefly tries to make Kazusa forget by grabbing her head and shaking it (the childhood friend rambunctiousness coming out at the worst time) but ultimately would prefer if she just forgot it ever happened.

Later that night, in the shower, Kasuza puts herself in Izumi’s shoes, and of all the things she’d want to cover if he walked in on her, she determines she’d probably most want to hide her face, as if like an ostrich with its head in the ground, it wouldn’t be happening if she couldn’t see it.

At lit club, Rika instructs each member to come up with ten more “literary” words to use in place of the inartful English word “sex”, since it’s an otherwise unavoidable word with the works they’re reading. Then the writer among them gets a call from a potential editor, telling her she’s not quite there yet, but coming by his place will “probably help her chances.”

Then Rika gets “bothered by the chidings of lascivious beasts,” causing her to hurt her crotchal area on the vault; one of the girls doesn’t laugh and wonders out loud if she just “broke her hymen”; Rika later admits to herself she “doesn’t know how to check”.

It’s just and overall unpleasant-as-hell experience, but as she’s washing her face in the sink, Amagi comes by and calls her cute again, even comparing her to a model. There’s no reason to think the kid is messing with her, but Amagi isn’t prepared for the praise, and flees in a cloud of dust.

Then, the inevitable: the girl who boasted to her friend she’d take Izumi’s virginity makes her move. Kazusa is instinctively ready to riot, even tossing out the lame excuse of “having to keep an eye on him while his mother is busy with work!” She ends up getting to watch the meeting thanks to Niina paying her back for “having an STD for her” the other day.

Izumi ends up turning Asada down, but when she learns he doesn’t like anyone in particular, gets him to agree to “think about it,” as she’ll wait for him “forever.”

After Asada leaves, Izumi spots Niina snooping and recording, but Kasuza comes between them and tells the truth: Yes, they were snooping, but he didn’t give the girl a straight “no.” Then she asks if he just wants to “do it” with girls, and Izumi doesn’t understand, she blurts out a variant of one of the club’s euphemisms: “Ess Eee Ecks!” before running off.

The next day, with the whiteboard full of vulgar words and phrases, the principal and vice principal, both men, declare that absent a faculty advisor to keep them in line, the lit club will be dissolved. Kasuza starts weeping form the news; she doesn’t know what she’ll do if there’s no lit club (answer: they can always meet up somewhere after school and in the summer).

But Niina knows better. She knows Kasuza’s tears that just won’t stop aren’t just about the threat of the club dissolving. She gets Kasuza to admit that a “storm is raging in her heart”, and that if she absolutely had to “do it” with someone, it would be Izumi, which indicates she likes him. This may be something we’ve known for a while now, but only then, on the riverbank, does she finally have the official epiphany. She’s in luuuuuuve.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 01 (First Impressions) – Crazy Train

Onodera Kazusa is an almost aggressively normal high school girl. She doesn’t really stand out anywhere, and is part of a literature club whose members include both a budding author, a glasses-wearing prudish type, and a serene senpai who is perfectly comfortable reciting very steamy sex scenes in the book they’re all reading.

Kazusa has a best friend in fellow lit club member Sudou Momoko, and she has a childhood friend in the train-loving Norimoto Izumi. She and Momoko are each other’s main source of verbal and emotional support in these trying adolescent times. She and Izumi were once as close as brother and sister, but have drawn further apart due to his increasing popularity—particularly with other girls.

Kazusa is voiced by relative newcomer Kono Hiyori, who does a splendid job modulating her voice for Kazusa’s vulnerable and frustrated inner monologues. It also helps that she closely resembles Shizuku from Whisper of the Heart, a rare Ghibli film grounded in contemporary life and one of my favorite anime works.

It helps because Shizuku never strayed past the “pure and innocent” phase of her romance with Seiji; the film ended (spoilers!) with her suddenly proposing marriage after they bike up the highest points in West Tokyo and watch the sun rise on the city. It’s beautiful, and it marks a major milestone in their trudge toward adulthood…but it’s incomplete.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season (written by the great Okada Mari) is not incomplete. It reveals all of the insecurities and worries and downright dilemmas far beyond simply developing feelings for someone and being frustrated by one’s comparative lack of accomplishment. By the end, we have a nearly complete picture of who Kazusa is (just a kid), what she is gradually becoming mentally and physically (an adult) and how she feels about that (not so great so far!)

When Kazusa’s mom—whom she says many describe as “child-like” even though she’s most definitely not a virgin due to Kazusa’s existence—asks her to take some food to Izumi’s next door, the comfort of their familiarity is evident, but so is a growing awkwardness punctuated when Izumi asks if he should talk to her around other people.

Kazusa’s wishy-washy reply (depends on who and where) doesn’t help matters. Talking about their issues clearly would be optimal, but again…these are kids. She’s aware enough to know she didn’t handle her interaction with Izumi in a satisfying way, leaving so much up in the air and unclear, but she doesn’t yet possess the tools to do so, hence her frustration and very Shizuku-like private mope on Izumi’s front stoop.

Back in lit club, Sugawara Niina, with her confident stride, ever-calm tone, and shorter skirt, all indicate she’s more mature than the other four members. To put it far more harshly, some boys consider her a diamond atop a pile of dung. But when a story with the premise of “doing something before you die” comes up, she blurts out “have sex,” because as mature as she looks and sounds, she’s still a virgin—still in the bubble with the rest of them. Despite all the classy smut they’ve read, it’s still a totally unknown world.

But her stated desire to have sex before death brings that subject too the forefront, like poking at the bubble until it bursts. Now sex is the first thing on the minds of the four other girls, from Rika (glasses) telling some gals to shut up about sex and being verbally abused by some classmates and then complimented by another; to Kazusa overhearing two of the girls who like Izumi talk very openly about wanting to take his virginity.

The more Kazusa hears about Izumi and sex, the more those two seem like something possible and thus terrifying—a far cry from the little boy with which she used to run around, fall over, and wade in the kiddy pool. The boy who’s crazy about trains. With the bubble of obliviousness popped by Niina, Kazusa finds herself on the deep end, her surroundings growing darker and more morose. But she has to kick and swim and breathe, or she’ll drown.

Things already feel like they’re starting to spiral out of all control for Kazusa, who asserts that she doesn’t like this and isn’t ready for it at all, but she has no idea what’s coming down the track to knock her off the rails of innocence for good, where she was once only teetering and threatening to fall. In an absolutely stunning sequence that plays like, well, a train wreck, Kazusa hears music inside Izumi’s, and so enters through the unlocked front door.

She makes her way up the stairs to Izumi’s room, where the door is cracked but not closed, and lets herself in without knocking. Izumi is inside, his pants down and his feet on the desk, masturbating to porn on the internet. The director lets the two just sit there in the moment of horror, completely silent but for the (likely fake) orgasmic screams of the woman on the laptop. Izumi gives a half-hearted “Hey,” then asks if she’ll keep this a secret. Pretty smooth, considering one of every guy’s worst nightmares just came true.

Kazusa…snaps. She bolts out of the house screaming and just…keeps running and screaming (the action animation is superb) through a market district. Naturally, every food sign is a double entendre, lending credence to her lament that there’s just too much god damn sex in the world.

Worse, her pure, innocent Izumi has changed forever. The boy is dead; a man has taken his place. The last time he saw her penis it was tiny and harmless. Now, not so much. As she stops on a bridge over a train track to catch her breath, she tearfully declares out loud that “that won’t fit in there!” Then, in a moment perhaps almost too on the nose but also pretty damn effective, a train passes beneath her, lining right up between her legs, and enters a very tight tunnel. “It fit,” she says, relieved, but she soon collapses back into a heap of adolescent frustration.

O Maidens is a refreshingly bold, sincere, brutally frank depiction of sexual awakening and its maaaany pitfalls. So far the experience is largely horrifying, terrifying, and overwhelming for Kazusa, and it’s sure to continue to be so. But the show balances the drama and comedy, never letting you forget these are human beings with human being minds and parts, all of which are in a state of open rebellion, but all of which are also very complicated.

The stakes for Kazusa and her friends are far higher than looking fit in a bikini for the summer. This is for all the marbles. All we as viewers can do is ball our fists and hope she hangs on for dear life to this train ride that can’t be stopped, until the ride becomes at least little smoother, if not joyful. I’ll be in the cafe car, quietly cheering on these maidens in their savage season.