Writer’s note: This opinion piece is going to be a pretty long read, so I’ve split it into into two pages. I’m also working on a shorter, better organized version to get it published on Anime Trending, so this is the original, messier version.
No anime this season has left me in bewilderment as much as O Maidens in Your Savage Season has. Based on a manga by Mari Okada (Okada is also responsible for the anime’s series composition and script), it ostensibly tackles the topic of sex through the viewpoints of five high school girls from the same literature club. I thought it sounded interesting. By the end of the show however, I found it to be a questionably-written experience and had no idea what it was aiming for.
What are you saying?
Before the end was even in sight, I was already struggling to enjoy the show. This I admit first was partly due to my personal preferences. O Maidens is very melodramatic, and while I can accept melodrama in some cases, it’s harder for me to do so now compared to five years ago. The show also includes multiple plot lines and many themes within a mere 12 episodes, and while the pacing isn’t technically fast, it doesn’t linger on its various subjects as long as I’d like it to. Those subjects range from student-teacher relationships, pedophilia, grooming, teen pregnancy, attitudes towards sex and relationships, homosexuality, sexual attraction vs romantic attraction, and so on. As I said, there are many of them, and as mentioned in the previous paragraph I wasn’t sure what the main point was in the end.
While the melodrama and the hodgepodge of themes are downsides to me, they’re not the main source of my aggravation. My main issue is that the show’s writing isn’t just melodramatic at times but is often bewildering or downright absurd as well, especially in the second half. This is a show where a character tells his friend that he would support her romantic pursuit of a man from her past who they both know to be a pedophile. “Pedophiles are disgusting,” the boy tells his friend, but if she still likes him, he’d be “happy to help”. His reasoning? The boy felt that the girl’s unexpected advances on him during her club’s cultural festival performance were intended to evoke the pedophile’s jealousy, and the fact that the pedophile attended (the Japanese dialogue/subs have the boy saying that the pedophile “took the trouble to attend”, which is even worse) meant that he was probably still into her. Honestly, I’ve never been so dumbfounded by an anime before.
Thankfully, no other lines in the show are as questionable as the one above, but there are some other head-scratchers. In one episode, our heroines have a pillow fight in order to resolve an argument between two of their members. As they do so, the main character thinks to herself: “Here, there are ten breasts jiggling wobbling together. Small ones, big ones… all wobbling. Bumping into each other. It’s fun.” O Maidens’ tone has always been far from being strictly serious, as the ending of the first episode proved, but those lines still sounded incredibly silly to.
Even the serious moments aren’t free of strange dialogue. “I was touched by a guy I hate and I can’t help but want to disinfect the place where he touched,” says one of the girls to another over the phone. She later adds: “Where this guy touched me is now unclean. I was hoping you could touch me there.” Of course, teenagers can be dramatic, but hearing these lines said out loud made it hard to take the scene seriously, especially when they clashed with the somber tone of the moment.
That’s quite a story
Then there are the character plot lines. Of the five, there are two which are admittedly quite good. The best revolves around the serious and uptight club president Rika Sonezaki, who slowly changes her views on relationships after ironically being the first club member to get a boyfriend, who is an incredibly sweet guy. The main character, Kazusa Onodera, also has a plotline that’s satisfactory overall. She gets together with her childhood friend Izumi Norimoto near the end of the show, and their innocent inexperience is pleasant to watch. Their relationship, aided by the involvement of a third party, also brings up the notion of the relationship between sexual attraction and romantic attraction. I didn’t love how that particular theme was tackled, but I’m happy that it was at least brought up.
Then we have Hitoha Hongou. Hongou is an aspiring writer, but struggles to gain the approval of her editor. She frequents adult chat rooms in the hopes of improving her ability to write realistic erotica. One of the people she chats with turns out to be a young teacher at her school, Tomoaki Yamagishi, whom she later blackmails into being the literature club’s adviser to stop it from dissolving.
All that is fine in terms of story, but things get really bizarre after Hongou asks Yamagishi for writing advice and confesses her worries about her writing career. In an attempt to help Hongou get experience without sleeping with her, Yamagishi mind-bogglingly suggests that she does things like showing him her underwear at school without anyone noticing or wearing thongs. This escalates further when Hongou’s main goal shifts from gaining experience to getting the teacher aroused due to his nonplussed reactions to her shenanigans, as well as her seemingly developing a crush on him. Things go on far longer than they should have, and even when Yamagishi finally decides to end this strange relationship when Hongou decides to sleep with him, his plan is to do so not just in an indirect manner, but in a love hotel. What an utterly brilliant idea.
So the two end up in a hotel room, where Hongou abruptly gets on top of Yamagishi and proceeds to unzip his pants, butt pointed at the latter’s face, only to find that he’s still not aroused. After a tearful outburst from Hongou, Yamagishi tells her that it’s not because he finds her unattractive, but because he doesn’t have the guts. Impressively, it’s this same guy – whose approach to tackling Hongou’s situation is both unprofessional and beggars belief – that goes on to dispense profound advice to the main cast in the final episode.
To sum up my issue with Hongou’s plot line, although it’s supposed to be about her trying to understand what real life sexual situations are like for the sake of her writing, it quickly devolves into a series of scenes where both student and teacher do inappropriate things that are just baffling to watch. In the hopes of restoring my sanity, I tried to derive some meaning from the experience but failed. The moral issue of the relationship isn’t focused on, so it’s not really about morals. One of the lines in Hongou’s outburst pays lip service to the idea of body positivity, but to consider that to be her plot line’s theme feels rather generous. The best thing I can think of after some re-examination is that Hongou’s lust is intended as a message that it’s normal for girls to have sexual desire. The thing is, the journey is such a farce that it hardly does that message justice.