O Maidens in Your Savage Season revolves around the sexual awakening of five nerdy girls, who must brave the hormones of adolescence without a guidebook. This week, Micchy and Steve discuss how this unique story speaks to their own experiences.
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Hey Micchy, I've just been reminiscing about those wonderful halcyon days of being a high school student. Yep, wouldn't trade 'em for the world.
Ah yes, the good ol' days of being 13 and utterly baffled by the concept of sex, all while public school health classes so helpfully glossed over the specifics in favor of unhelpful scaremongering. Thank goodness for the internet, where any savvy enough teenager can look up "hentai
" on Urban Dictionary instead.
Meanwhile, I was transitioning out of nine straight years of Catholic school, which taught me, lemme think...oh yeah, absolutely nothing. It's a miracle any of us became adults, if you can even call anime freelancers adults.
I was lucky enough to have unmonitored internet access, which in hindsight probably did more harm than good to my development as a person, but not even a thorough understanding of 69 memes could make grown-up literature palatable to a young Micchy. That's about where we find the girls in O Maidens in Your Savage Season: old enough to be reading Haruki Murakami's latest novels, but still terrified by the weird psychosexual shit that crops up in them.
Adolescence is an absurd, frequently hilarious, and emotionally draining experience, but I'd trust nobody more than the one and only Mari Okada
to explore the nitty gritty of it. Emphasis on gritty.
In case anyone was sill confused about the subject of O Maidens, the series is kind enough to spell it out for us. Literally! In huge letters!
I just wanna say, I was a Mari Okada
stan before it was cool, but I'm glad it seems like public opinion has swung around to accepting her unique brand of messy and intimate storytelling. It's absolutely perfect for this subject matter, and you can feel her pouring her own experiences and anxieties into these girls' escapades. O Maidens is so relatable and quotable I could fill up this entire column with screencaps that just remind me of my younger self.
While I don't love everything Okada's written, I've been telling people since Aquarion Evol
that she's at her best when tackling adolescent neuroses through humor. Her melodramas aren't for everyone, but I feel pretty confident recommending her comedies. O Maidens in particular is great for taking every embarrassing thought about sex that goes through an awkward teenager's head and putting it right out in the open. It's painfully relatable and pulls no punches, both hilarious and incredibly upsetting.
I remember reading interviews saying that people had to hold Okada back when she was writing EVOL, which considering the material that made it into EVOL, boggles my mind. So it's even more frightening to imagine that O Maidens is Okada with her limiters taken off, with no joke and no pun too blue for the story. I don't know if that makes it blessed or cursed.
I say both, for O Maidens is all about the duality of the enticing and the terrifying.
Yeah, the way it constantly walks that line is the most impressive thing about it. Okada never shies away from a joke, but she also takes each character's struggles seriously. And it's especially noteworthy that she's doing so for a core cast of teenage girls, to interrogate and counter the kinds of narratives society imposes on them.
It's pretty wild that the idea that even weird girls can be horny is so rare in mainstream media. To someone like me, who grew up a weird girl, that notion seems like a given, but in a society where girls and women are perceived as sexual beings only so far as they're sexually desirable, the simple decision to tell a story about the loser girl's relationship to sex is pretty radical. As much as O Maidens is a story about teenagers figuring out sex, it's also a story of girls refuting gendered ideas of purity—usually despite themselves.
Messy coming of age stories are a dime a dozen, but it's refreshing to see one centered on girls who are written like believably nerdy and hormonal teens. I love all these dorks.
I will protect these girls with my life, justice for horny nerd girls. ESPECIALLY Hongo, the weirdest and horniest one of them all.
It's for literature, okay.
But yeah, Hongo is probably my favorite, thanks in part to yet another amazing performance by Tomoyo Kurosawa
Where the other girls are just socially awkward, Hongo is thoroughly, unapologetically weird. She's a 16-year-old author who sexts people on Omegle for research, actively freaks out her classmates, and has no problem talking about sex just to get under her friends' skin. But being able to joke about sex doesn't equate to being comfortable or experienced with it; in that respect she's no different from the other members of the club.
While all the girls make the mistake (as pretty much every teen does) of equating sex with maturity, it's especially true for Hongo, who wants to start a career writing erotica. So she goes a lot further in her pursuit than the other club members, even if she's ultimately on the same page mentally. I can't help but worry about her going in over her head, but she also has the moxie to straight-up blackmail her teacher, so she's not totally helpless either.
tfw the person you've been anonymously sexting is a student of yours who can and will use that revelation to her advantage
Is a coincidence like that even probable? Not really. Is it funny though? Hell yeah. I also appreciate his "oh god why are all these kids so thirsty" face.
Hey, so long as he doesn't turn around and decide that dating his own students is okay, I'm fine with whatever reasons he has not to fuck minors. Hongo's teacher thirst isn't unusual for a teenage girl, just so long as they don't actually get together.
Amen to that. And since I brought up the term, we have to talk about jerking of a different kind, by which I mean the absolutely legendary climax (pun intended) of the first episode.
Only Okada would cap off the first chapter of her story by having the heroine walk in on her childhood friend shaking hands with the unemployed.
The anime enhances this approximately 1000% by soundtracking it with the song "Train-Train" by punk rock legends The Blue Hearts, because his porn of choice is about public transport groping.
Talk about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad sexual awakening lol.
It's like when you're 14 and start seeing dick jokes everywhere, only it comes all at once so you're just overwhelmed and don't think it's funny yet. Ironically, her realization that Izumi thinks of sex and not simply romance is what gets her to admit that she likes him. It only takes the ridiculous hypothetical "if you had to fuck someone or else you die, who would you pick" to get her to face her feelings.
This whole time, she's been trying to draw a distinction between romance (the chaste stuff she's read in shoujo
manga) and sexuality (which she equates with erotica), but there isn't a hard line. And that's the toughest thing for these girls to understand. Romance is more approachable; Kazusa's seen it in media her whole life. But the sexual facet of a relationship is foreign territory, so her instinct is to box it away as a wholly separate thing. The truth is that love and sexuality can be so intertwined that it's meaningless to try to label a feeling as strictly one or the other, even if it's comforting to do so.
The beauty of Okada's sex comedies is that they never lose sight of the connection between sexuality and emotions. That's the case in Aquarion Evol, where the horny-on-main character eventually realizes he wants more than just titty, and that's definitely the case in O Maidens as well. Kazusa might not fully understand where her attraction to Izumi starts and her love of him as a person ends, but ultimately it doesn't matter where that boundary is or if it exists at all.
Until she realizes that, though, she's gonna overthink every little thing as teenage girls are wont to do.
Okada also doesn't pull punches when it comes to tearing down patriarchal assumptions about women's sexuality. Niina seems to be her most obvious mouthpiece, and it's satisfying to see her coolly and bluntly dropping truth bombs like this.
Nina's an interesting character, since she's pretty enough that in any other show she'd be the popular but unapproachable beauty. But Okada sidesteps that stereotype by allying her with the awkward ostracized girls.
I mean, she is definitely a big doofus on the inside like the rest of them.
Exactly! Just as Niina rejects the fantasy version of herself that society projects onto her, Okada refuses to portray her (or any of the characters) as the shallow archetypes they initially seem to be. Even the Mean Girls have depths that Sonezaki fails to catch. They have unique personalities, and just because they happen to fuck and wear makeup doesn't make them superficial. Sonezaki, however, refuses to see them as anything more complex, and that makes Niina's words ring all the more true—not only do men tend to judge women by appearances, but patriarchy encourages that behavior in everyone, even those who think they're above it.
Yeah, Sonezaki especially rubs up against the fact that society at large only values women as far as it finds them attractive, which is a fucking brutal lesson.
Especially considering how arbitrary those beauty standards can be.
It's tricky, because it's not wrong to want someone to find you attractive, but it's also absolutely shitty that women are largely reduced to their looks.
And of course his response is the most padded, insubstantial, teenage boy thing, because words are hard when you're 16 and your libido is going wild.
I'd love to know what writer(s) Okada is dunking on.
I can think of a fair number of candidates. A certain Mushroom Eggplant, for instance.
Sonezaki is seeking some platonic ideal of romance divorced from people's baser desires, because she wants to believe she's better than that due to all the nastiness that bullies have flung at her. But really, deep down, she just wants to be liked and desired like everyone else, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Again, there isn't a hard line between romantic love and sexual desire; for many people, one implies some amount of the other, and that's okay. Feeling love is normal, being horny is normal, and people are better off accepting that they're not mutually exclusive.
Hey, if it goes there, cool. But even if it doesn't, I'm enjoying the hell out of her karaoke misery.
There are times when it's appropriate to sing Nine Inch Nails at karaoke, but that time is not every time. And that's the beautiful thing about O Maidens in Your Savage Season. It's a rich exploration of adolescence told through the experiences of several multi-faceted female characters. That's the
Mari Okada touch.
Yup, I can't recommend this series enough to anyone who was any combination of Weird, Horny, or Girl growing up. It's that kind of thing that leaves me on the floor either laughing or screaming every episode, and I want everyone to suffer the same way. And besides, who doesn't love a good dirty joke?
I know the translator certainly does.