The Power of Three Plus Two: O Maidens in Your Savage Season

When you’re dealing with characters in writing, I mean seriously, do I have to say this? The more you have, the harder it is to keep them straight.

This is especially true in the ensemble comedy, where each of the characters is supposed to carry their own share of the weight. It starts to get really easy for one character to come to dominate, or one to disappear.

Like in Cowboy Bebop. I mean, Radical Edward is THERE and you see her all the time, but Spike, Jet, and Faye do all the story-telling heavy work.

The trick to it is to give each character a story that a) works and b) resonates with audiences. Way back about a bazillion posts ago I mentioned how they did that with Wolf’s Rain, by giving each member of the pack a stereotypical canine role. So when it came time for them to get together, each of them had their own perspective and point of view to bring to the table.

Or like O Maidens in Your Savage Season.

When you get right down to it, Maidens is something that is both common in anime and also really clever. It’s common in that it’s gender-role reversed. I mean, you see that all the time, like in My Dress-Up Darling and Toradora and even Black Lagoon, right?

But the really clever thing is what they role reversed. The mangaka, Mari Okada, makes it very explicit (hur hur hur) that she wanted to take the adolescent male fantasy of losing one’s virginity, and look at it from a female perspective. No, not from the standpoint of being hunted or pressured by boys; she wanted to show us girls who were finding out about sex and wanted to find out more.

Oooh! Girls who are interested in sex! Well, learning about it, at least.

So what she did was give each of the five main girls a specific approach to their own sexuality. Each of the girls is, if you like, a type:

Kazusa is a “good girl” discovering she has romantic feelings for her childhood friend Izumi, and wants to know if, and, if so, how sex figures into that
Hitoha (my fave) has decided she wants it and she wants it now, from a guy she met on the Internet, who (oops) turns out to be their teacher
Momoko starts exploring her sexuality – conceptually, not physically – and as she does she discovers she may be a lesbian
Rika is a prude horrified by the idea of “Ess-Ee-Double-Cross” (she can’t even make herself say the word) until it turns out what she was really afraid of was that no one would be attracted to her
Niina is a former child actor/model who had bad experiences with a mentor who was a pedophile

From left: Kasuza, Momoka, Rika, Hitoha, Niina. Rika is laying down the law:
No member of the literary club may use the word “sex”

Those different backgrounds AUTOMATICALLY give them different and distinct perspectives on the subject. It’s really elegant. All Okada had to do was make sure she kept the girls’ ideas distinct and they remain distinct characters. And because each girl is a “type” (or a trope, if you prefer), each of them resonates with at least part of the audience.

And then those different perspectives create a certain level of tension inside the group. The other girls look at Hitoha, for instance, and say, “How can you be like that?” Because they see things differently than she does.

To keep things going Okada tosses in one extra source of underlying tension for each character. Ready?

Kazusa walks in on Izumi masturbating and has to face the idea that sex is him putting “that” into her
Hitoha is tiny and child-like physically while she is pursuing an adult male
Momoka develops a crush on Niina
Rika, the prude, is the first of the gang to get a steady boyfriend
Niina finds herself attracted to good guy Izumi

So you get one really unhealthy relationship (Hitoha and the teacher Tomoaki), one really healthy, sweet one, (Rika and her boy Shun, who is basically a really nice guy), a love triangle around Kazusa, Niina, and Izumi, and Momoka’s “Love That Dare Not Say It’s Name”. (Fortunately things are slowly improving for our LGBTQIA+ friends, but it’s still too slow.)

All that relational stuff does, though, is keep the plot moving. To keep the girls separate and equal Okada made each girl a “type,” if you like, and then stuck to it. And BOOM! Five distinct and more-or-less equal characters.

That’s a nice piece of writing.

Final note: As I was doing my research I saw that Mari Okada also wrote the screenplay for the live-action The Flowers of Evil. Okada plus Oshimi mean I’m a-thinkin’ I might maybe want to be a-seein’ that there now.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

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