I recently finished the anime O Maidens in Your Savage Season, a charming but emotionally raw look at the girls of a high school literature club struggling with discovering their own romantic and sexual desires. It’s based on a manga by the same name, but the adaptation process has a bit of an unusual wrinkle to it. The manga is written by Okada Mari—an anime scriptwriter (The Woman Called Mine Fujiko, AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day)—and the anime’s scriptwriter is, well, Okada Mari.
Rarely does something like this happen, and the closest example I can think of is Yasuhiko “Yaz” Yoshikazu, who went from being the character designer on Mobile Suit Gundam to adapting the anime to the Gundam: The Origin manga to seeing the The Origin adapted into an anime. What this means is that O Maidens in Your Savage Season is built from the ground up by Okada, and that it is essentially a distillation of the very narrative structure she’s built her career on.
Without going into any major spoilers, nowhere is this more evident than the final episode, when after grappling with their messy emotions episode after episode, all of the major characters gather in one place and let all their true thoughts out loudly and passionately. This sort of climax is the very essence of Okada’s work in anime across genres and themes. AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day (heart-wrenching teen drama), The Woman Called Mine Fujiko (surreal feminist character re-imaginging) M3: The Dark Metal (brooding psychological mecha), Anthem of the Heart (a story of processing childhood trauma), Aquarion EVOL (over-the-top mecha series as sex allegory), and Mayoiga: The Lost Village (uhhh…still not sure?) can be very different from one another, but they all head in a similar direction by the end.
There’s a certain beat-you-over-the-head obviousness with this approach, but at the very least, Okada’s stronger works incorporate that blunt firehose spray of pent-up feelings in more creative and satisfying ways. O Maidens in Your Savage Season builds up to that point successfully, and reminds me a bit of Anthem of the Heart, which I love and hold up as peak Okada.
Because so many of these works wind up with all the central players in one place shouting how they feel at one another, it can sometimes come across as contrived, unrealistic, or perhaps even condescending. However, like in O Maidens in Your Savage Season, these series often feature characters who spend the vast majority of their stories avoiding uncomfortable confrontation, whether to spare their own feelings or the feelings of others. Having these forces all clash together can be very cathartic beyond simply that emotional release, as you get to see a bunch of anime teenagers be direct for once.
O Maidens in Your Savage Season is far less fantastical than many of Okada’s other series, but it makes those small-stakes anxieties both entertaining and suffocatingly real. It’s both light and heavy at the same time, and this contrast makes for a memorable and creative work.