I’ll say right from the start that I probably experienced Marimite in the exact way that it wasn’t supposed to be watched—half-drunk, marathoned over the course of two days (save the first two episodes) while furiously wrapping presents for an abruptly rescheduled Christmas family get-together, and with more of an eye for Yumi’s goofy expressions than any of the actual content. Under these circumstances, Berserk and Durarara!, two series not about the slow burn of burgeoning romance, would have most definitely been better choices.
I acknowledge that there are some series that are only really likable when ingested in small doses over a longer period of time, and Marimite is probably one of them. Most of my issues would probably be alleviated if I had drawn out my viewing over the course of the month. With that disclaimer out of the way, My Secret Santa Anime is Incredibly Dull.
If nothing else, Marimite is surprisingly refreshing. In a genre dominated by characters being irrational over the slightest perceived problems, having a show with people who talk things out like actual human beings is wonderful. Having a solid core of interpersonal interaction that uses a Catholic girl school as a garnish, rather than a crutch, makes room for . If it weren’t for a heap of issues, it’d be pretty damn great.
The biggest problem with Marimite is how it tries to sustain a 13 episode run of pure interpersonal drama, without having the variety to make it a viable approach. Despite not being obtrusively bad, the washed-out color pallet and inconsistent character designs do not complement the series’ never-ending array of talking heads. Brighter scenery and more action would have livened things up to no end. I don’t necessarily mean violence (though that would certainly help), just characters doing more than meandering around campus and whinging about Senpai/Kouhai not paying attention to them. Every potentially volatile scene is only a backdrop to the interpersonal drama—not a bad approach in and of itself, but again, the lack of variety makes repetition a very real problem.
Many series fall short because they’re just characters doing a bunch of disconnected stuff. Marimite’s approach of only saying stuff, without much action or vibrancy to back it up, is hardly any better. Hell, it only says the same stuff every time, just in different ways. The vast majority of the show is almost all characters monologuing about interpersonal insecurity, talking to everybody but the object of their worry about interpersonal insecurity, or showing interpersonal insecurity to the object of their worry by crying. This insecurity is very well presented, and shows a mature understanding of human interaction, but when it’s all the series does, the positives get drowned out by boredom.
It’s all too often the same characters going through the same problems, and it gets tiresome really quickly. Even more often, the characters don’t have much reason for being insecure. Emotions are just conjured out of the ether to be used where appropriate, with context only being given as an afterthought. The emotions also rarely manage to evolve past jealousy or loneliness, which does not help matters.
Contrast this with the Monogatari series, which makes endless conversations more interesting by accompanying them with vibrant colors and ever-morphing character and background designs. The dialogue itself is often present purely for the sake of conversation, letting characters poke and probe at each other in an effort to better know their conversation partner. It accomplishes roughly as much as Marimite in the same amount of time, but by utilizing greater variety in everything, it makes up for some glaring issues.
It’s amazing how much a stiff presentation can affect how good a show is. With just a little more flair and some knowledge of how to connect important scenes, Marimite could have been /really/ good. It excellently (and only) captures the rampant insecurities of teenage romance/friendships, making for some well-realized characters and surprising moments of emotional depth. And save for Yumi, who has the personality of a lobotomized damp rock, all of the girls are memorable and manage to endear themselves well before the series’ end.
Unsurprisingly for being the person around whom the series orbits, Sachiko ends up being the best character, her strengths and flaws feeling the most like a whole person. It’s painful to watch somebody who naturally pulls herself away from others due to a detached childhood, and even more when she doesn’t realize she’s doing so. She’s flawed, but the flaws don’t feel tacked on for the sake of just being there.
If Marimite did more with its premise and characters, I could have easily seen it becoming a favorite, even in the half-drunk haze of the pre-Christmas frenzy. As it stands, it’s a decent show that’s let down by only doing the same thing time and time and time and time (and time) again. It ignores what makes shoujo agonizing, i.e. overwrought drama, but manages to fall short for the exact opposite reason. Ultimately, it just isn’t engaging.