Studio: Studio Deen
Ratings (of 5)
OP/ED Themes: ♥♥½
Confession time: I've never watched or read any of Maria-sama ga Miteru. So watching this first episode was, as with Tower of Druaga ~Sword of URUK~, a test to see if it would be reasonable for someone with no background in the series to jump right in.
Thus far, I'm going to say yes, it's possible-- the characters become clear very easily (although that may in part be that they're all familiar archetypes), and the setting is simple enough as well. There are a few aspects that you'd probably wind up needing to look up, like all the “family” structure stuff, but the story told is perfectly accessible: the student council decides to put on a play for the cultural festival, and several participants have several different issues. Light yuri and high school drama ensue.
I have to say, neither the art nor the animation is stellar, although it's decent, I suppose. The voice acting is good except that I have one complaint: am I the only one who thinks that Sachiko's seiyuu sounds way too old? I mean, I get that the character is supposed to seem very mature and adult, especially in contrast to the younger, perkier protagonist Yuki, but to me she sounds more like a 30 to 40-year-old mother than a 17 or 18-year-old high school student.
Beyond that I have neither strong complaints nor strong recommendations. It's a sweet series, and I'm always interested in yuri because it's relatively uncommon in anime...but the characters don't especially appeal to me: again, they're all school archetypes (sunny, honest, but unsure of herself protagonist; the all-knowing, all-kind school star; the snob who means well, etc)...nothing very fresh. But their interactions are utterly sweet, and if you're looking for a fairly calm, peaceful, mostly guy-free experience (along the lines of ARIA, for example), Maria's it-- start with season four if you'd like, or go back and pick up the first three.
That said, if the yuri undertones aren't different enough for you, you may find yourself wanting to move on to something else.