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Nanako is the main character of the story, meaning it's around her that the story develops. In fact, rather than determining herself the events, she reacts to what happens around her. The viewer (or the reader) sees and discovers the world of Seiran Institue through her gentle eyes.
Nanako is a sweet and generous 16-year-old girl, who just wants to "be loved by the others, even if only a bit", and doesn't mean to harm anyone. She is suddenly plunged into a world that may change her deeply, as she becomes a member of the Sorority, a prestigious school organisation that only the richest, most beautiful and sophisticated girls can access, the dream of all the youngest students.
Nanako's admittance, decided by Lady Miya, will set in motion around the young character a real storm of envy, "retaliations", and threats, causing Nanako's disbelieved desperation before so much violence addressed towards her. After losing for some time Tomoko's support, object of sometimes excessive attentions from the devoted and troubled Mariko Shinobu, Nanako finds comfort in the letters she writes to her "dear brother", Takehiko, in the friendship of Kaoru, who protects her more than once, and most of all in her deep interest for the charming and mysterious Saint Just, who Nanako probably feels very close in her sufferings...
In the end, Nanako will be deeply affected by her experiences at Seiran, by the contact with a world that taught her what jealousy, envy and torments behind her imagination and innocence are....
Tomoko has been Nanako's best friend and support since childhood. Because of Nanako's admission in the Sorority their relationship - and the trust Tomoko has in Nanako - will be affected negatively.
Differently from the manga, however, in the anime this rift, caused by some lies told by Mariko, will be resolved, and Tomoko will always be by Nanako's side, inciting and helping her as usual in her moments of despair or difficulty.
With the passing of time, Tomoko will also become friends with Mariko, and will defend her in front of the others more than once.
Tomoko's presence in the anime helps in giving a tone of "normality", and helps the viewer not to lose the contact with real life: while all the girls at Seiran base their lives on the Sorority's activities, making of them a matter of life and death , Tomoko always shines in her simplicity, letting the viewer breathe in relief...
Mariko is Nanako's classmate - she sits close to her - and is immediately attracted by her; she is a very beautiful girl who, not differently from the others, wants to become a member of the Sorority, and is very proud of her beauty. She wants Nanako to become her best and closest friend, and is very jealous of Nanako's friendship with Tomoko. For this reason, she'll try to undermine this relationship, telling some lies to Tomoko.
She passionately defends Nanako in several occasions, but sometimes her behaviour is excessive; her sometime strange attitude towards the others is mainly caused by her serious family problems (the relationship between her parents is in a crisis, and because of his father Mariko completely distrusts men...).
For some time, Mariko will risk losing forever Nanako's friendship. Mariko has very deep feelings for Kaoru, and in time she'll also become a friend of Tomoko's.(only in the anime version).
Kaoru is an androgynous beauty, she's one year older than Nanako, but she's in the same class as her because a mysterious disease prevented her from attending school for a year. Kaoru is a real leader, in fact, besides being the "class-leader", she's also the captain of the school basketball team. She has a noble and generous heart, and can't bear any form of injustice or abuse of power.
The name everybody calls her, "Kaoru-no-kimi" (Prince Kaoru), comes from Kaoru Udaisho, a noble character from the ancient Japanese tale Genji Monogatari, a character famous for his beauty and the divine fragrance coming from his body.
well-known for her intense vitality and her incredible love for life; she's
probably Saint Just's closest friend, she deeply cares for her and often
gets mad at Rei's neglect for her health. Kaoru's heart still belongs to
a person who is very close to Nanako, a very deep relationship she decided
Her look, mainly in the manga, vaguely reminds of Andre Grandier from Versailles no Bara...
Rei is a charming girl attending the second year at Seiran. Nanako meets her for the first time in the bus taking her and Tomoko to their first day in the new high school. Nanako is immediately impressed by her beauty, her confident attitude, and most of all by her "warm and deep" voice.
Just like Kaoru, she's an androgynous beauty: she always wears dark man clothes, is a rebel (she smokes uncaring of school rules and likes throwing knives in the old clock tower); she's a very sensitive and tormented soul (she reads and recites Verlaine's poems), she's worshipped by all the youngest students (she plays basketball, plays in the school theatre, she can play wonderfully the piano, the flute, the violin - and guitar in the manga- ). However, everywhere Rei goes, she always takes with her a wide range of pills, that help her forget or ease the pain in her soul, caused mainly by her mysterious and complicated relationship with Lady Miya.
Rei's nickname comes from Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just, the historic character from French Revolution who sent many opponents to death by guillotine, famous for his cold beauty and called "The Angel of Death". And exactly like the person she takes her name from, Rei's eyes, with "non-human and superior attitude" "attentively observe an undefined and distant point, maybe death...", as Nanako says reading Saint Just's biography (Kaoru and Nanako's description of Rei is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful moments of the entire series).
If Kaoru reminds of Andre in her look, Rei, with her long blond hair and deep blue eyes, reminds of Oscar...(she has virtually the same look as Oscar in the manga version)
[Curious to see the "real" Saint-Just? Here is a portrait from Carnavalet Museum.
Or you can also visit this interesting site, featuring the "Bicentenaire de la mort de Saint Just et la Revolution" held in Tokyo in 1994, with portraits, his family tree, and a section with "images of Saint Just re-created in Japanese girls comics". ]
A very beautiful girl, unquestioned leader of the Sorority and President of the Student Council. Elegant and refined, Fukiko influences and controls everyone around her, determining their happiness or despair. She has a capricious character, both able of extreme tenderness and chilling wickedness.
She seems to have a liking for Nanako (and we'll gradually understand why) and she'll help her become a member of the Sorority, causing a real storm around the young character. Her attitude towards Nanako, however, will always be stressed by several ups and downs, mainly because of Nanako's relationship with Takehiko (and partly with Rei).
The main target of her gratuitous wicked actions, however, is always Saint Just, with whom she has a mysterious and complicated relationship...
In her "anime" version we get to discover something more of Fukiko's past and secrets, and in general she's better described than the manga, revealing a "nobility" (especially in the end of the story) and dignity somehow lacking in her manga version.
The "dear brother" of the title, he's a reassuring figure to whom Nanako
tells her life experiences by letter . Takehiko is linked to Nanako by
more than this elective relationship, and is more in contact than Nanako
may imagine with some girls surrounding her and affecting her life.
He's a student at university, and his dream is to make an academic career abroad, especially in Germany. He's a quiet and serious guy, and deeply cares for Nanako.
In the beginning, the name of this character often appearing in Takehiko's company is never mentioned. He's Henmi's good-humoured and genial friend and university colleague. The first time we see him alone is in the building where Saint Just lives, and in time we'll discover how he's related to Rei...
He likes Mariko Shinobu, and will try very patiently to win her heart, mainly being there for her in a very difficult moment of her life.
Aya Misaki & Co.
Aya is one of Mariko and Nanako's class mates. The daughter of a famous lawyer, she wishes with all her strength to become a member of the Sorority, like her mother had been when she was young. The main target of her wickedness and malicious remarks is Nanako, as Aya thinks she's completely unworthy of being a Sorority member. Some time later, Mariko, who's always been in competition with her, will become her main target.
She has two friends supporting and following her almost everywhere, Furuta and Sonobe, and in the anime she reminded me of the character of Iriza Legan in Candy Candy...
She's better described in the anime version, where we get to know some elements of her past and some hidden aspects (like her sweetness and solitude) of her personality and behaviour.
Prof. Misonoo is Nanako's stepfather. He married Nanako's mother after
he divorced from his wife, and after Nanako's mother had been left by the
Nanako's father - a man she never married -. Both the characters
look quiet and patient.
Prof. Misonoo is a well-known university teacher; he had got a son from his first wife, and this son couldn't accept his father's "betrayal". But prof. Misonoo continued to support him financially after the death of the boy's mother. He hasn't seen him for 13 years.
Nanako doesn't know she has this step-brother, and both her father and mother hid this secret for a long time; even if the girl will eventually know the identity of this mysterious character...
Both these characters are important to understand Mariko's sometimes
Mariko's father is a popular writer of porno-novels, and this never helped Mariko in her social relationship at Seiran. His relationship with his wife has been in a state of crisis for a long time, and we sometimes see Mr. Shinobu with a beautiful lover walking by his side. Mr. and Mrs. Shinobu eventually plan to divorce.
Mariko's mother is a quiet and irresolute character, she seems unable to say no, and seems somehow conditioned by her daughter's strong personality.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Shinobu will eventually discover again how important is their role in Mariko's life, taking their decisions about the family with more awareness.
* Image taken from Marie Kelly's "Oniisama E" web site.