One might as well start off October with an anime about a witch. 🙂
Maria the Virgin Witch is, as the name would suggest, about a witch, named Maria, who happens to be a virgin. It’s a very accurate title.
Maria is a witch in France during the Hundred Years War with England. She cares about people, about their safety and continuing lives, so she often interferes with the battles in progress around her. As one of the most powerful witches of her era, she can be like a godsend when her arrival happens to save one’s life, but to many, her antics are a costly, insurmountable obstacle. She meddles without any clear plan or any understanding of the ramifications of her actions. Mercenaries don’t get paid, lords don’t gain anything to offset the cost of the war, and the local Church brands her a heretic. But most of all, her interference in human events draws the judgment of the Archangel Michael, who forbids her to continue and decrees that she shall lose her magical powers the moment she loses her virginity.
That last is apparently to teach her about choosing between her happiness or the happiness of the world, because if she really feels so strongly about what she’s doing then she should be willing to make the sacrifice for the common good, but, then again, she’s forbidden from interfering anyway, so… yeah, I don’t really get it.
In fact, there’s a great deal about this anime I don’t really get. When we got to the end I was thinking, “…and the point of all that was… what?”
Let me just say, I can appreciate how the show does not shy away from complicated material. There is a lot of texture here to enjoy, including discussions about war, peace, free will, compassion, religion, and more. But exactly how it handles these subjects leaves something to be desired. There was a scene where a particular priestly figure was devolving into mad mumblings as he tried to make sense of various overly-complicated concepts which are utterly incomprehensible, especially when compared with the simplicity of Maria’s convictions, before arriving at another overly-complicated conclusion that defies comprehension, let alone true appreciation. It feels a bit like the whole anime turns out like that, just throwing everything together without really arriving at any coherent conclusion.
And without a proper point, everything that happens is really just stuff that happens.
Not to make it sound as if what happens isn’t an enjoyable ride!
The animation is generally pretty smooth, the music is fantastic, and I love several of the characters.
Maria, of course, takes the lead. She’s a young, adorable, lovable witch with a spirited will and a dream of peace which she wants to make into a reality. But she’s also very naïve, emotional, impulsive, and short-sighted, never thinking things through. Heck, even the emotional depth of her convictions is shallow at first, as she only does what she does because she wants to, with no further thought or even feeling given to her actions. She selfish, and very immature for someone who has as much power as she wields. So, she’s very flawed, but she tries, and she genuinely cares, which earns her some stalwart defenders. It’s not that she’s bad, it’s just that she’s very imbalanced, in the way that any virtue, any virtue, can become a vice if taken too far. And she has some hard lessons to learn from.
I also liked the characters of Maria’s familiars and Ezekiel, the angel Michael leaves with Maria to monitor her. The three of them together with Maria were pretty entertaining to watch, not least because it was like throwing a sheep to the wolves, dropping an angel in their midst. Ezekiel also provided part of the discussion about free will, as he (or she? I can’t really tell) develops such after being made to do things unwillingly.
I liked the little girl from the village and her grandmother, and a couple of the other witches, especially the one that just wants to be left alone.
There were a number of other characters, in fact, much like the themes, it got a bit crowded and it cut between them all so much that only a few were really developed in any meaningful way. There were the monks, who tended towards zealotry, intellectualism, and hypocrisy, a greedy lord, and some ruthless mercenaries, all of whom Maria angers with her actions. There was an ancient pagan god, little more than a mass of shifting shadows now, who was a sort of lurking presence and we didn’t know if he was a friend or a foe, but he ultimately turned out to be pretty irrelevant. The same for most of the other witches, they were pretty much all the same and ultimately didn’t do much. The Valkyries, especially, were just background decorations.
But I think the biggest disappointment was actually Maria’s love interest. It was perfectly obvious they were going to end up together, and the show reaches its culmination when they finally become a couple. Yet, he felt pretty dull and “perfect” to me. Outside of sharing her ideals for peace, they didn’t seem to have anything in common, and it didn’t feel like they had any real chemistry. I didn’t really understand the connection between them.
On a note related to Maria’s romantic life, the significance of her virginal status felt way overdone. I mean, what did anyone else care about it? Oh, she has name like Mary! Like thousands of other women! And she happens to still be a virgin at the moment! Like the Virgin Mary! Big deal! What’s that matter to a monk who can’t even understand what he’s been preaching because it’s a convoluted, and highly inaccurate, mess?
And with her virginal status being so important, of course the show absolutely has to delve into sex and sexuality and sexual behavior, right? They managed to keep what they showed somewhat censored, though they absolutely made fun of that and the censors in the process, but they definitely discussed and alluded to a number of things that are quite definitely not child-friendly! It was sort of equal parts hilarious and obnoxious. Not to mention how they dressed Maria, the other witches, and their familiars in such racy outfits so much. I mean, I know they just wanted them to look physically alluring for the audience, but, still, why would they dress like that back then?
Finally, there’s the plot. It could be funny, and it could be thrilling and gripping, especially when Maria’s actions backfired and threatened her imminent destruction. But it tried to be too intricate and complex, depending on details that came and went without time to really remember them later. The characters and the pacing both suffered for that, I think. The entire story needed some refining.
Though, personal note, I loved Maria’s magical menagerie of monsters! It’s not often I see so many monsters I know, and a even a few I didn’t! 🙂
Maria the Virgin Witch is basically an anime that has some good points, and had some promise, but it tries to do too much at once. I love the magic and some of the characters, but the themes and plot are so convoluted they turn out weak in the end, and the plot is all over the place. It’s a good piece of eye candy to kill a few hours with, and good for a laugh if one doesn’t have any children in the room, but it leaves a few things to be desired.
Rating: 6 stars out of 10.