The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Junketsu no Maria

Title: Junketsu no Maria aka Maria the Virgin Witch
Genre: Drama/Action
Companies: Production I.G.
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 11 Jan 2015 – 29 Mar 2015

Synopsis: Bearing the name of the virgin Madonna, is the witch Maria lives during the 100 Years War. With an intense hatred of violence, she uses her magic to stymie conflict and heal the sick. It doesn’t take long, however, before her actions draw the attention of the Catholic Church as well as the Church of Heaven. Displeased with her blatant use of magic, the archangel Michael sends his agent , Yezechiel, to combat her interference. But judgement against her doesn’t end there, as it is then decreed that her powers will vanish the moment she loses her virginity. 

The Highlights
Themes of sex and religion: Addresses both subjects with restraint and respect.
Seiyuu: Carry the emotional weight of the work.
Cast: Plagued by contradictions and shine as they confront them.
Animation: Average, which is below average for Production I.G.
Resolution: Too clean, but not without emotional pull.

When the premise of an anime like Junketsu no Maria is centered around the main character’s virginity, it’s already fighting an uphill battle. From before the first episode I already was bracing myself for cheap fanservice humor. This is what I get for not seeing Taniguchi Goro‘s name listed as staff. Granted, this series isn’t above sex jokes when it’s to its benefit: Maria’s inability to make a proper Incubus as she has never seen a male member being a prime example. But for show about a girl’s maidenhood, sexploitation takes up an unprecedentedly negligible portion of airtime. Although Maria’s maturation is an ever present subject, in reality this is a tale about people struggling to reconcile their faith in the face of love, moral intuition, and the the cruel realities of life. 

For the characters of Junketsu no Maria, it is not to be scoffed at when their church fathers espouse not to “suffer a witch to live.” Those who associate with and confront Maria do not doubt the potential dangers. Carried on the back of stellar seiyuu work, the struggle is so visceral that even those guilty of repugnant actions find themselves worthy of a twisted sympathy. Compounding this is the blatant reality that the world of Junketsu no Maria is is a theistic one, although hardly a Sunday school interpretation. The version of God the in this series takes little vested interest in people as individuals or their plights. When Maria is confronted by the Church of Heaven, it is not on the grounds of some biblical decree. Rather it is as if she were a leviathan acting in defiance against the natural order of the universe. For Maria herself, this struggle goes deeper, as her virginity becomes metaphor for her idealism that there is nothing sacrosanct about suffering. Some of the most gripping moments of the series involve her calling out the hypocrisies of Yezechiel and Bernard, agents of the respective churches. Admittedly though, her influence can come off as rather pat. 

This sense of conflicted loyalties and values seeps into all facets of the cast’s development. Less so are they defined by their roles in Feudal Europe, and more by trying to fit into those roles. Josef often finds himself walking into walls when his affections for Maria clash with the wishes of his lord. Subsequently the conniving monk Bernard must juggle the interests of the church with those of France. Compared to the characterization, the setting of the Hundred Years War is to an extent window dressing. That being said, the show has enough respect for the setting to give it credibility. In place of charging hoards of men at arms are frightened peasants with barely a hat an some boiled leather to ward off spears, longbows, and the occasional hand cannon. I would expect no less from a director like Taniguchi Goro whose penchant for thoroughness had shined through before with his presentation of Earth orbit in Planetes.

In light of Taniguchi‘s accomplishments, this is hardly his most immaculate directorial work. The animation is rather average, which is below average by Production I.G. standards. CG is limp and a surprising quantity of frames are obviously reused. Additionally there is the the tightness of the cast. Of all the witches besides Maria, only Viv and Edwina have anything in the way of distinct personalities, the appearance of the others being little more than token. The spirit of Maria’s woods is equally expendable for all he contributes.

With a pallet containing wartime Medieval France, witchcraft, religious conflict, and various sexual hijinks, there is a great deal of precision that seems to have gone into what was utilized in Junketsu no Maria. All things considered, this is by far Taniguchi’s most restrained work. This doesn’t have to be Code Geass granted. The series succeeds as a simple story of one girl’s coming of age as well as her influence on others. This tightness allows the show’s themes to permeate into all aspects of it. And the depth this provides makes me ever thankful for Taniguchi’s return to the director’s seat.

The Rating: 8
8/10

Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx

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