The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Maria+Holic

Title: Maria+Holic
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Company: SHAFT/Genco/Media Factory
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 4 Jan 2009 – 22 Mar 2009

Synopsis: Miyamae Kanako is a perverted lesbian who cannot come into contact with men without breaking out in hives. To deal with both these situations, she aptly transfers to the prestigious all-girls school Ame no Kisaki. On her first day, she comes upon a beautiful freshman by the name of Shidou Mariya, whom Kanako falls for head over heels instantly. Unfortunately for Kanako, her crush turns out to be a cross-dressing boy, who is determined to maintain his secret at the cost of Kanako’s freedom, dignity, and happiness.

The Highlights
Hijinks: Scientifically designed to cause maximum suffering.
Humor: Generally clever, though it occasionally backfires.
Shinbo’s style: Helps to augment the absurdity.
Episode 6 plot twist: Horrible, but intentionally so.
Episodes 11 and 12: Sparkle brilliance.

I don’t think I’ll ever get the anime obsession surrounding Catholic schools. Perhaps it is the prospect of an all-girls school that, by the laws of fiction, increases the chances of lesbianism. Or it could just be an way to have an “exotic” setting without putting too much effort into research. Maybe I’m looking too much into this, but if Maria+Holic says anything about the genre, then my assumptions are probably true, which effectively makes the whole genre a viable candidate for total mockery.

When it aired, I had asked my brother what Maria+Holic was about. He bluntly replied that it was about “a cross dresser and a lesbian.” As far as premises go, that one is pretty absurd. Then again, if two words could be used to describe this anime, one of them would definitely have to be “absurd.” The very act of giving Shinbo time in the director’s seat guarantees a dose of high insanity. Furthermore, the tools and personalities that he uses fit his brand of humor, including Kanako’s perverted inner monologues, the divine landlady who appreciates things with tragic histories, and of course, a well-meaning yet perverted priest who just doesn’t get it. These are among the greatest things the series has to play with, exploiting them for hijinks ranging from the clever to the grotesque though sometimes the gag’s cleverness gets in the way of the humor. Some are Zetsubou Sensei-style esoteric, such as the Virtual Boy gag while others take too long to process. A glaring example of this is in the hilariously cruel sixth episode. In a series of this length, this tends to be when the die is cast, but the twist brought up here is so horrendously stupid that it has to be a joke. Unfortunately, by the time that became clear, my focus had already shifted to some other deliciously evil moment. And evil moments are what Maria+Holic is all about.

What gives this particular anime a leg up is the second word that describes it, “shadenfreude.” Hardly five minutes can go by without a scene in which Kanako is being tormented by Mariya, has her fantasies crushed in her face, or gets stalked by the aforementioned priest. The series is horrifically cruel, and all for the sake of comedy. In fact, this anime is somewhat passé when these elements are taken out, something characteristic of the lesser episodes. Such moments are in direct contrast with the last two, where every possible ailment and torture is inflicted upon Kanako, correlating directly with the number of laughs per minute.

I don’t know if I’m the right person to offer a recommendation for Maria+Holic, let alone sum it all up. With no prior experience with either Catholic schools or central and overt lesbianism in anime, there is nothing I can say in terms of the genre. But as a comedy, it certainly succeeds enough to be given adequate praise. Just keep in mind that if you are feeling empathetic anytime during your viewing experience, you are probably watching it wrong.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx

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