Reviewby Rose Bridges,
Maria the Virgin Witch Episodes 1-12 Streaming
Maria is a powerful young witch living in France during the Hundred Years' War. She hates the war and interferes with the battles to try to stop it, earning the support of common people, the hatred of the church and the confusion of her fellow witches. Maria is also a virgin, in spite of her obvious crush on a nearby boy named Joseph. Her owl-succubus Artemis and the other witches pick on her for this. Her life is frustrating, but fun, until the Archangel Michael and church authorities take notice and decide they've had enough. Now Maria must fight for her ideals and her community.
What do you get when combine magical girls, medieval history, a thesis on religion and female sexuality, penis jokes and dancing owls? You get Maria the Virgin Witch, the sleeper hit of the winter 2015 anime season. This show came out of nowhere among a pack of other heavyweights, and still managed to shine with its unique combo of thoughtfulness, action and humor. Its manga didn't show any indication of the complicated themes it would present, and the adaptation team isn't a group known for such extensive rewrites. However, Maria the Virgin Witch not only told its own story, but an immensely satisfying one. It's a fun watch from start to finish, tying up the series in a complete, cute bow.
That doesn't mean the plot is always running at full speed ahead. Some people may struggle to get invested in the story in the beginning, especially if you don't care for the show's humor. Even then, the show blazes ahead on the strength of its characters. Maria the Virgin Witch is full of fun designs, especially with the shape-shifting supernatural characters. Maria turns owls into incubi and succubi, and we later meet an angel who can turn into a dove. The human characters are colorful and cute, too, especially the uncertain but trustworthy Joseph and the other witches. Sassy Viv and awkward Edwina brighten up all their scenes. I could watch a show all about the different witches of this series' medieval Europe. For all the big meaty themes that dominate the discussion, a lot of Maria the Virgin Witch is just fun. A huge chunk of that fun is watching the characters bounce off each other.
Maria herself is a strong female character, in both the "well-written and believable" and "inspiring badass" senses. She's a powerful witch with a lot of influence over her society, but still a vulnerable teenager. She's mystified and scared by sexuality in spite of her rejection of the church's teachings on it. This is a show that really nails its portrayal of teenage sexuality and how society stumbles with it, including in a traumatic sexual assault scene. It neither fetishizes nor downplays the moment's affects on the victim, but also makes the perpetrator somewhat sympathetic. It's not there to accentuate his evil. It's just an unfortunate reflection of how her society views female sexuality as nothing but a tool. Maria the Virgin Witch understands how such a sensitive topic should be portrayed on every level.
So Maria the Virgin Witch can be pretty dark, but luckily, it doesn't stay there. It's also very funny. Its sense of humor is both sharp and immature, dominated by raunchy sex humor. It's because it's the tasteful kind that refuses to punch down, unlike far too many anime that make jokes out of harassment and blurred boundaries. Maria's jokes are basic stuff about penises and incubus-owls who don't have them, but they still manage to work on multiple levels and feel fresh. That gag also pokes at Maria's ignorance and innocence, and the whole concept of "sex demons" being kind of ridiculous in the first place. Sex demons made out of bouncing owls are even more so! The show tackles a variety of tones, and always bounces between them expertly.
I was struck by how well researched the series is. It nails the reality of the Hundred Years' War and life during the Late Middle Ages. At least, its faults are ones that can largely be explained by creative license given its fantasy setting. I'm not sure when we last had a fantasy anime this smart about history: the original Fullmetal Alchemist? The 14th and 15th centuries were an era of great cultural and political change, including the first cracks in the church's control and the beginning of the witch-burning craze. I can't imagine a better time to set a show about a young witch challenging the power of the medieval church. Even the fantasy mechanics play into this. In Maria the Virgin Witch's world, gods are given power by how many people believe in them. When they lose faith, the gods' power diminishes. Religion not only changes human societies, but the laws of the natural world around it.
The visuals are not particularly standout, but pleasing to the eye and well-matched to the show. Maria uses a lot of natural hair colors (except for the more supernatural characters) and an earthy color palette. It works well for this more realist approach to medieval fantasy. It's easy to see it as an alternate version of our own world during that time period. The score is your standard Ren-Faire orchestration—lots of lutes and recorders—interspersed with more traditional anime action scoring. It has some more inspired touches, like the strange, haunting vocal harmonies used for the angel scenes. Maria the Virgin Witch isn't heavily animated a lot of the time, but when it does go for epic magical showdowns, it looks good.
All this amounts to a show that works in many different ways, and will appeal to many different types of anime fans. Scholarly and artsy people will love it for its themes. Giggly teens should enjoy its sex jokes. Anyone looking for a good medieval action series will be pleased by the flashy battles between the witches and angels. The characters are fun, and their rounded designs make them even more likable. Though it flew under the radar for much of its runtime, Maria the Virgin Witch has all the potential to be a crowd-pleaser.
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Colorful and likable cast of characters; sophisticated handling of troubling topics; sharp sense of humor; looks very nice
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