Maria the Virgin Witch
by Gabriella Ekens,
Since witnessing the foot-kissing incident, Gilbert has become disillusioned with Father Bernard. Gilbert is at least one villain in Maria the Virgin Witch who might be correctable. Unlike Galfa, Bernard, or Guillaume, the kid doesn't engage in scheming or harbor any repressed doubts about his righteousness – at least not until now. His moral compass isn't broken so much as insulated by his blind admiration for Bernard and faith in the Church as an institution. That's not to say that he isn't culpable, (he did supervise a Church-sanctioned rape,) but he's naïve about power games – or was, anyway. Before, Gilbert was Bernard's fawning lackey, and he idolized him as a model for “proper” behavior as a man of the cloth. However, now that it's become apparent that the priest might be a few apostles short of The Last Supper, Gilbert's entire image of the world (and of himself as a good person) risks being thrown into question. So it makes sense that he's started doubling down on his inquisitorial duties. It's an activity he can engage in somewhat independent of Bernard, where he believes that he's doing something unquestionably good. This is all probably shattered by Maria's escape and the revelation that the Church's medicines are being supplied by witches. He might have been able to rationalize his boss' creepiness, but an act of flat-out hypocrisy is harder to ignore. Welcome to the real world, Gil. (Bernard is supposed to be based on St Bernard of Clairvaux, a real medieval theologian whose claim to fame is having a vision of the Virgin Mary squirting breast milk into his eye. It's difficult to overlook the sexual overtones to this. He's famous for preaching about the Virgin Mary as an intercessor in immediate faith.)
While I'm on the subject, Maria's villains continue to impress. I like that none of them are cartoonish sociopaths. Even as they become increasingly unsympathetic, none of them do bad things for badness' sake. In fact, the disastrous ways in which Bernard and Galfa deal with their consciences are central to their characters and probably their eventual downfalls. Bernard distracts himself with abstract theology, (which is also an outlet for his libido,) but his perverse motivations are beginning to alienate others. Meanwhile, Galfa struggles to eliminate people he views as representative of a better self that he cannot achieve. Joseph is one of those people, and Galfa has resented him from the beginning, despite their apparent friendship. Joseph has what Galfa can't have – uncompromising moral assurance, the strength to rely on others, and a stable place in society. At first, Galfa's attack on Joseph seems to come out of nowhere, (and not just because it takes place in an anachronistic Sistine Chapel.) Maria's the one he has a beef with, not her sweet beau. However, it made sense when I realized that Joseph's existence prevents Galfa from completing his revenge in his own mind, and will always foil his bloody ambitions just by being around to judge him. Galfa wants to be ruthless, but he can't shake off that last shred of human decency. That's why he didn't rape Maria, and that's why he'll never be a king. He wants to be evil because it would make his life easier. We'll have to see how next episode elaborates on these ideas.
Edwina and Viv are this episode's MVPs, though. Viv finally got to call God out on his BS, at the cost of getting pierced through the abdomen by Michael's spear. (Worth it!) Michael is a sore loser. Viv's criticism is as follows: love is humanity's most transcendent feature. The Christian God marks itself as separate from humanity and denies them expressions of love. If something is left unexpressed, it might as well not exist, because only thoughts that are manifested as action can be perceived by others. Therefore, God is doing a disservice to humanity by refusing to ease suffering. To love someone is to help them, if it is within your power to do so. The need to justify God as he is causes people to accept the self-serving version of “love” proffered by the Church, which is primarily interested in maintaining its own power. Since Michael isn't actually acting with the backing of any sovereign authority, it's awfully presumptuous of him to declare his wrath "inevitable." He's not “punishing those who go against the natural order,” he's just taking out people who threaten Christianity's monopoly on miracles. In this show's universe, humanity made God, not the other way around. I guess “absolute conviction in its own authority” is one of the traits that Maria the Virgin Witch views as essential to Christianity. It's a Japanese show, and their historical relationship to the religion is complicated. Don't take it too personally, Western audience.
Edwina the Agoraphobic Witch came out of her shell to rescue Maria from burning at the stake. Count Guillaume hastened the inquisition in order to get rid of the witch before she could interfere with another battle, and also to get Joseph to stop pestering him about her. This meant that Maria was set to be executed about a day after her capture, too soon for the critically injured Viv to help out. Edwina at first rejected the owls' entreaties to save their master, citing a fear of the Archangel Michael, (as well as sunlight and air and people.) She even rejected Priapus' “seduction,” revealing that Maria might not be the only sexually awkward witch. Thankfully, she comes around, whisking Maria away with her own (ironically fire-based) magic. She came just in the nick of time too - Artemis and Priapus were about to charge in themselves, (to their likely deaths, poor babies). Her cat familiar also reveals its human form as that nun girl from the opening! I was waiting for her to show up in the story, and I'm glad that they're not introducing an entirely new character at this point. I like Edwina. Her character proves that Maria's influence can turn bystanders into allies. Maria's greatest strength isn't her magic, but her ability to encourage people to be their best possible selves.
Meanwhile, Maria is edging toward her culminant character development. She's examining her motivations for interfering with battles, asking herself if she really did it for selfless reasons or just to satiate her own ego. She asks herself if she will be able to continue her crusade against warfare if people hate her for it, and even celebrate her death. What if she'll always be alone? Only time will tell, but she has demanded that Edwina take her to the final battle, so clearly she's made some kind of decision. Two episodes left, and Maria is preparing to make a transcendent gesture that will enlighten both the English and the French as to their common humanity. What will it be?
Maria the Virgin Witch is currently streaming on Funimation.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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