Maria the Virgin Witch
by Gabriella Ekens,
It turns out that Maria's powers are rooted in her self-confidence. She was probably only vulnerable to Michael's virginity curse for as long as she was sensitive about being a virgin, and now that she's gotten over that, her powers have returned. Her virginity is associated with her assurance in her own righteousness, so Maria comes out of this story with a renewed (and more nuanced) commitment to pacifism. Plus a boyfriend. That's sweet. Especially if that boyfriend is Joseph, king of sweethearts, the kind of guy who shyly proposes to his girl over the body of her unconscious attempted rapist. It's a win for everyone except Bernard, who Gilbert now knows as a hypocritical creep, Count Guillaume, who doesn't get what he wants out of the war, and Galfa, whose pride will never be the same. So it's a win for everyone who matters.
Here's how it all went down. After narrowly dodging being burnt at the stake last episode, Maria rushes to interfere with the latest battle. Despite lacking her powers, she rushes through the chaotic streets to find Joseph, who's currently engaged in a brawl to the death with Galfa. Joseph is still alive, but he won't be able to outlast the experienced warrior. Galfa taunts him for his privilege, naïveté, and righteousness, while Joseph admits to always being envious of Galfa's ability to actualize his will. It's the same trait he admires in Maria, and the comparison to the witch heightens Galfa's ferocity. Fortunately, Maria arrives in time to drop-kick the mercenary in the face. A headbutt from Joseph takes him out, and then he spends a good minute punching his former friend in the face.
Afterwards, Joseph catches a case of the man-feelings. It's okay, bro. We like you for who you are: the team's passive but unwavering heart. Maria will help Joseph become less of a pushover, while Joseph will help her maintain confidence. (Ugh, they're so good for each other. It's adorable.) This series largely works because of the chemistry between its two leads. They're both comfortable with the other's frustrations and can complement the other's flaws. The two work out their relationship issues right there in the church, which culminates in a love confession and Maria regaining her powers. They come back stronger than ever, and Maria stops the battle by having a giant tree sprout throughout the town. She and Joseph are then summoned into heaven, presumably because Michael is itching for his own drop-kicking.
This could have served as a good finale, actually. Everything that absolutely needed to go down went down. The last episode will likely be a coda spelling out the show's themes and detailing what the cast went on to do afterwards. That's not a bad thing – one of the best things about the show is that it deals with serious material in a very mature way without ever losing its coziness. It's amazing to think that no named characters died, but it still feels like a gritty and “realistic” portrayal of medieval warfare.
It's also neat to see a man given the role usually slotted to the hapless female love interest. That's not to say that Joseph doesn't hold his own in the narrative. I'm impressed by how they managed to flip around the gender dynamics in their relationship without turning Joseph into a male damsel in distress. Joseph and Maria cooperate in order to defeat Galfa, and then work out the issues in their relationship as equals. This show challenges the way fiction usually presents masculinity – the two most traditionally masculine men are not only the most villainous, but also trapped in their ways because of how they internalize masculine ideals. Galfa uses his libido to obtain power, while Bernard exercises power to satiate his libido.
I wonder if Ezekiel will get to live with Maria again? While the Heavenly Church will likely not waver in their castigation of Maria, the witch has at least managed to expand one angel's worldview. Next time, Maria and Joseph will consummate their love over Michael's unconscious body!
Broadcast Dub Review
I want to like this dub. I really do. It has all of the materials to be solid. Patrick Seitz's adaptive scripting is neat, funny, and loyal to the source material. The actors are all well cast, and most of them have proven themselves to have serious chops in other dubs. Admittedly, Maria the Virgin Witch is one of my favorite shows in a long time. All the same, I can't say that it sounds good. In fact it sounds quite bad, and it's a specific, unusual type of bad at that. It sounds like disinterested high school students reciting Shakespeare for class. As a professional production, this is not only unacceptable but bizarre. What the hell happened?
I'm pretty sure that this is a direction problem. You can tell because the issues are uniform throughout all of the characters' performances without being rooted in the script. It's a pretty good script! On paper, all of the characters have different voices. Artemis gets the double entendres, Joseph speaks with earnest formality, and Maria alternates between genuine and feigned confidence. There are even some nice turns of phrase: “The battlefield to the south is no longer a worry, now that I've dealt with their southern battlefields.” The problem is all in the delivery. The emphasis is all over the place, and there are strange pauses in most sentences. The worst is the scene where Maria and Joseph meet for the first time, which genuinely sounds like this intentionally bad faux-Shakespearean dialogue scene. There's a way to make this kind of metered old-timey dialogue work without making it the most stilted thing ever. Romeo x Juliet managed it. This dub did not.
There are a few other baffling choices. They've inserted some French phrases here and there that are more distracting than anything else. In a similar vein, Viv is also given a strong English accent. This is odd, considering that they don't give any of the French characters French accents. They're all trying to mimic Middle-English speaking patterns anyway, so it's just a jarring reminder that this show doesn't subscribe to real-world language usage.
My only guess is that Funimation's simultaneous dubbing schedule finally caught up with them. It's been a success so far – their previous releases this season have all ranged in quality from “great” to “acceptable.” Maybe the schedule was just too tight for this one show. Who knows. I'll be keeping up with this dub to see whether it improves, but right now, I can't in good conscience recommend it.
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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