Maria the Virgin Witch
by Gabriella Ekens,
This episode might not have been necessary, but it sure was satisfying. Maria's character growth was cemented last episode when she and Joseph resolved to be together, so this was mostly a final articulation of Maria the Virgin Witch's themes. There's a middle ground between the pursuit of happiness and grand ideals. Instead of butting heads against the inevitability of human conflict, it's best to form connections with others and try to protect them. You can't impose your worldview onto anyone else, but if you're present and listen to others, they may come to understand or even agree with you. This method is much more effective and worthwhile than force because it enlightens people rather than imposing ideas on them – a method that leads to resentment and further pain, as illustrated by Galfa. While this is by no means a unique stance (both this season's Tokyo Ghoul and Yurikuma Arashi say similar things), Maria the Virgin Witch stands as a successful and even feminist work of humanism.
Maria's victory comes from getting Michael to back down voluntarily. Her actions in stopping battles have granted her a share of the local folkloric cosmology, which means God can't do much against her anymore. He decides not to kill Maria, citing live and let live, and extends his “honor thy neighbor” policy to her so that they can act with more parity. Maria will still lose her powers whenever she and Joseph decide to get it on, but at least now the Church will not actively persecute her.
Maria re-frames her pacifistic actions to protect the people she cares about, rather than wage a blanket campaign against all warfare everywhere. She accepts a role alongside humanity instead of trying to regulate people's behavior from the outside. This prevents her from falling into the same arrogance that Michael does. She no longer posits her pacifism as something that everyone should subscribe to – a “natural law” – but rather something that she promotes as an individual with the desire to protect the people she loves. By living amongst those people, she'll become more in touch with their desires while becoming happier herself. The divide between humans, witches, and gods is whatever each character makes of it, so Maria decided to make that distance smaller.
Cernunnos explains that the common principle governing everything in Maria's world, from God to witches to humanity, is that they will eventually decay while something new flourishes. Eventually, the tides of belief will shift and Christianity will fade to make room for whatever comes afterwards. Maria's God is powerful, but as long as humanity is mortal, their gods are mortal too. Power has an apex, and everyone is on a ticking clock, so make the best out of the time you have. That's what Maria chooses to do in the end. She'll wait a while before consummating her love for Joseph and then settle into a life without magic, although not a life without power. Magic or no, she won't give up on being a "witch," meaning a strong, authoritative, dedicated woman at a time when such a life is condemned. Maria's real strength was never her magic, but her determination, self-confidence, and ability to act on what she believes is right. Above all else, she is charismatic, influencing everyone from Viv to Ezekiel to Bernard. Her presence will be remembered in her story's world for generations to come.
Michael even decides to help Joseph and Maria start a family without the mandatory loss of her powers by… impregnating Maria with Ezekiel? Ezekiel can't keep working as an angel because they've begun to think for themselves, so Michael lets them be reborn as a human. Ezekiel gets to choose their future mother, so they go with the human woman they're closest to, Maria. At first, Maria is horrified, but she quickly gives in to Ezekiel's pouty face and lets the angel into her vacant womb. Lesson here: don't get cozy with angels unless you want to get immaculate conceptioned. This was kind of weird, but Maria warmed up to the idea, so I'll let it slide. The downside is that we'll never get to see baby Ezekiel. Maybe Maria lays an egg?
I like Bernard's endgame. By integrating Maria's worldview into theology, he essentially preempts the Enlightenment by establishing the Church as a humanist institution existing parallel to God. Michael then proceeds to throw off the priest's interpretation of archangels as symbolic figures by appearing in the (heavenly) flesh. This sends Bernard into a rage and he attempts to strangle God's messenger. He gets turned into salt for this – a fitting punishment for the show's most monstrous human. He wasn't evil so much as just screwy, perverted in the classical sense by twisting the intended meaning of things to his own covertly libidinal satisfaction.
Overall, Maria the Virgin Witch was great, a hidden gem of the winter season, and one of my new favorite shows of all time. It's most remarkable for its consistency – I really couldn't think of a reason to give most episodes anything other than an A. Each week brought forward something new and interesting in terms of characterization and theme, while still remaining entertaining. On top of that, it's a rare feminist anime. While many programs have strong female characters or even feminist elements, the ones that seriously concern themselves with the systematic inequality women face in society are few and far between. There's Revolutionary Girl Utena, Sailor Moon, Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and now Maria the Virgin Witch. Just ignore that title. And the summary. No really, it's a great show, I promise! There are dancing owls!
Side note, I checked out the second episode's dub and am happy to report that it's a significant improvement over the first episode. While there are still rough spots, the majority of actors now sound more natural in their roles, and I was easily taken into the material. Alexis Tipton is particularly good as Maria, and I'm charmed by Lara Woodhull's Anne. Mostly I take issue with the tone of a few jokes – Artemis's double entendres are funny, but the “wink wink nudge nudge” delivery can be a bit much. I hope this quality keeps up!
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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