Maria the Virgin Witch
Episode 4

by Gabriella Ekens,

This was our “spell out the show's themes” episode, and yup, it sure is about the selfishness of ideological purity. That's not to say it was just retreading old ground – we learned some more about Maria's disdain for the Church – but our main characters' arcs have now been hammered into place.

We start off with last week's status quo – Priapus is still incomplete, Maria is still interfering with battles, and Ezekiel is still getting browbeaten into letting Maria do what she wants. We learn more about the emotional origins of Maria's martyrdom – when she was younger, Maria tried to save a village from a plague, only to be beaten away as a “heathen.” The villagers all perished, and Maria resolved to never let the Church prevent her from helping people again. She still visits their graves as a place for contemplation. Ezekiel had been harping on this village, using its loss as an example of Maria picking and choosing her battles, but the angel underestimated the depth of Maria's empathy. By the episode's end, Ezekiel's begun warming up to the witch and has somewhat accepted a position within her makeshift family.

Priapus is central to this. I'm impressed by his continued development into more than the world's saddest sex demon. He understands his master well, and his influence is central to Ezekiel's conversion. It'd be neat if Priapus' lack of a member allows him to become something more than a lowly incubus, like a real bridge in perspective between Maria and the heavens. Ezekiel will be a part of this – the angel is sheltered and belligerent, but not immune to suffering.

The episode's title, Memento Mori, is a Latin phrase that translates to “remember that you must die.” It's important because Maria's interference in the war is just making the population more and more reliant on her to maintain peace. They have no way of taking care of themselves after she dies, so Maria's just dooming them to a worse conflict down the line. (I take issue with Funimation's translation of memento mori as “remember to die.” The “must” in “remember that you must die” is important – it's not an imperative for Maria to die, but rather a reminder that she won't be able to continue her interference forever.)

In her desire to save everyone, Maria overlooks the fact that it just isn't possible, at least not with a strategy as short-sighted as interfering with battles as they happen. She hasn't realized that saving one person requires dooming another. Some people live off of war, and they're not necessarily evil for it. At least Galfa, Joseph's mercenary friend, isn't evil. He's a rough guy who seems to be getting through life the only way he knows how, and that's killing people for money. Besides Father Bernard, Galfa is the character I most want to see explored right now, because this show's perspective on him will be crucial to its ultimate nuance – is the suffering Maria causes by preventing warfare equivalent to what would have happened if the battles were waged anyway? Will Galfa's suffering be treated as seriously as the cute little girl's suffering?

Anyway, cutting off war also makes desperate profiteers take their frustrations out on local villages. The root of the issue isn't the existence of war but rather a predatory and self-centered aspect of human nature. God's deal with Maria might be that, by deciding who to “save” and who to “condemn” (even if it's out of naiveté), she's putting herself on the same level as him, a being who can see the entire scope of competing human interests. Meanwhile, Father Bernard is doing his “disinterested and self-serving emblem of religious institution” thing by turning the death of someone the Church failed to aid in life into a PR move. The dude's a schemer, but I'm curious as to where exactly he falls on a scale of corrupt anime priests (a metric that ranges from “misguided” to “Kotomine Kirei”).

We were also introduced to Maria's foil, the witch Viv. It turns out that Maria's actions are also harming her fellow witches, who work as mercenaries. Most witches are preoccupied with Earthly affairs, using their powers to accumulate wealth and live lives of indulgence. Viv – whose name means “life,” in contrast to Maria's hallowed namesake – is our representative of this group, a witch who intimidates Maria with her impulsivity and open sexuality. Viv tries to deflower Priapus upon meeting him and storms off when she learns about his “deficiency,” humiliating the poor incubus. She also urges Maria to lose her virginity “like, today” and become a member of witch society. Of course, Maria rejects the offer and continues to work alone. With this, it seems that Maria is an exception even among witches. Her severity isolates her from everyone with power, a side-effect that's certain to have some serious consequences down the line.

I'm shocked by just how much there was to unpack this episode. I've written 800 words of pure analysis. Usually I get to that number by mixing in plot summary or discussing the episode's production quality, but there really is this much meaning stuffed into one episode of Maria the Virgin Witch. I didn't even cover everything – there are discussions to be had about Galfa's role as Joseph's foil and the show's use of sexual violence as well. Maria the Virgin Witch is a hidden gem that keeps getting better, an outlier in a season already stuffed with quality.

Grade: A

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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