Maria the Virgin Witch
by Gabriella Ekens,
“Sub Rosa” is Latin for “under the rose.” Correspondingly, this episode was stacked with covert dealings, from Maria's barely concealed magic use, to Bernard's secret meeting places, and even Joseph and Maria's conversation by the lake. “Roses” are also an appropriate image for this show, seeing as they're associated with feminine power, particularly of a Pagan stripe. It also aligns to Maria's role in the show as a witch maligned by the patriarchal, Christian establishment.
Galfa's victory impressed Bernard, and he's decided to recruit the mercenary as an agent. His first mission: assassinate Maria if she keeps interfering with the war. Of course Joseph is horrified (he's present at the meeting, since his boss apparently doesn't know that his messenger is BFFs with the witch), but he leads Galfa to her anyways. Galfa can't really take Maria, seeing as her dragon summoning powers are still intact, but he takes the opportunity to scope out his target. While Maria storms off to have a moment with Joseph, Ezekiel spills the beans to Galfa about Maria's imposed virginity challenge. He then rushes off to report it to the higher ups.
When Bernard learns about Maria's 'condition,' he breaks into grotesque laughter. He's a manipulative scoundrel, but he'd never imagined that Maria might live up to her heavenly namesake's most famous attribute. I'm starting to really not like this guy. He seems to have a noble aim (bringing about peace) that he uses to justify his ruthless methods and a scary fixation on control. He's also adept at justifying his methods with florid metaphors. It's implied that he joined the clergy in order to further his uncle Guillaume's ambitions as a Lord. It's a convenient position for both of them since it offers near infinite goodwill from the populace. I wonder how well these schemers would fare before an actual heavenly tribunal, and not the mock-up of it they've constructed on Earth?
Archangel Michael comes back down to chastise Ezekiel. He also addends his challenge – should they witness Maria performing magic in public, Ezekiel must personally strike her down. Ezekiel is horrified by this. Spending time with Maria has expanded the angel's worldview, and while they aren't quite ready to rebel against their charge, they've developed some sympathy for the heretic. Ezekiel feels more at home with Maria and her familiars than they care to admit. It'll be neat to see when and how this comes back on the angel. Their actions this episode skirt dangerously close to helping Maria, even if it still got them bagged. Still, this is illustrative of Maria's real power – the power of changing people's hearts by making them sympathetic to her dream of a world without war, and thus help her actualize it.
Joseph even laments how passive he is! I hope that their scene on the lakeside finally means that they've acknowledged their feelings for one another, even if they're not willing to express them directly yet. Joseph really is the show's moral center, pragmatic, unbiased, and not bowing to arbitrary moral authorities. It's just that he can't actualize it. It's a nice inversion of the usual show, where the female love interest represents this to a male protagonist. Interestingly, the same dynamic is going on in GARO THE ANIMATION, another show that I'm covering, but with this traditional gender dynamic.
Otherwise his relationship with Maria does a nice job at dodging heteronormativity. As a show about a young woman's burgeoning (hetero)sexuality, it's partially about how our main character perceives masculinity as the other. Maria the Virgin Witch contains a wide swathe of men, and which ones Maria latches onto or rejects are significant. Galfa and Bernard are distant from her not only due to their occupations as mercenary and priest, but due to their overt maleness. They're big, young-ish guys whose respective promiscuity and (assumed) chastity nonetheless imply S-E-X. In a show where the protagonist's inexperience literally constitutes Saint Michael's flaming sword hanging above her head, they're people to watch out for, especially when they're scheming circles around her. We're halfway through the series now, so Maria is going to risk losing her powers sooner rather than later.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger, with Maria rushing off to stop a battle despite the Church and Heaven's new sentences. Maria the Virgin Witch hasn't had a bad episode yet, but this one worked especially well in terms of suspense. We're at the point where the obstacles are stacking up, and our heroine is perched to suffer a genuine loss. Anne's papa is riddled with death flags. I'm already worried about seeing that cute little girl heartbroken.
Mysteries opened up by this episode: what will Viv's role in the story be, and what's the deal with her friend, the homebody witch? Who's that girl that Bernard's assistant met with? She appears in the opening. What consequences will Maria face for her continued intervention? And most importantly, is Viv's adorable cat familiar also a sex demon?
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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