Junketsu no Maria Review

This is review number four hundred and fifty seven. This anime is part of the Winter 2015 lineup, and it’s called Junketsu no Maria or Maria the Virgin Witch. This was one hell of a ride. Let’s read on.

Story

A witch named Maria, like the Virgin Mary, hates war and would put battles between England and France to a stop at every opportunity. This causes a problem for a lot of people, both mortal and supernatural, so Saint Michael puts a stipulation for Maria. If she is as selfless as she thinks she is, then she doesn’t mind losing all her magic when she loses her virginity. Yeah, the witch named Maria is a virgin.

Taking the Pants Off

So, I watched the anime and it sucked. I won’t beat around the bush with that. This anime is awful, so naturally, I retreated to the manga. I read a few chapters, and it pretty sucks too. The entire existence of this series just straight up sucks. This is pretty rare for me. Here we have two interpretations of the same story, and they both suck. I have seen good manga with bad adaptations, and I have seen bad manga with bad adaptations. For course, I’ve seen good manga with good adaptations. If there is a bad manga with a good anime, then I’d probably seen it but I never really cared about it. I’m sure they exist. I’ll look one up to review in the future. Junketsu no Maria is a rare case of a bad manga with a bad anime adaptation. It’s pretty surreal. The entire thing is just so unappealing to me. This isn’t the Catholic boy inside me (heh) outright rejecting the premise of the story. I actually wanted the story to keep attacking the foundations of religion. The problem is that it isn’t really good at it. From what I can gather, the manga is really just a big troll job. It was designed to insult people and get a reaction out of them. The anime, on the other hand, kinda couldn’t handle what the manga was trying to deliver so they tried their best for a compromise. I don’t understand though. Why make a bad interpretation of an already bad story? Maybe the manga has a good fan base or maybe people really did feed the troll when they read the story. The baffling thing is that Production IG of all studios looked at this filth and agreed it needed an anime adaptation. I’m honestly at a loss. I first thought this piece was an original screenplay, because it behaved like one. I was shocked when I realized it was a manga, and a bad manga at that. It’s insane. I’m close to ten years being TPAB, and I’m shocked there are still new experiences for me to find. I don’t want something bad like this, but it certainly gets my brain juices flowing.

Maria the Virgin

So let’s talk about the manga first. It follows a witch named Maria as she tries to stop a war between the French and the English. There was no world building and no backstory. There was no information dumping, and there was no proper narration. The manga just follows Maria, a bunch of sh*t happens, and a bunch of philosophical nuggets are thrown around. It is a messy manga, but I think it’s messy by design. The lack of backstory kinda gives us the impression that the author is elitist, and he doesn’t have to explain the Hundred Years wars to you. Anyone that read the manga should’ve already known it. It’s a basic thing if you are to enjoy the manga, and then he fixes his glasses smugly. As you continue with the manga, this isn’t really the case. The plot formed around the second volume, and it stayed consistent. The lack of proper storytelling for the first volume was just straight up trolling from the mangaka’s part. He plans to turn off casual readers, and he only wants people that really got the joke to keep moving forward. It’s an interesting way of telling a story. You’re basically giving the readers the middle finger for a good amount of time before you start taking them seriously. In the first chapter, there is also a lot of sex and church. Yeah, Masayuki Ishikawa is a troll from the get go.

He talks liberally about the fallacies of the church, and he even paints them in such a villainous light. In one scene in the manga, Maria turns the corrupt monks into monsters for trying to burn people alive. They never return back to normal too. They were left like that and the manga moved to the next scene. Since he was already disgracing the church, he conveniently pairs the church topic with a subplot of Maria losing her virginity. The opening panels of the manga featured Maria’s succubus having sex with a random dude. In the first volume as well, a priest was caught having sex with a young boy. So, yeah, all the good stuff. In fact, the rising conflict of the manga features Saint Michael stipulating to Maria that if she loses her virginity then she loses her magic as well. It’s not like those two things relate to each other, but we’re all having fun under the bridge at this point.

The problem with the manga though is that it doesn’t really have anything meaningful to say. At best, it was just trying to get a reaction out of readers. Masayuki is also concerned more with the drawing that the story isn’t really well told. It isn’t paced properly, and a lot of the panels have beautifully crafted characters but awful dialogue. I know this is intentional though. The point is to troll the readers, and I know some people got riled up with this story. Adapting this anime will result in some spectacular paradox, because the story really only works as a manga. I don’t think all of Masayuki’s trolling would’ve worked in an adaptation, so you can expect the show to be bad. There is a bigger problem though. The entire manga series is only three volumes long. If adapted as is, they can really only make six good episodes out of it. I guess you can make eight if you stretch some of it out. The anime, however, runs for twelve episodes, so there’s a different kind of paradox at work here.

God Is Dead

Before we talk about the anime though, I’d like to get this element of the story out of the way. Masayuki seems to be a fan of Friedrich Nietzsche, and you can bet I copy pasted that name. The manga had a lot of philosophical tidbits to it, mainly about the church not really serving its people. In a sense, the church is doing more harm than good to the masses. This also happens to be the very thesis of Nietzsche, the self-proclaimed nihilist. Can you imagine I would ever talk about philosophy in my anime review? I mean, yeah, I guess it’s bound to happen but not like this. I’m about to bore you all with a lecture, so I hope you’re prepared. I am no philosophy major as well, so forgive me if I am way off with my explanations. Give me Sigmund Freud and Evangelion instead of this anime and Nietzsche. Basically, ol’ Nitty believes that living a good Christian life doesn’t really mean you are living a good life. He believes Christianity is cooked up by a bunch of weak people that are too afraid to go after what they like: sex, revenge and all that good stuff. Instead, they turned their envy to shame and had you believe that weakness or morality is a way to live life. Instead, he argues, you should live life dangerously just like a certain witch trying to stop a war with no real purpose. The term “God is dead” isn’t really a proclamation that religion is bad. In fact, Nitty believes that religion has a purpose but once you take religion away then it should be replaced with something else: culture. Instead of relying on a God, you should live life in a different direction.

I’m rambling, but the manga basically has the same stance. It questions the purpose of Catholic churches and it belittles God. Seriously, the manga goes “why do people pray to God when he does nothing but watch them die?” and the only reply we are given is that he does not meddle in human affairs. So people are basically told to just keep worshipping him for them to be saved, but he doesn’t really care about them. It walks the line of an atheist, but I don’t really feel that in Masayuki’s approach. Instead, he just wants us to see that God truly is dead and we should strive for something better. Of course, it’s such an overwhelming topic for me to really talk about and I think the manga doesn’t really know how to properly convey it as well. It doesn’t really take a stance against the “is the church good or bad” argument. It just throws philosophical nuggets in the dirt hoping someone notices them. I hate this approach of the manga, because I had to awkwardly discuss Nietzsche and I’m not really sure his ideas mattered in this anime. I think it does, but Masayuki is a bad storyteller. Hell of a mangaka though. He recreated the “Saint Michael vanquishing Satan” painting in all its ironic glory. Simply put, there are some good ideas in the manga but it was told in such a scatter-brained way that you really can’t appreciate them. I’m done talking about the manga. Let’s discuss the anime.

Original Screenplay

Ok, so I mentioned before that there are only three volumes of this mess. This means that the anime took some creative liberties to meet the 12 episode assignment. For the most part, they did something harmless like adding more characters. Since the manga is already a big mess, the anime can’t really ruin what’s already ruined. This makes for an interesting problem though, because the anime now behaves like an original screenplay anime. O. Screenplays are basically just that, original works. They’re not adapted from anything and usually comes from the mind of one brilliant person. The problem with O. Screenplays is that they are often ideas that would’ve never left the beta stages of manga planning. Sometimes, an O. Screenplay is launched by someone with clout and people just go along with it. The end result is one of the most horrible headaches I had while doing this 1000 review journey. For this anime, the manga is used as a loose storyboard. While every scene in the manga was adapted, they had to pull them apart to insert some filler here and there. Maria’s single story of defying the balance of faith and ubermensch soon gets diluted with different characters and their own goals. By doing so, the traits of original screenplays are painfully obvious. Let’s discuss three important aspects of O. Screenplays that really killed this particular anime.

Firstly, it has severe short sighted storytelling. This is where the staff focuses more on an episode’s story than the overall one. This usually happens when you have different episode directors interpreting an already bad script. You can guess each episode in this anime was directed by a different person. This isn’t really a problem in most anime that has a clear direction. O. Screenplays are painfully directionless though, and episode directors often follow what was relayed to them. It’s not their job to thread the episodes together. It’s their job to produce their assigned episode. The main director is the one to piece things together, but you can bet he didn’t do a good job of it. So what makes the story short sighted anyways? A lot of episodes focuses on different things often centered on a specific character. There was a mercenary that rose from the ranks by betraying people and getting his arm blown off, but he never really had any end goal. Is he the main villain? Is he a supporting character? See, those are things you establish overtime and he needs to be cohesive in different episodes for that to happen. In short sightedness though, he would speak of his plans and then just slowly fizzle out. I don’t even have to look far with the short sightedness. In the first episode alone, we don’t really know Maria’s end game. Where is her story going to end up in? She’ll lose her virginity? And? This is really where the troll job of the manga kinda killed the anime. The short sighted storytelling never really established the fact that Maria didn’t need a reason, so viewers are left wondering what it is. The first episode just follows Maria stopping a war, a bunch of people dying and no real plot established. There was just a lot of sh*t happening.

Useless Characters

I think back to Zankyou no Terror where they had this girl that bathe in a bathtub, and that’s all she ever did. Original Screenplay loves their useless characters, and I think it goes back to C.C and Code Geass. In a perfect world, every anime would have a compelling side character like her that doesn’t really do much. In an imperfect world though, CC served nothing more than a plot device strung along for the long game except CC kinda endeared herself in the long run. A lot characters, often the originally created ones, doesn’t really have a big role in the story. They often just confuse the hell out of me, because I don’t really know their purpose. The most baffling example is this monk dude that has a liking to Maria. He talked about using Maria to benefit the French side of the war, and he has this scheme with the lord a character was serving. He mostly just talked though, and he had this incredibly stupid scene where he questions his faith after talking to Maria. The anime dedicated a lot of time to him talking, and you’d expect he’d be a big villain down the line. He didn’t become anything except obvious filler for the anime. Most O. Screenplay stuff is filler, but I just realize now how bad of a filler this monk dude is. He didn’t need to exist, and you can argue that for a lot of the characters. To be fair though, the manga is kinda guilty of the same thing. In a bid to lengthen the story, Masayuki himself kinda added some filler in his story. The addition of an incubus and the anthropomorphized talking spear of Micheal didn’t really improve the manga’s narrative. For Masayuki though, I can bet an editor hounded him to streamline his sh*t and bulk up his story. The result is pretty much the same though. He created characters that served no real purpose in the story. Actually, wait, he created a story that didn’t utilize the characters instead. I mean, it’s not the castrated incubus’ fault that he had added nothing of value to the plot.

My patience kinda ran out though because you can tell the anime was treating a lot of characters filler. There was an English witch added to the story that felt like she belonged to the plot, and the show didn’t really do anything for her. She was introduced early on watching Maria wreak havoc in the battle field, but she didn’t have any real involvement until the eighth episode. I should mention that I love a good plot in my anime, and I’m really pissed that the anime already took the creative liberty to change course from the manga and they didn’t do anything with it. It’s like they wasted a good chance to make the manga better, because there is a palatable version of Masayuki’s story here but there was no one that saw it. No one saw the philosophical elements that made the story unique and the brash approach Masayuki had at telling this enlightening subject. It’s all just a waste of time, and it sucks altogether.

A Stupid Ending

From the first episode, you can tell there was no real direction for the anime so when we reached the last episode, the entire thing is just a mess. I don’t want to spoil it, but you can just tell there was no real build up for the story. Since there is no direction, the anime could end at any time and it kinda did. It settled abruptly on a situation that can be deemed an ending, but it’s not really worth slogging through eleven episodes to get there. I’m guessing this was the manga’s ending, in a more fillered up way, and it was pretty disappointing. The ending itself, with Maria getting acknowledgement from God, was a nice ending but there was real no build up to get there. Stuff happened, more stuff happened, a battle in a church happened and then the story just ended. O. Screenplay is notorious with its bad endings. I’d go back to Zanyou no Terror and its baffling water hose scene for another example. This is really the painful thing with O. Screenplays. You invest a good amount of your time only to achieve nothing. No real experience to really talk about. It’s a practice of pretty much wasting your time on an idea that never should’ve left the initial planning stages.

World Building

If there is one aspect of the anime and the manga that comes together hand in hand, then it’d be the horrible lack of world building. I only understood the story thanks to the manga translator painstakingly giving us the backstory for the manga. It was set in the Hundred Years Wars between two kings that claims their right to the throne. This was obviously just a backdrop though, because we also have witches in this world and they have succubi as familiars. There are also Valkyries watching the battles and waiting to bring souls back to Valhalla. More importantly, there is a human church and a heavenly church and the latter watches the world. They would even send saints down to Earth to bring order to the world. In the manga, Maria is aware of Joan of Arc and how she was claimed a witch and burned at the steak. She went as far as to claim that Joan was penetrated with a stick to prove her virginity, and it was graceful foreshadowing for what was about to come. More importantly, the church has a more choking grasp on this society and people are regularly burned at the stake. The manga intentionally left the world building to the way side because Masayuki just didn’t give a damn. Even though the entire thing is well researched and on point for its era, he wanted that as a solid foundation for the coming attacks he have for religion as a whole. Ultimately, his goal is for people to question faith and every empty promise it has while also making light of the subject by putting a virginity subplot alongside it. The lack of world building for the manga comes off as lazy though. Instead of the stupid fillers, he could’ve just dedicated panels to explain everything. His writing comes off as “I was meant to do that” but it also just reveals how lazily he put all of this together. I’m not complaining. I consider the manga bad as a whole, but it is a good read nonetheless. The anime is a different matter.

The series composer, Hideyuki Kurata, just didn’t get the appeal of the manga. He didn’t understand that the lack of world building would doom the anime. You watch the first episode and you’re thrust into a battle, but then you also see witches hanging in a branch and Maria summoning an overpowered dragon to stop it all. It was pretty jarring. A few moments to explain the reason for the war, the existence of witches, and the ultimate goal of the story would’ve done wonders. If the manga’s goal was to question faith, then that should’ve been the first thing featured. While there are scenes of people fighting for God and a priest being shot by an arrow mid-sermon, the anime just couldn’t capture Masayuki approach. It was a lot more blatant, and there are ways to deliver the same message in a different manner. The anime was doomed from the get go, and I don’t think it ever recovered.

Taniguchi, Kurata and Production IG

Goro Taniguchi directed the Code Geass series. That’s really all you need to know. One of the best original anime to ever come out of the woodwork was helmed by this dude. Could he have captured the same success with this anime? That’s doubtful. There were just certain things that are out of his control. In terms of visuals, I really have no big complaints but the writing sucked. Hideyuki Kurata just couldn’t make the story work. The original characters they added didn’t really elevate the story, and the whole thing just comes off as laughably amateurish. Kurata is a known series composer as he did some good work on The World God Only Knows and OreImo, but I don’t think he knew what to do with this story. Honestly, I don’t think there is a good way to tell a story about mocking people’s faith and their church that would have a good ending. It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t, and I don’t blame anyone for this mess of a show. I am truly shocked that this was a Production IG anime. I consider them the top tier studio among all studios, and they have been since they released that anime that inspired the Matrix. A bad Production IG anime is like finding a present while cleaning out your attic. It’s pretty rare. They even released this anime in between Haikyuu and Attack on Titan. Oh gosh, it feels good to see the mighty stumble from time to time.

Sight and Sound

Masayuki’s manga is fantastic. Character design is pretty great. I love how unapologetically fan servicy his characters are, and he would dedicate full panels on just their hot bodies. He also does great design on the monsters which gets a full page panel for readers to admire their glory. I also like the period accurate design of the characters even making them look Caucasian and dressing them up in western clothes fit for the era. This is a detail the anime captured to a tee. The first episode is just intense visuals one after the other, and I really like how they updated Masayuki’s design. Joseph is a lot better looking in the anime albeit generic, and there is more emphasis on the fan service. Maria is naked for a good third of the anime for no real reason as well. In terms of design though, the anime does it best with the battles. The banners of both country, the armor the characters wear, the weapons they use, and the tactics they employ all look amazing. You kinda wanted to see more battles in the show just to see the great design fit for the era.

Animation is pretty great. It’s not consistent all throughout, but you can expect Production IG to deliver the goods animation wise. Goro is also a mindful director wherein he makes sure he employs different camera angles on dialogue heavy scenes, and he tries his best to setup the atmosphere before any scene. The church battle between Joseph and Garfa looked awesome with generous shots of the church ceiling. It could’ve been better, but I don’t really think this anime deserved more great visuals than what Goro gave us. Some fight scenes are tilted, but some are pretty intense. I especially like the battles against Saint Michael because the dude is just insanely overpowered. I also like the way Maria summons the monsters often calling a cauldron first where the summons would pop out from.

The anime’s OP is “Philosophy of Dear World” by ZAQ. This came off as generic for me, but I just don’t like these kinds of OP songs. They have a type, but I suck at describing them. It is a cool song, and I feel like the anime doesn’t serve it. The OP sequence is pretty decent with a montage of all the characters, but it also gives you an idea how directionless the anime is given nothing can be learned of the story in the OP. The anime’s ED is “ailes” by TRUE. This is a freaking power balled that feels out of place for this anime. I think the song is pretty good, but it just doesn’t belong in the show. The ED sequence are just still shots of Maria, and yeah, there’s not much to it. Considering the awesome song, the accompanying ED sequence just feels weird. I do give points for a good soundtrack. This anime succeeded in that department.

Overall Score

5/10 “It has its moments, but the overall experience isn’t as great as its constant ridiculing of faith as a practice.”

There are some good things here and there, but I would rather recommend the manga than have anyone watch this. Anything good from this anime really stemmed from the original source. The show, on the other hand, is just disappointing and boring. It drowns in dialogue and it reeks of a directionless story. If you’re into that, then be my guest. I do not recommend it.

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One thought on “Junketsu no Maria Review

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