Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch) is a story about a witch who lives in the forest and enjoys helping people. The story is set in France during the Hundred Years’ War. France was at war with England and witches (both french and english) would hire themselves out to different armies to aid during battle. The manga was written by Masayuki Ishikawa (Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture). It was adapted into an anime series by Production I.G under the direction of Gorō Taniguchi (Gun X Sword, Code Geass, Space Dandy). It started airing last January 11, 2015.
Maria, the titular character, is said to be the most powerful witch during the era, despite being young and naive. She hates conflict and would often go into the battlefield to disrupt it by casting spells or summoning mythical monsters from her floating cauldron. During one of these battles, Maria goes too far and is cursed by the heavens to lose her power if she loses her virginity.
She is aided by her two familiars; the succubus Artemis and the incubus Priapus. Her familiars were originally owls whom she gave human forms. They can still revert to their owl forms at will. Unfortunately, Maria is unable to provide Priapus with genitalia since she hasn’t seen a man’s privates herself, a constant source of comedic relief at the expense of Priapus’ embarrassment and shame. They aid in Maria’s schemes by influencing army officials (friend or foe) with the use of seduction and sex, despite Maria being a virgin herself. She is often chided by Artemis for being a virgin and would often suggest situations where she could lose it.
Junketsu no Maria’s art is simple and quaint, and if not for the skimpy and revealing outfits that some of the characters wear, *cough*artemis*cough*, one would mistake it for a wholesome World Masterpiece Theater anime that was very popular back in the old days.
Despite having a deceptively cute art style, the real meat of Junketsu no Maria is the portrayal of the Hundred Years’ War. Being set in an era when turmoil was rampant and skirmishes between opposing armies were a normal daily affair, the story spares no expense in showing how ordinary folk lived and suffered because of circumstances that were out of their control. Villagers lived hand to mouth lives, barely getting by without being able to afford anything beyond their necessities. Farmers who never held weapons in their lives, suddenly being forced to enlist in the army. Entire villages dying of disease if they are not being pillaged by mercenary bands turned bandits. Even the battles are depicted with a quiet realism; bones breaking at the strike of maces, arrows piercing leather jerkins, soldiers engaging in melee combat in a clumsy and cumbersome fashion.
And the thing that takes the cake is the fact that the story is not afraid to take a jab at politics, religion, and society altogether. Army officials are shown claiming to fight for king and country, furthering their agendas and sating their desires all the while. Animals who hurt people are put to capital punishment for all to see. Priests and soldiers are shown engaging in homosexual relations. Artemis can be heard murmuring how her jaw hurts after servicing an enemy army’s officials in a certain scene. Maria’s blatant refusal to join the church and ask for forgiveness, exclaiming that she’d rather not be used and betrayed like a certain “La Pucelle”. Even the Archangel Michael makes an appearance and tells Maria that the heavenly host exists only to preserve the natural order of the world, and that prayers are but the concerns of men and the heavens do not meddle in such affairs.
This satirical spin is very refreshing in an anime series that is supposedly selling fan service and well animated action scenes. It isn’t something that you see in anime everyday and when it does appear, it is often portrayed carefully and candidly. This makes Junketsu no Maria somewhat special and intriguing.
The anime is still ongoing with 8 episodes aired during the writing of this article. The images featured here were taken from the official site.