(This transcription is not verbatim. I made some changes to make it read a little better.)
I’ve finally gotten around to watching Maria the Virgin Witch and it’s one of the worst anime that I’ve seen in a while.
To my surprise, when I looked to see how others felt about the series, I found posts on sites like ANN and the Mary Sue that not only called the show good, but also “feminist”. And now I am here to let you know that not only is this show garbage, but it sure as hell isn’t feminist. Posts praising the show as feminist give few to none reasons for the claim. So, I’m going to upset the trend and try to be thorough in backing up what I have to say about this series.
My critique will be organized into the following segments:
- Portrayals of Purity, Rape, Sex, and Majokko
- Meta Reasoning Behind These Portrayals
- Overall Flaws in Story Telling
Maria, the titular character, may be stubborn, skimpily dressed and yells a lot, but contrary to popular belief this is not a magical formula for a strong female character. These qualities are not what really define her as a character. Instead, Maria’s defining characteristics are that she’s young, pretty, naïve, feminine and, as the title suggests, a virgin. These traits all inform Maria’s status as “pure” and remain static throughout the story.
Maria doesn’t actually have a canonical age but between the virgin Mary parallels and puberty jokes in the sub, we can conclude she is somewhere between 12 and 16. This is reinforced by her characterization where she’s 16, at most, in appearance, maturity and experience (sexual or otherwise). It doesn’t matter that the story alludes to her around for centuries, the creators chose to present her in this way, so that the audience can view her in this way for the entirety of the story.
Maria has no clear motivations besides a childish mantra of “war is bad” and over the course of the story she never learns anything, never grows as a person or changes in any real manner beyond settling down with a man at the end of the series.
This show offers no critique of the social constructs of purity and virginity. Instead, it glorifies the concepts by tying Maria’s power directly to her being a virgin and thus reinforcing the idea that a woman’s worth is tied to her purity. Maria does not choose to remain a virgin. The deus ex machina of the story forces her to do so and Maria’s intact purity is what ultimately saves the day, proving that this show holds purity higher than anything else.
Maria the Virgin Witch features “comedic” rape featuring Maria’s male familiar as a victim. Rape jokes at the expense of victims are not funny. What’s more is that the comedic tone of the scene trivializes men as victims of rape. While the majority of sexual violence is committed against women, laughing at the possibility of a man being raped only shames and hurts real life victims.
But the rape as comedy was overlooked by the bloggers that described rape in this series as “tasteful” and “sophisticated”. That praise was given to series for playing rape as drama and Maria herself is a victim. The attempted rape of Maria that occurs about half way through the series is exactly that, an attempt that does not succeed. Therefore, Maria’s virginity can remain intact and the show never has to address the possibility of the protagonist not being a shining beacon of purity.
When Maria’s rape scene was being foreshadowed, I thought Joseph, Maria’s love interest, would be the rapist. That would have made the rape scene actually realistic, since most rapes are committed by someone close to the victim. But Maria’s attacker is a boogey man rapist, who makes a detailed plan ahead of time and jumps Maria in the middle of the night. Not only is the scene unrealistic in this sense, but it’s also blatantly sexualized where during it Maria sits in bondage for the camera to pan up her body for the viewer’s pleasure.
Just as a side note, the dub decided to add 90% more dick jokes to the script and made this scene even worse by referring to the attacker’s penis as a magical staff. Some bloggers also described the series as a “sex comedy” and I can only assume this means they watched the dub.
This show contains no positive portrayals of healthy sexual relationships. It has: adultery, prostitution, rape, and comic relief homosexual pedophilia. The only happy relationship on screen (that is not pedophilia) is that between two virgins, who don’t even have sex to conceive their child.
Sex isn’t even portrayed accurately in this series. The character of Viv’s claim that sex hurts the first time is bullshit. It’s a complete misconception that sex has to hurt the first time. If you have enough foreplay and go slow given that your partner isn’t a sadistic asshole, it doesn’t hurt. (You can read about hymens yourself here.)
This anime not only spreads misinformation about how sex works, but also bends over backwards to avoid discussing it in any realistic way. The pinnacle of this takes the form of the magical succubae prostitution which conveniently discards the problems that come with sexual territory like: pregnancy, STDs, abuse or risk of physical and mental trauma. So that the show never has to address any of them!
But shouldn’t we not forget the crippling poverty that causes people to turn to prostitution in the first place? Nope! In this anime, prostitution is always done for fun or as a friendly favor, rather than out of survival.
Yet, sex as a whole, is portrayed as something violent and painful that can even have deadly consequences. Sleeping with the wrong person once, can destroy the lives of the characters. The show makes it clear that sex is something negative, to be used against enemies. While virginity on the other hand, is something worth fighting for.
For some context I want to talk about majokko, also known as the witch sub genre of magical girl. In majokko and magical girl anime, girlhood is often portrayed as a female’s final stage of freedom before motherhood. There is no young adult stage in between. (Kumiko Saito’s paper “Magic, Shojo and Metamorphosis” goes deeper into this idea.)
Maria’s divine impregnation takes this trope in a very literal way, where Maria, at 16, is pregnant without really having left adolescence yet. In Maria the Virgin Witch women cannot affect the world around them, except by means of sex or magic. Female characters lacking sexuality or supernatural abilities are powerless, especially against the patriarchal institutions that surround them. Maria ultimately endorses the status quo in adopting a quiet life as a wife and mother. Giving up powers and freedoms in exchange for married life, is a tired and true trope dating back to the 1960s and the genre’s inception and Maria proudly upholds this outdated tradition.
Characters cannot have agency. No one in a story makes their own decisions. The creators of that story make all the decisions for them. In the case of Maria the Virgin Witch the most obvious decisions made by the creators for reasons that are beyond what is necessary to the story is the fanservice. The reason we see Maria naked and bathing so often is the same reason why the majority of the female cast is barely clothed, and that is fan service! It’s gratuitous and doesn’t add anything to the story. And how the show tries to explain away Ezekiel’s absolute territory as something unbound from earthly law is the perfect example of how ridiculous its character designs are.
Maria the Virgin Witch’s fanservice caters to a seinen audience, meaning an audience of adult men. This is why there is no equal opportunity fan service in this series. It’s is meant to entertain an audience of straight males, but not just any straight males, preferably otaku. It’s that obvious but given Ezekiel’s character is a clone of Nymph from Heaven’s Lost Property and the random cat girl familiar, you can see how the series is operating within the same archetypes that cater to male otaku.
Maria herself embodies an idealized moe character: young, pretty, naive, feminine, still pale despite always being in the sun, has no body hair and most obviously is a “pure” virgin. Maria as this type of heroine only enhances how the show celebrates purity rather than challenges it.
Between rape jokes, unequal fan service, reinforcement of stereotypes and an obsession with purity, Maria the Virgin Witch is NOT a feminist work. Calling Maria a strong female character is an erroneous oversimplification, to put it nicely. Maria being feisty and magical in no way redeems the misogynist themes of the series. That being said, Maria the Virgin Witch isn’t just something I wouldn’t recommend to feminists. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone! It’s a bad show in general.
Overall Flaws in Story Telling
The very premise of the show doesn’t really make sense. No one should be surprised that a girl who is, at most, 16 and living alone in a forest, is a virgin. This makes the struggles of the main character and the opinions of the detractors contrived. But in addition to that, the portrayal of religion is one of the most painful instances of poor world building that the show has to offer. The plethora of mythological figures that make shoehorned cameos, just to make the dynamics of the world that Maria inhabits more confusing and convoluted is ridiculous. But I’m not sure if anything can top trying to figure out an in-universe reason for the fanservice. The logical assumption for how the witches dress is that they only get one piece of cloth at birth and cannot wear anything else, meaning that as they grow many need to get creative when covering their bodies. On top of that, the existence of witches in this series is an enigma in itself. How they benefit from the war or even how they come into existence is left woefully unclear. This issue of lack explanation pervades the entire series, where, other than Galfa, no character has clear motivations. And the wants that are expressed, are just plain, shallow and boring! The church wants power. The war mongers want money. Maria wants peace. Joseph wants Maria. That’s it! The show doesn’t go deeper. Even Galfa’s motivations start falling apart when he just sort of goes insane. And he’s not the only character this happens to. It’s the kind of show that becomes more painful the more you watch it. Yet, for whatever reason this show developed a cult following. After hearing so many good things about it, I broke down and decided to watch it. Please don’t fold like I did! This show is not worth your time. It’s not even worth this much analysis. It’s unpopular for good reason, and deserves to fall into obscurity.