Junketsu no Maria is a little difficult to describe. On one hand, it’s clearly an ‘ecchi’ bit about witches who lose their powers if they lose their virginity, with all the hyper-sexualized imagery, would-be suitors and meh-level sex jokes you’d expect.
On the other hand, it’s a peasant-level perspective on medieval politics and warfare in northern France. It has admirable attention to detail, un-stylized (realistic?) combat, and an unexpected degree of sincerity for it’s characters. The peasant-soldier is terrified and useless, without a moment of cliché bravery or tragic death. The mercenary understands a little more about what’s going on, but doesn’t spell it all out for us. Anne, the farmer’s daughter’s innocent questions fill us in on the church and culture of asking witches for favors in private for fear of retribution.
I was not expecting this at all.
The story opens with Anne going to Maria’s forest cottage for this first time. She needs medicine for her grandmother, who’s known Maria for a long time. We get a bit of detail told to us about the church and the world, and some meh-comedy moments when Maria’s owl / succubus shape-shifter reveals that Maria’s actually very young looking.
It’s a strange double-show, really, because Maria’s world continues to be a bit silly after that. She talks to Joseph, a royal messenger and love-interest and their interaction comes off as mostly silly, exposition, and world building. They look a little silly, design wise, too.
Yet the show quickly jumps back to Anne’s peasant family, who are drawn more plainly and are grappling with Anne’s father’s conscription (and likely soon-to-be-death) to fight the English occupying the north.
Even Joseph’s world shifts. Where he comes off as a goofy elf-guy after Maria’s loin (in honorable marriage I’m sure) during his Maria scenes, his ‘I’m about to march to war” scenes have a quiet thoughtfulness to them.
The episode continues bouncing back and forth from a slow paced, authentic feeling battle and the poor sods fighting in it, to the sexy/silly/over the top witches watching the battle from a tree on the side lines.
The two worlds collide, finally, when Maria halts the battle by summoning a Dragon and blasting so much fire the armies had to retreat. She does this for her side of the story’s reasons (she’s worried Joseph was about to snuff it) but the dragon is drawn in the harsh, gritty style of the realistic world and it’s fire didn’t strike me as over the top.
I’m not sure anyone will entirely ‘like’ this show. It has plenty of nudeless skin and great knights-in-armor design but the battle was very authentic feeling: slow, no one is really a grand hero, no narrator is telling us the deep strategy going on behind the scenes.
And Maria’s ho-hum “I’m a pacifist but I use a dragon to blow crap up” personality trait doesn’t integrate well with this either. Actually, it’s hard to say any of her half of the plot and show-concept fits well with the more grounded, personal storytelling style of the other half of the show…
That said, you probably won’t hate this show either. Unlike Absolute Duo and Demon Lord Stepsisters, Junketsu no Maria‘s Medieval France setting feels grounded, unique and deserves credit. If you can get over how plain the action is, the show is actually well drawn too!
Honestly, when was the last time you saw a battle that made its participants so fearful, yet, for those of us in the future used to Braveheart-level carnage, looked so tame?
Maria is voiced by Hisako Kanemoto, who I best know for Gargantia’s Amy but she’s done work for tons of shows. (Akuma no Riddle as Haru Ichinose and Gurgure! Kokkuri-san to name a few) While she’s certainly not going to carry the show like someone like Ono could, and Maria herself may be a bit of the problem for the show’s long-term functionality, Hisako is talented and should keep things under control.
I’m actually hopefully that this becomes a reverse harem, with multiple male characters chasing after Maria. Not sure if that’s likely, but it would be interesting and Hisako would do a good job with that scenario.
My first impression was surprisingly good. I don’t especially care for Maria… at all… but even with her needlessly out of place character design and silly concept, the world she lives in is rather interesting.
One reviewer declared the year of ecchi-combos is upon us and, given how many shows seem to have gone that direction already, I’m willing to agree with him. However, if more of them tack the weird way of Junketsu no Maria, and if JnM stays interesting, that may not be a bad thing.
Note that this week’s screen caps are terrible because the show was formatted with a ton of ugly on screen text and PR graphics. If I have a chance, I’ll shoot better caps when a better rip becomes available.