It was clear that Junketsu no Maria was going to sexually dark place for some several episodes but, given the show’s lite sense of humor, it was never clear how far into the dark it would go.
this week’s episode answers that question and the answer is: pretty dark, but maybe not as dark as you’d think. If you couldn’t sit through the opening, I urge you to go back. It’s a solid episode, surprisingly nuanced, and wonderfully played with expectations.
Starting Dark: Garfa uses paralysis smoke to disable Maria while she sleeps, ties her up and has his way with her. It’s a brutal scene, complete with a savage beating and Garfa’s “a witch should shut up and take it” rant, which he gives why unbuttoning his pants, is only evil-topped by his happy laughter as he leaves Maria’s cabin.
But, despite all this, and despite his flippancy to Joseph and Joseph’s lord, Bernard hasn’t actually raped Maria. “I was sent to take away her magic not to have sex with her”
So, while it’s little comfort to Maria, by the show’s definition she’s “remained pure.” (no doubt to facilitate her magical revenge at a later point)
Nuanced Darkness: Ann’s father testifies to the village priest that he’s witnessed Maria summoning demons and Ann’s grandmother Martha is forced by Bernard to stone Maria. Neither of them want to do this and, while Martha at least has Maria’s consent (via a nod only Bernard sees), both adults are doing this to protect their family, and Ann most of all.
It’s a procedurally evil scene. There’s no screaming and no violence beyond the stone-toss, just people doing a job. Bernard requiring the stone toss is even dispassionate– he needs it to make a statement about belief and loyalty, not to cause Maria physical harm.
And, just as quickly, we see this cold minded system swing back in Maria’s favor: Bernard’s underling won’t accelerate Maria’s trial because official procedure must be followed. Testimony must be recorded and verified, and the village priest and the magistrate must draft a document.
Like Martha and Ann’s father, the junior priest’s evil is limited to his place in the machine. The system. From what we’ve seen, that the junior priest actually uses medicine made by witches and condones the use of magic for the war, he bares no personal malice to Maria, let alone visible anger.
Which brings us to Bernard himself… In a nutshell, Maria values life on earth and places agency in human hands and Bernard values salvation after life and places agency in the hand of God… to be carried out by humans. They both believe in free will, and they both want people to be happy during life.
Unfortunately, Maria asserts that if God is universal, but actionless, then universality is as good as nothingness, which breaks Bernard’s mind trying to counter. In many ways, he agrees with her, but the system is the system — and it’s his system — so they are at an impasse.
Then he thanks her, wipes off her dirty feet, and kisses her leg.
What makes this all so interesting is not just that the junior monk and Priapos both witnessed the scene in secret (and thus both know Bernard’s faith can waiver for future plot points) but that Bernard greatly appreciated the challenge to his faith and the conversation in general.
Also that Bernard’s conflict has brewed since he learned that Maria was a virgin and, like his faith’s Virgin Marry, is a symbol for healing and protection. (at least to the local villagers) Outside of her lack of support for God, they would get along and because of that, tiny cracks in his faith in the system have formed. It’s all very well played and inconclusive.
Also Viv gets pwn’d by Michael before she can rescue Maria from the dungeon.
Verdict: 2 good action sequences, some horrifying violence (but not too much) and some deeply troubled people struggling to reconcile philosophical differences made for a serious attention getter this week. I won’t kid you: I had trouble sitting through the opening assault but the over-all pay off made up for my initial misgivings.
And man, that gag face-clamp Maria is forced to wear was simple but creepy awesome.