When I first heard about Maria the Virgin Witch (Junketsu no Maria / Sorcière de gré, pucelle de force) (Hulu) I wasn’t optimistic. It sounded like yet another exploitative anime tropefest. But I’m glad I checked it out. It does use some standard tropes but it seems to be developing into a pretty decent fantasy story.
The story is set at the tail end of the Hundred Years War, a conflict that plays a central part in the founding mythology of both England and France. But by the time this story begins famous events of the war (such as Agincourt and the burning of Joan of Arc) are long past. All that is left is a long 2-decade slog during which the English will lose most of the battles, be deserted by their French allies and end the war worse off than when they started it.
Surprisingly for an anime this show seems rooted in some solid historical research. It is full of obviously fantastic elements but the underlying historical setting seems fairly realistic.
Maria is a hot-tempered by basically goodhearted young witch. She hates war and wants to protect the local villagers from the marauding forces of both sides. So she tries to stop the fighting by doing things like summoning mythical monsters to frighten both sides into running away.
Powerful though she is, Maria has one weakness. She is a virgin. She doesn’t necessarily want to be, but she is afraid of sex. Of course this makes her like a million other tsundere characters. The major difference is that she doesn’t exist to be a foil for a male hero. She is the hero.
Maria has a familiar named Artemis, a succubus that she created from an owl. The disadvantage is that she talks constantly about sex, which Maria finds hard to take. But she is useful. Maria likes to send her to visit all the English soldiers at night, thus draining them of vigor.
This doesn’t work on the many soldiers who are homosexual, so Maria transforms another owl into an incubus named Priapos. He turns out to be pretty useless since Maria has no idea what a penis looks like and is too scared to find out.
Though she lives alone and claims not to need anyone, Maria actually has two loyal friends. Ann is a little girl from the village who is grateful for the help that Maria has given her family. Joseph is a young man who is secretly in love with her, but Maria’s issues make it seem unlikely that anything will come of that.
Maria’s activities attract the unwelcome attention of the Archangel Michael. After a nasty confrontation he forbids her to use magic openly and puts a curse on her that she will lose her powers if she loses her virginity.
Because Michael can’t be everywhere at once he delegates an angel named Ezekiel to follow her around and make sure that she doesn’t use magic in public.
Ezekiel usually looks like a young girl but can also take the form of a dove. She doesn’t get along well with Maria’s owl familiars.
Interestingly, the angels don’t give a fig for the earthly Church. They are loyal to the Church of Heaven, which supports natural law and opposes magic. (If thousands of people die from war and disease who could be saved by magic, well that’s just tough luck.)
Some other characters: Galfa is a hard-bitten mercenary who pretends to be interested only in loot. However he seems to have a decent side well-hidden underneath.
Bernard is a priest who seems of fairly high rank, probably of noble blood. Though the Church seems pretty corrupt (as indeed it was in pre-Reformation days) Bernard is devout and idealistic. Naturally however he is totally opposed to witches.
There are a bunch of other witches who are less idealistic than Maria. They like to watch the battles for fun.
…And, why should we stick with just one mythology? There are also Valkyries who follow the battles, hoping to collect the souls of heroes.
So this is kind of a mishmash, but it’s an entertaining one with more depth than I expected to find. This is the sort of series that could either fall apart or end up being quite good. So far it’s good enough for me to keep watching.