Alien and known. Local and Global. Japan…and not Nippon.
A unique thing about anime is the way it appropriates foreign culture and makes it Japanese.
In Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch), the titular character is French, the antagonists are English and characterization, decidedly Japanese.
Viewers would love the nice clean lines of Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell, Psycho Pass, Guilty Crown) produced series, as well as the funny banter between familars Artemis and Priapos which often devolves into a punchline on their master’s steadfast dedication to virginity.
Amidst the medieval warfare of knights and archers, Maria seeks for peace in her territory. The reason was never directly mentioned in the series, but I guess she was only looking out for the lone village that accepted her. She employs her magic to stop the combatants and forces both sides to peacefully retreat. I guess the SDF (Self Defense Force) would have been a good career fit for Maria.
The series gets a bit trickier when it incorporates some Catholic concepts, like the Virgin Mary, abbots and monasteries, the Archangels and God’s involvement with the everyday life of man.
Expectedly, the religious are appalled that Maria shares the same name as the Virgin and move in the shadows to plot Maria’s death. This dichotomy of outward goodness and inner evil, although historically accurate (as seen from the history of Spain’s colonies), is also reflective of the Japanese relations concepts of tatamae (outward image) and honne (true intentions).
Otherwise, the overall treatment of the series’ religious milieu is off, with the archangels acting as God’s primary messengers; that God only stands as a distant observer, not interfering with worldly events; and with St. Michael dispensing judgment for Maria. But then again, I’m not exactly looking straight into Catholicism, I’m looking through an interpretation.
The climax reminds me of Macross and G Gundam, wherein a trite “love conquers all” cry does overwhelm gigantic aliens and obstinately objective artificial intelligences. But this time it wasn’t between protagonists…it’s among protagonists — a communal love for one another.
St. Michael went around asking the whole breadth of characters how Maria’s existence affected their lives. It was like a tribute video about the goodness of Maria, only this time it has a direct effect on her future well being, not just a time fodder summarizing the whole 12 episodes.
The ending connects the viewer with the everyday aspect of Japanese life, of communal living. Persons do not exist solely by themselves, they only exist within a community. This social norm was acquired early on by the Japanese, who relied on each other to overcome weather disturbances and difficult terrain of their countryside to make a living. This cultural nuance has given birth to concepts like shuudan ishiki (group conciousness) and nemawashi (laying groundwork for approval).
This series wasn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it packs an ample amount of fluff that will keep the viewer looking forward to the next episode. That is, unless you’re one of the those ippiki ookami.