Twelve Days #3: Junketsu no Maria and Ambition

As for today’s post… I’ve already talked about Junketsu no Maria before, quite possibly also touching on why I enjoy it so much, but since it still is somewhat fresh in my mind and falls under the category for the 12 days criteria I thought I’d take another crack at explaining what I liked about it so much and why it’s in my top 10 for this year. So as is becoming the trend take a picture of a cute girl.

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So… first off, I never really had any expectations for a show called “The Virgin With Maria”. It’s a mistake I constantly make and one that I should probably stop doing. I actually wasn’t going to pick it up at all during the season it aired. However, after hearing buzz about the show on /r/anime and anitwitter I decided to check it out.

Obviously the first thing I noticed was how gorgeous it looked and how absolutely perfect Maria’s overall design was. So I fell in love with the show and watched the entire thing. That’s the base level experience I had with the show, and was holding out for it to have a stunning ending, one that never quite came to fruition.

Why do I like it so much then? A few reasons, actually. First off is my enjoyment of Maria herself. While all the other characters may not have been shinning pinnacles of how to do character development, I think Maria came the closest (if she isn’t already) an extremely well done character.

We learn so much about Maria throughout the course of the show and the audience gains introspection into how she thinks, how she feels, what she’s like, and how she is literally forced to change due to circumstances almost beyond her control. Plus, as I said before, her character design was incredible.

The second point is somewhat intertwined with the first although it’s a much broader point. The thing I enjoyed over all else in Maria was its sheer potential and ambition to challenge very complex and touchy subjects. The idea of what makes something “right”. The idea of standing by your beliefs even when the world seems to be against you. The necessity of war. Religion’s influence on society. And so on.

Watching Maria struggle with her moral dilemma was fascinating. And time and time again it was made apparent that this was a struggle for this girl, not something that she thought about for five seconds or even one episode. Up until this point it had been her uncontested belief that she was in the right to stop all this fighting. But her ideas were challenged and the show DIDN’T raise her up to be the morale beacon of righteousness. It made it so much more grey than that.

Alongside that some questions I enjoyed were “how powerful is a god if they have no followers”, which is also a question brought up in the Discworld novels, which I am also a gigantic fan of. The question was directly stated by Cerununnos, who made mention that people had stopped worshiping him and therefore his power has declined. It’s really interesting to me to see Gods portrayed as real beings that become more or less powerful as their influence grows.

War as a necessary evil is something I don’t think a lot of anime touch on either. It seems that usually shows that would grapple with the issue would propose a solution that involves no killing. But in this case, the whole idea of “peaceful resolution” was challenged by having the soldiers destroy villages out of frustration. Maria has to consider which is worse: Do nothing and let go of her personal convictions, or do something and risk losing her power and having innocent people die?

Some of these questions even make me draw parallels to Serial Experiments Lain, which if you’d read my blog before you’d know I’m a huge fan of. What made Lain so amazing though is that it took all of these issues and almost flawlessly executed their presentation and incorporation into the story, while increasing in relevance as time went on.

Unfortunately I don’t think Junketsu no Maria was able to reach Lain’s level of greatness, nor do I think it’ll be remembered as anything more than a show that happened to air in 2015 for most people. I gave it a 9/10 at first but lowered it to a 7/10 after consideration and some still might find that inflated. Nonetheless, I really, REALLY hope more shows take cues from Maria. Ideas can be challenged. Characters don’t always have to have the moral high ground. Sometimes everything isn’t black and white.

Thanks for reading. I really do care strongly about this show and will continue to try and champion it for a little while, at least. It’s to me what Rolling Girls is to some people. 🙂

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One thought on “Twelve Days #3: Junketsu no Maria and Ambition

  1. Personally speaking, I think the best score for Junketsu no Maria would probably be 8/10. Anything much lower than that strikes me as either being remarkably stingy or largely uncaring for what the show was aiming for.

    The series had various additional positives that would merit discussion. I did like the character of Maria, of course, but both Galfa and Bernard were interesting individuals too, even if they were destined to be treated as antagonists. In any case, they weren’t portrayed as completely evil, which would have been an easy mistake for the story to make. Moreover, Ezekiel also had her moments as well, which helped present another perspective. In other words, Maria herself didn’t exist in isolation from the world and people around her..

    The most plausible reason I can find for giving the show a lower score, or for thinking even a 7/10 may be supposedly “inflated” as suggested towards the end of the post, would be in order to express a sense of personal disagreement towards both the content and craft of the series, including but not limited to any complaints regarding the ending. I’d tend to disagree with those, quite strongly in fact, because I think the resolution was serviceable for the story and fitting for Maria’s character. Not particularly original, to be sure, but I think there’s a rather lacking and shortsighted criticism of the same, which focuses exclusively on an arguable reduction in moral complexity without putting the rest of the details in context. I do think the series would have benefitted from more time to explore certain ideas, but I am satisfied with both the journey and its conclusion, especially when talking about a 13 episode show that is adapting a 3 volume manga.

    By the way…I’ll admit that I haven’t personally rewatched Lain in many years, but I do recall enjoying it a lot. In retrospect, I’ve heard it said that perhaps one of the major issues with said show is how its vision of the Internet of the future wasn’t a very good prediction, but that’s a debate for another time and place. Point is, I believe it worked well within its own context. Which is something that I’d argue also applies to Junketsu no Maria itself, regardless of their many differences in terms of both approach and subject matter.

    Hopefully you’ll take this response constructively, since I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Maria but felt that there needed to be a reply from a more positive perspective towards the series.

    Like

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