What They Say:
Don’t miss this intriguing tale of magic, war, and sexual politics from Production I.G., the studio that brought you Eden of the East, FLCL, and Ghost in the Shell! In the time of the Hundred Years’ War, a young and powerful witch known as Maria leads a reclusive existence. Shunned by the church – but beloved by a few locals – Maria endeavors to use her magic to bring an end to the warfare she so despises. Using her magical ability, she aids humanity alongside her two familiars: a seductive succubus and an incubus who’s a little incomplete. Though she seeks only peace, the archangel Michael despises the way she uses magic to interfere with human affairs and decrees that should she ever manage to lose her virginity, her powers will vanish! To ensure that Maria no longer mixes magic with warfare, Michael sends the angel Ezekiel to keep a watchful eye on the virgin witch. In theory, his plan is sound. But keeping a fiery young woman bound by the rules of a higher power might prove too daunting even for an ever-vigilant angel.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo alongside a newly produced English language dub that gets the 5.1 bump to it. Both tracks are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec and it’s a pretty solid mix overall as it deals with the dialogue in a very good way, the action in a solid way, and it has fun with the magic as well. The series tends to move smoothly between these various aspects rather than going into jarring transitions and that lets the flow of the audio work really well. The dialogue has some good placement thanks to the flying aspect and some of the creative movement pieces with the magic and that also translates into the flying itself with the sound effects. There’s a good bit of straightforward dialogue as well and that’s handled in a similar way making for an engaging piece with both tracks. There’s some real warmth with a lot of these areas even outside of the opening and closing songs and it’s easy to be put into the right mood because of the quality presentation.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this series are spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second. Animated by Production I.G., there’s some real quality to the animation here and it comes through very well through the encoding. The smoothness of the animation in its higher quality scenes certainly stands out but there’s a lot to like in the set design and the character variety as well and that really works well within the transfer. Colors are solid with pop in special areas but also having a solid blending in a more general sense with the earth tones of the time period without being too earthy. The character and background animation is solid throughout and there’s really nothing to find fault with here as it’s a clean and appealing looking show across the board.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the artwork. The o-card itself is nicely done in this regard as it goes for a more paper-like feel instead of something glossy and slick as it gives it something of a proper time period feeling. The central image of Maria certainly stands out with the pop of color here compared to the rest and it’s a nice balance overall. I particularly like how this cardstock works with the blue stripe along the top as it’s a bit more subdued because of it. The back cover is done in parchment style against the same reddish background and it provides for a nice blended image of Maria along the top with the softer colors. The premise is pretty well handled with the summary here and we get a good breakdown of the extras along with a few tiny shots from the show that almost aren’t worth doing. The rest is rounded out with the usual production credits along with a technical grid that’s a bit hard to read with the black text on the reddish brown background. While there are no inserts with this release we do get artwork on the reverse side where the left panel breaks down the episodes by number and title and the right has a good image of Maria flying upside down, though the image is the right side up.
The menus for this release are sadly a bit more simple than I would have hoped for as I wanted to see more of the Japanese artwork used. The main design is working off of the framing and color design of the cover where there’s just a smaller half image along the left of the cover artwork while the rest is just the book style red with the logo. The navigation along the bottom is in its own farming section but is done with a simple but lightly thematic font that’s functional and works well, though is a bit big when used as a pop-up menu during playback. Everything works without a problem, however, and that’s the main takeaway as always.
The extras for this release are kept simple but welcome as we get the trailers for it along with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. On the newly produced side, Funimation has a pair of audio commentary tracks from the production team for the first episode and the last episode.
Based on the manga series Junketsu no maria from Masayuki Ishikawa, Maria the Virgin Witch is a twelve episode series that aired in the winter 2015 season. The original work was a relatively short one as it ran in Good! Afternoon magazine beginning in 2008 for a total of three volumes before finishing up in the summer of 2013. That made is so that the anime adaptation could cover pretty much all that it wanted to in telling the story here. With Production IG behind the animation, and Goro Taniguchi directing, it’s certainly a show that makes clear its pedigree and polish when it comes to the quality. Frankly, the only downside is the awkward title because it’s the kind of thing that will turn away a lot of people in thinking it’s just more of the usual anime pervertedness being thrown about, especially with the main character visuals we get for our title character.
The series takes place in an interesting period of history within the Hundred Years’ War in France, which was in the late 1300’s to the mid 1400’s. While I won’t say that it will create a vast new understanding of a relatively complex for the time war that went on, the show does break down the basic motivations in a decent way and it actually spends time showing how your ordinary citizens had to deal with it, an area that’s often overlooked for the “more interesting” aspect of the rulers, royalty, and noteworthy names of the day. This brings it down to a far more accessible level in a way and that engagement goes a long way because it’s about the connection Maria has to these people, being the resident witch in the area of France she resides in and being frustrated by the war itself. While most of the other witches basically play above it to a degree, trying to be aloof, she gets firmly involved and causes plenty of problems as she wants to bring peace to the land.
A good deal of what Maria wants to do is to simply operate as a local witch helping people, and we do see that she’s done that over the years and has made a lot of great friends, but the way the times are changing and the narrative against witches growing, she’s becoming more active in trying to stem all of this. The problem that she runs into is that the angel Michael, hardass that he is, intends to keep witches from using their powers for public display and gets after her a lot. This dominates the earlier parts as we see her becoming more involved and trying to avoid bigger problems with Michael, but he sets a real problem for her in that if she’s caught again doing such things through the servants he sets to watch her, she’ll lose her powers. Additionally, to punish her more for what she’s been doing, he sets is so that if she loses her virginity she’ll lose her powers. With her wanting to do good this essentially puts her on a difficult path because she doesn’t want to be unable to help in big and important ways like she can. Michael does her best to box her in and it does work in a larger sense, but we see throughout it how Maria’s personality and nuance allows her to push and prod those sent to watch her, notably in the angel Ezekiel, who has a surprisingly deep bond put into play at the end of the series that was out of the blue but hugely intriguing.
The series is one that takes a roundabout approach to what it wants to accomplish as it takes the time to bring the characters into play. Maria is front and center and Ezekiel grows in importance as it goes along but we also get a number of villagers that we follow over the course of it, which becomes quite important as the religious side takes center stage against the witches – which is amusing considering that Michael essentially manages them for Heaven – and we also get a potential love in a young villager named Joseph. Watching the men heading off to war, how they’re armed, how little to no training they have, and just the bleakness of it all is fairly engaging since we get several viewpoints to watch everything through. Maria is certainly front and center with it
Maria the Virgin Witch is an interesting title that has its hand in several areas and engages all of them pretty well. It’s a solid overall work but it also takes a kind of leisurely pace at times, playing at different areas before finding a way to draw them all together. It works and it works well but it’s the kind of show that I think will play a bit better when not marathoned and just watched a few at a time. Funimation’s release brings out the quality Production IG put into it with the designs and quality of animation and overall it’s a solid release that doesn’t have enough material to warrant a limited edition, unfortunately. What we do get here will certainly please fans of the show as it’s handled just right.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 1 Commentary, Episode 12 Commentary
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 27th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.