Review/discussion about: Junketsu no Maria
Something that’s hard to do, no matter who you are, is change your way of thinking. It sounds simple enough, though, especially given the context. If you were raised to learn that one plus one equals three, it’s mathematically possible to prove you incorrectly and move your thinking from wrong to right. But what if it was something more esoteric? Perhaps you’ve always known that after dinner you should have three cookies, but somebody comes along and says no; that you should have four, not three, to whet your appetite. Are you right, or is the other person? But even more important, is there a different way to think? While Junketsu no Maria doesn’t deal with numbers or desserts, it’s this idea of changing one’s beliefs that makes it quite the interesting anime to see.
Junketsu starts off easily enough: Maria the Virgin Witch and her servant Artemis move around medieval France, using her magic and Artemis’s promiscuity to prevent war, fighting, and violence from breaking out across the land. But as is quickly learned, not everyone finds Maria’s ways to be for the best.
The show’s genres shouldn’t be as misleading as they are; it’s true that it contains comedic material that is perverse or sexual in nature, but said material is more “seinen” in its presentation. This maturity isn’t just found in the events that take place but also in the themes that the anime seeks to tackle. For Junketsu, one of its most prominent ideas – and as was talked about in the introduction – is the notion that people think differently. That selfishly thinking that one’s own way of believing is incorrect; that “everyone else but me” must be wrong. This is cleverly done by using Maria as a lens to demonstrate something common: ignorance. In other words, she isn’t just inexperienced when it comes to sex but also “inexperienced” when it comes to understanding the hearts and minds of others. And the anime takes its time in showcasing just how different people think in comparison to Maria: Galfa thinks only about money and revenge, Ezekiel loves to learn about what humanity thinks and does, Viv believes in protecting her friends, and Joseph doesn’t know what to think. The difficult part comes when putting everyone together, because, while they may each have their own, separate ideals, everyone believes themselves to be right. This leads to the numerous conflicts that arise between every cast member included, and subsequently the events of the narrative are allowed to naturally unfold. Such progress provides the audience not only with the chance to see a diverse range of viewpoints but also gives them the opportunity to compare their own type of thinking to the people on-screen.
Part of the reason for this being as effective as it is stems from the anime’s ability to balance rather nicely the real and the unreal. The setting itself is realistic: lone villages are entirely influenced by the people that reside within them, the war skirmishes actually showcase relevant tactics of the era, and religion is rampant. Junketsu always has its individual instances find refuge in realism in order to keep the themes it presents as grounded as possible and give them an elevated sense of importance. But interlaced among the realistic aspects are those that are mostly make-believe. Maria and the other witches’ magic summons, Ezekiel descending from the heavens, the various potions, transformations, and unexplainable entities; there is just as many unrealistic happenings as there are those that make logical sense. By incorporating such imagination in this rational world, the anime not only prevents the themes from becoming too heavy-handed but also provides them the opportunity to grow. Archangel Michael or Edwina and what they represent, or even something as simple as the general populace’s fear of witches – which is itself realistic and unrealistic – wouldn’t be permitted to exist in an environment that was fully steeped in believability. Meaning, the anime is given more chances than normal to play with its ideas by not restricting itself to the confines of the realistic setting in which it establishes.
Once again due to the aforementioned balance in terms of the real and unreal, the show is able to take part in quite the variety of artistic direction. The locations are often landscaped in acquaintance with war, but even then the detail is rife. Cannons, arrows, shields, wieldable weapons, horses, tents; the show takes its time in making both the era and the setting believable. Other locations include taverns, run-down huts, church halls, jail cells, and castles, adding further to the anime’s setting. At the same time, the unreal aspects fit snuggly in with everything else: the mythical beasts, Cernunnos the ancient one, and Maria’s forest cabin are depicted as magical but “normal.”
The character designs likewise see strength, mostly because they, too, are real. The characters’ faces, bodies, and gaits are given more human-like qualities and detail than anime is used to. Galfa with his squinty eyes, blue shirt, and short hair; Joseph with his rounder eyes, auburn hair, and peddler attire; and Guillaume with his weird hat, bored posture, and more regal clothing continue with the show’s trends. And the fantastical persons are no different: Maria’s large blue eyes, blonde hair, and strange coat; Viv’s curly locks, large bust, and pink cloak; and Michael’s holy armor, angelic wings, and dazzling aura contrast well with the show’s realer facets.
And to complete the package, the actual animation is usually higher than average. The fighting contains arrow volleys, duels, and other battle-centric moments; the beasts are often larger-than-life with fluid movements of their own; and characters perform their own separate actions, whether during conversational segments or during other situations. Anne jumping for joy, Maria overreacting with embarrassment, and Martha’s regretful actions are a sampling of the shows focus on nice, overall animation.
There are actually quite a few characters within Junketsu. However, the discussion here will be on the three most important: Michael, Bernard, and Maria. Before doing so, it’s also warranted to highlight the biggest flaw that each undergoes. And that is instantaneous development. For all three, while the messages and ideas they represent are rather strong, the progression of their character happens too suddenly to be deemed meaningful. Michael’s happens near the end with his highly-convenient mind powers, Bernard has an existential crisis after conversing with Maria, and Maria herself flips from selfish to caring after hearing Joseph’s confession. It’s unfortunate, but the anime was forced into this corner in order to wrap up its thematic presence in as clean a way as possible.
Michael is an angel – or more specifically, the Archangel of heaven. As the protector of the “natural law of the land,” as he puts it, he is an entity that is entirely devoted to God and his ways. So much so that he has no qualms with killing or attacking that which disrupts said law. While he barely shows up throughout the series – maybe five times at most – he only listens to himself and God, essentially making him out to be, as Maria deems him, a tool. As a thing that has no reason or even thinking of his own. And therefore, in an act of charity towards Maria and his own person, near the end of the show, he finally does something he never did before: listen. He doesn’t just act based on predefined rules; instead, he actually thinks for himself by first reaching out to the people who came into contact with Maria. While it literally took every witch, magical creature, and even a servant of his own to oppose him for him to ultimately realize the error of his ways, Michael correcting his mindset proves that even “God himself” can think incorrectly.
Brother Bernard is a man of the cloth, and therefore sits in the middle of God and man. While he follows the teachings of the church, his actions are there to benefit the masses. And that’s what is shown; thinking that Maria and the other witches to be vile blemishes on humanity, the movements he takes are done to eliminate them. His interpretation of God’s decree leads him down this path. In a certain sense, he is like Michael: a man who serves not only God but also acts as a tool for him. For the beliefs he holds aren’t entirely his own; they are learned, received, and derived from the holy books he reads. And like Michael once more, when he converses with Maria, he comes to a startling realization: that the way he thinks is wrong. He more or less denounces his ways, instead campaigning human reasoning and individual thinking. Or as he puts it, “…humans can move the world by themselves.”
Most interesting of all, though, is Bernard’s death. It’s symbolic thrice, from low to high level interpretations. The low-level idea is that he was killed simply because he attempted to hurt Michael. Given Michael’s reliance on violence up to this point, disintegrating the monk for crossing him isn’t completely out of the question. The middle-level interpretation is that God and the heaven’s must exist. His trying and failing to attack Michael not only leads to his demise but also leaves us, the audience, with the notion that there is some higher power that reigns supreme. However, the high-level interpretation is perhaps the most profound: there exist wrong types of thinking. Bernard states that “humans live only on human words alone” and that Michael’s existence – and subsequently the “words of God” – should not be possible. But the evidence is right in front of his eyes, so him refusing to think his way is flawed is wrong in and of itself. This is something that the anime has constantly shown us. Not just with Bernard here, but with Michael, Maria, Ezekiel, and countless other people. That is, sometimes, we do think incorrectly.
Last but not least, and serving no one but herself, is Maria. That is not an understatement; she flat out believes that her way of thinking is the correct path not just for her but for everyone. She’s half-right: while she saves many people through her abilities and medicines, she also hurts others or prevents them from finding their own happiness. Because people don’t necessarily think the same way as her, and her unending selfish behavior proves that she doesn’t understand this. But Joseph’s thinking, the love he has for her and the actions he takes for her, open her eyes, giving her the epiphany that people act and think differently. Her greatest contribution though is that, despite learning this, she remains staunch in her convictions. In other words, while she now understands that everyone thinks in their own way, that doesn’t mean she has to stop thinking in her own way, too. Because she is just like everybody else; right or wrong, she is allowed to believe and think for herself.
The opening theme for Junketsu is pretty fast, almost uncharacteristically so. The vocals do a lot of the work throughout the piece, but the mysterious instruments and off-beat tone work well towards making it sound as magical as the events that take place around Maria. The ending theme slows everything down, and once again the vocalist takes center stage. It’s an alright piece that gains some power by the halfway point that reflects Maria’s own peaceful and courageous way of thinking.
The soundtrack is an okay offering, with more mood setting pieces than tracks that are worth remembering or listening to. “Ichiba wo Aruku” provides a forestry-vibe that fits well with the locations visited. “Kyoui” is highly instrumental, frantic in its tone to match the often hectic happenings that occur. And “Kuchi Genka” is playful in its presentation to provide us with some fun music to match the comedy.
The voice acting done throughout the series is somewhere slightly above average. A special shout-out goes to Hisako Kanemoto as Maria for her womanly and often reactionary way of speaking.
The scene that everyone remembers from the anime is the one that was the most unsettling: the rape involving Maria and Galfa. Now, while I would still consider it rape due to the motivations behind it all, the abuse, and the extent to which everything was done, the anime recounted endlessly afterwards that Maria was never raped, her virginity was still intact, or any other way to phrase it. This was undoubtedly done to ease my mind and everyone else’s. Which made me relieved to say the least; such a situation was very hard to stomach or forget for quite a while. But it was somewhat “unfair” in the direction it took, misleading everyone into thinking it went one way only to rescind and go another. This scene and a few others were quite well done – Galfa and Joseph’s duel, Bernard’s dive into insanity, and Maria’s snake-like dragon summon following the first sight of a penis, to name a few. And while I had a few laughs here and there, usually thanks to Maria’s embarrassment and the sexual nature of the jokes, it was never a show that I found myself greatly attached to.
Junketsu no Maria is an anime that not only makes you think but also wants you to think differently. While the music is lackluster and the story isn’t fully engrossing, the characters with their strong themes and the slick art and animation make this a show that does, in fact, have a mind of its own.
Story: Good, thinking theme with nice balance of that which is realistic and unrealistic
Animation: Great, nice art style, very good character designs, above average actual animation
Characters: Good, Michael, Bernard, and Maria exemplify the thinking theme once more, but instantaneous development hampers them all
Sound: Fine, okay OP, okay ED, okay soundtrack, slightly above average VA work
Enjoyment: Fine, some nicely done scenes, some laughs, but nothing too engaging
Final Score: 7/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3