My Problem With Maria (The Character And The Show) And Why I’m Fearful Of Its Ending

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As the final episode looms near, I thought it best to talk about Maria for a bit because something about its latest episode bugged me. And whilst I’m sure most people are still going to vote for it on APR, or even see my problems with it as a positive, if I was worried about that, I wouldn’t write at all.

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Obviously, I’m not a fan of the anti-war stuff that characterizes most of this show, nor is the religious stuff the most exciting thing for me to watch. We all know that. But even by those standards there’s something off about the way Maria the Virgin Witch conveys that sort of stuff to me, mostly due to the fact that a lot of the philosophical execution is reminiscent of Trigun. Throughout most of the show, Maria has been irritating me with her one-sided “I hate war” bullshit that the show has yet to give me a good reason for (something Vash actually had) and how she sics demons on people in order to scare them without actually killing them, but it wasn’t completely insufferable because the Heavens were punishing her for interfering with human behavior. And whilst the reasons for why war benefits people were cliche, at least they existed. It’s a pity that this show doesn’t have a Wolfwood, instead settling for an Ezekiel that’s not only a little girl, but ends up siding with Maria. But whilst he’s not exactly Knives and the way he talks about Maria’s virginity is a little creepy, Galfa stands as a good villanious foil to her way of thinking.

Where Trigun ultimately blundered in the end was how Vash’s philosophy won out over everything else without him ever really questioning it. Sure the show tried to do so close to the finale, but in the end, he never really grew as a person nor did he really pay a hefty price for his actions. Compare that to say, Nausicaa, who we actually see kill people before realizing how horrible said action is, along with the suffering she goes through in order to stick to her beliefs. Yeah, she’s revived in the end when the movie was probably better off leaving her dead, but said revival was made tolerable by the fact that it happened after everything was resolved by her struggles. Not to mention, despite playing her up as a goddess or whatever, Nausicaa is ultimately just a small part of the film’s story. In other words, despite appearances to the contrary, Vash is much more of a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu…no, I mean Mary Sue) than Nausicaa ever was, and Maria is doing herself no favors by leaning towards his side of things.

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Whilst she is also a small part of her anime’s story as well, Maria has been getting way more involved into the Hundred Years’ War Stuff than she should be. Worst yet, her “revival” was the final climactic solution to the (or one of, but considering Galfa is dead pretty much useless now and there’s only one episode, it’s most likely “the”) major problem that had been plaguing most of this series. For the past few weeks, she had been stripped of her magic powers and given the third degree by the common folk because of her interference, even questioning why she hated war to begin with. I was hoping that maybe the show would take that in all kinds of interesting directions that I’m not going to clarify, because what’s the point? The latest episode copped out by having her regain her magic through her love for Joseph, having her use it to stop the “final” fighting with the same methods she used last time (except with a giant tree thrown in for good measure) with no change in her mindset whatsoever, and now she’s confronting Lord Michael again with the possibility of punishment looking pretty low given Ezekiel’s presence and all. Why, after all the buildup regarding the complexities of war and religion through this setting, do you take the most sappy Disney-esque solution imaginable? Even Mulan wasn’t that stupid!

And what makes me even more worried/irritated is that people like this turn. Look at this ANN review. It’s supporting this show’s message that love conquers war, and some of the forum-goers are even supporting Maria’s attitude that anyone who opposes her can shove it. Really?! You’re seriously expecting me to support a show that has such childish notions/execution on something like this? Imagine if this show was set during the Vietnam War and said conflict was averted by the final climax from Aquarion EVOL. It would be ironic enjoyment at best and hugely disrespectful to the actual event at worst.

I was giving Maria a pass up to this point despite my complaints for its content because it was leaning more towards the Nausicaa side of things with its latest episodes, granted not enough to make me really like it. However, the one episode that resembled Ghibli the most ended up tossing that and all the other complexities aside in favor of stupid fucking deus-ex anime bullshit solutions, and unless the final episode introduces a new wrench into the works (highly unlikely), this show has all but lost me. There’s even joking that Maria will apply the same childish notions to Lord Michael, and whilst I doubt he’ll get a beating, I am very worried that her love for Joseph will actually win out on his judgement, thereby supporting her anti-violent views 100% and doing it lamer than Trigun did. At least Vash didn’t get a literal magical power-up from Meryl’s love for him before he went off on his final mission.

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Seriously, love sucks.

14 responses to “My Problem With Maria (The Character And The Show) And Why I’m Fearful Of Its Ending

  1. I have to agree with you. I know that anime is often idealistic, but this turn of event is ridiculous. This anime set up an extremely complex situation, and then just ignored all of that. I’m not against the message love conquers all, but Maria has caused massive amount of destruction because of her naivety, and that’s somehow okay? Well, there’s still one ep left. Let’s see how thing goes.

    PS: which version of Nausicaa are you talking about, the anime or the manga?

  2. Did you not think Vash paid a price for his actions? I mean, he does kill someone, which violates his ultimate belief about life. Although I will say the ending of the series ends all too happily, which indicates that he’s able to have his cake and eat it, too.

    • I did say that the show tried to have him confront his philosophies close to the finale. Unfortunately, the way he dealt with his brother cancelled that out. The 2010 movie deals with his way of thinking a lot better by having him aware of his actions, but choosing to press forward and handle them however he can.

  3. Pretty sure that her loss of magic was due to a psychological issue, and not the judgement(even the guy who captured her said he wasn’t paid to do anything but capture her). Thus, she found a motivation to use her powers and get past her trauma.

    As for why she hates war: I could swear the anime was going for the “it causes too much suffering” bit, given how she helps the common folk. The destruction she causes is fine, at least to her, given that it dwarfs the dangers that war can bring. I have literally no problem with this.

    • Pretty sure that her loss of magic was due to a psychological issue

      I said she was stripped of her powers. I didn’t say “how”, nor do I care, because that’s not my issue with the anime.

      As for why she hates war: I could swear the anime was going for the “it causes too much suffering” bit

      The destruction she causes is fine, at least to her, given that it dwarfs the dangers that war can bring.

      That is a very dangerous and very cliche way of thinking. Maria isn’t exactly a Danish resistance member. She’s just an outsider who has powers that we humans aren’t capable of and her unchanging pacifistic attitude annoys me to no end. What’s worse is that the midpoint of the show revealed that her destruction could make the war worse in the long-run, but it’s refusing to do anything with that plot point. Why have it if you’re not going to use it at all?

      • There is no “good” or “bad”, so motivation doesn’t matter. And I certainly don’t care if it’s dangerous, but it certainly isn’t cliche in the negative sense. People have their own motivations for doing things. Their own morality. You can attempt to judge, but it’s just words. I’m fine with her reasoning. If she wants to stop the fighting, then so be it. If she had to kill 10 to save 1,000, I’d likely still support it. People are selfish. Her wanting to stop the war is, in a way, selfish. So is actually going to war. I don’t care if a protagonist is anti-war. It should never matter, really. And she certainly isn’t an outsider. War has far reaching consequences. It has the potential to affect her, so she’s free to intervene. Even if she wasn’t affected directly, it still indirectly affects her as she does not like seeing people suffer. She’s a part of the world. She’s a human(she merely has magical powers). She has a say, if she can help it. And nothing’s going to change my mind on that.

        I also don’t necessarily need a plot point to be used. The anime addresses that it can cause more harm than good, but it ultimately doesn’t. It’s 50/50 either way, so I don’t care. I do appreciate that they acknowledge this possibility.

    • The defenses you’re using for this anime can be found in practically every war story ever. If I had to judge the genre by those standards, there’d be no “bad” war fiction around short of stuff that supports evils like terrorism or fascism.

      but it certainly isn’t cliche in the negative sense.

      I could not disagree with you more.

      • They’re common because they’re true. And that logic is kinda silly. “Bad” war fiction wouldn’t have gone over motivations at all, maybe idealized war without showing its consequences, or maybe had super uninteresting characters. I never argued any of those points. I was pointing out that her actual motivation for her actions is fine. People actually have that line of thought. There is logic at play here. The only motivation I straight up don’t accept is the “just because” line of motivations, as that’s super lazy and basically admiiting your character has nothing going on.

    • I was pointing out that her actual motivation for her actions is fine.

      And I’m saying that’s not enough. It wasn’t enough for Vash, and it’s not enough here for the reasons I’ve described above. Yes, in “reality”, that sort of reasoning would be acceptable, but this is “fiction”. And the “good” fiction are supposed to give me more than simplistic ideals winning out the way it is in Maria. Nausicaa did that, and it helps that she’s just a normal girl who can fight really well, unlike either Vash or Maria, who are too superhuman to be relatable in the same way as a real pacifist, let alone Nausicaa.

      • “Good” writing need not be complex at all. Simplicity is, in its way, a virtue. I argue that it is enough, as at the very least I can relate to such ideals and understand them. Complexity is neither good nor bad, and as such I don’t see it as a requirement. It’s good to have when done well, mind you, but to imply it being necessary for something to be “good” is silly. But hey, opinions man.

      • Yeah, I’m not a fan of simple writing for the most part. Even the best popcorn films have more going on than in something like, say, Bamboo Blade.

  4. Going beyond this particular anime…most Disney movies tend to be both critically and popularly acclaimed, with a small number of infamous exceptions, so it’s not like such a traditional storytelling approach is somehow despised by or allergic to both relatively sophisticated critics and more mainstream audiences. I’d understand not liking an idealistic turn of events on a personal level or just preferring to see a more nuanced one whenever possible, but there are also various possible merits to choosing such an approach, depending on the specifics and themes of each work.

    It is not inherently wrong to make a story end on the triumph of idealism over darkness and grittiness. Love conquers all is, at the end of the day, a seemingly timeless literary concept that speaks to billions of human beings. You can consider it to be stereotypical, but the reason it is a stereotype is precisely because it has been proven to be effective. There will always be room for it in fiction as long as human psychology is willing to embrace idealism over rationalism. To say the least, there are also religious implications about the meaning of love and its power in many human cultures. Such ideals can be considered too simplistic given the complexity of reality, but the fact is most regular people aren’t all that cynical. Far more ambiguous worldviews, while also appreciated and sometimes highly successful in the fields of both film and literature, are simply not as dominant in our collective imagination.

    In the particular case of Maria the Virgin Witch, I think the series tries to question her methods on occasion but, more importantly, consistently underlines that Maria’s nature is not wrong. There is a simple spiritual purity to her beliefs that is both thematically and narratively valuable. The title “Junketsu no Maria” could have been more eloquently translated as Maria the Pure-hearted. The problems of the medieval world are certainly more complicated than what she thinks they are, but that is also part of the implicit challenge posed: is Maria willing to stick to her idealistic purity in the face of situations that threaten to destroy it? In other words, the story sets up a confrontation with harsh realities to test Maria’s resolve.

    Giving up and losing would mean more than just changing her methods of intervention. It would change her nature. Which sounds good, if you exclusively interpret that as potential for alternative character development without any other consideration. But, in this context, it actually means losing her purity and not even primarily in the physical sense. Losing her magical power was not only the result of psychological trauma from a rape attempt but, thematically speaking, the logical consequence of her mental purity starting to waver.

    We are talking about two aspects that are distinct yet correlated in a fictional world where both gods and magical users are apparently powered by belief. Deities need worshippers and magic users need self-confidence (that is, to believe in oneself). At one point Maria started to seriously doubt there was any good reason for her actions and that weakness symbolized a loss of innocence that would keep her in a powerless state, regardless of continuing to be a physical virgin. She would, in the less carnal sense, no longer be pure. If that progression had not been interrupted and reverted during the last story arc, her fate might well have been a violent death (plus, figuratively speaking, being forgotten and thus dying in obscurity). Not somehow constructively maturing as an adult who has become jaded to the world or whatever some of us might selectively consider to be more socially acceptable on paper.

    As a matter of fact, Maria was only willing to return to the battlefield and save Joseph precisely because of her spiritual purity and, by extension, her desire to use it to save someone she loved. That, together with the confession, fully restored her self-confidence and also symbolized overcoming the trauma from the sexual assault. Thus the return of Maria’s magical power is a coherent result of the storytelling framework rather than any sort of deus ex machina. And what was she ever going to do with such magical abilities? Naturally, continue to remain true to her pure beliefs and stop the battle going on around her.

    If your suggestion is that the Hundred Years war has now stopped for good, I think that’s extremely unclear at this time. I imagine this intervention was no different from any of the other battles that Maria had already interrupted, so the real underlying conflict will not necessarily end so quickly. It might well be resolved separately from Maria’s arc and not because of her actions, which would be fairly realistic. Either way, I would advise caution for the time being.

    Which brings us to the last episode. If you expect the power of love to be defeated against all odds, so to speak, then I am afraid that is almost impossible at this point. The important question is…what else did Maria learn from her experience? Even if she keeps her mental purity to the end, the rest of the world will not change. That’s the tricky part. There is certainly room for an interesting thematic wrap up with a handful of nuances even within an otherwise idealistic narrative.

    • I’ll agree that the deus-ex thing was an exaggeration because I know how she got her powers back. As for the rest of your points…

      consistently underlines that Maria’s nature is not wrong.

      It’s the fact that it’s saying that it’s “right” that’s bothering me.

      If your suggestion is that the Hundred Years war has now stopped for good, I think that’s extremely unclear at this time.

      The war itself ain’t over, but that’s a small thing compared to my main problem with the show.

      The important question is…what else did Maria learn from her experience?

      Until the last episode airs, I’m going to be dreading that the show won’t give me a satisfying answer to that question. And if the answer is “life goes on, but I’m going to stop wars anyways” or something like that, I will be very disappointed.