Review of Maria the Virgin Witch (2015)
Seen in 2016.
Late in the Hundred Years’ War, some time after Joan of Arc (“La Pucelle”), one French pacifist summons large monsters to break up the battles between French and English armies on French soil. The archangel Michael opposes her, because the war is part of the Catholic god’s natural order.
Primary-world feminist fantasy. Well intentioned and poorly built. We see some of the misperceptions of period fighting repeated, including the officer in full plate ahistorically lifted onto his horse by crane, but the animators clearly tried for realism. Some one-on-one fights look lifted straight out of the manuals. Period armour, in particular, is surprisingly well researched and worn, apart from that silly crane.
The concept is at least indirectly based on the modern observation that the persecution of Renaissance-era “witches” was patriarchal oppression, partly of female competitors to male healers. This is probably why the witches of this show—even the shy Edwina—dress like modern clubhoppers, showing lots of skin. Skin sells. More dubiously, it shows the witches to be liberated, and therefore likely enemies of said patriarchy. Interestingly, the witches do not worship a pagan god as per Margaret Murray’s false hypothesis, nor are they human. The majority of them seem to regard people as insect-like, and take little interest in their affairs: a curious choice.
I was hoping for deeper feminist thought. A lot of the material here is josei pandering: the thoughtful boyfriend blurting out his confession, the incubus embarrassed by his lack of genitals, and the heroine using spectacularly dangerous Mary Sue methods to stop war. Because it is just a power fantasy, the monsters never hurt anybody, and spend the finale just staring stupidly into the middle distance.
The treatment of Christianity is also disappointing. A monk villain is so taken aback by the revelation of Michael’s existence that he tries to strangle the archangel, having had no such reaction to the obvious magic of the witches. Michael’s conclusion that the witches are suddenly part of the natural order also makes no sense.