Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 1

Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 1Creator: Masayuki Ishikawa
U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781632360809
Released: February 2015
Original release: 2010

I’ll admit, when I first heard about the manga series Maria the Virgin Witch, I was more than a little skeptical. I’m not particularly interested in witches, which seem to be nearly as common as vampires in translated manga these days, and the emphasis placed on the heroine’s virginity seemed like it could be a little suspect. But then I realized that Maria the Virgin Witch was by Masayuki Ishikawa, the creator of Moyasimon, a quirky manga about microbes and fermentation that I enjoyed immensely. (Sadly, only two volumes of Moyasimon were ever released in English.) If for no other reason, I wanted to give Maria the Virgin Witch a chance because of my love for Moyasimon. I’m very glad that I did; the first volume turned out to be a very promising and intriguing start to the short series. Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 1 was initially published in Japan in 2010 while the English-language edition was released by Kodansha Comics in 2015.

During the first half of the fifteenth century, England and France were still locked in the Hundred Years War, many of the battles being waged on French soil. Maria is a powerful but young witch living in France. She abhors the killing and senseless violence and so does what she can to disrupt the conflict and protect the villages and people who live near her woods. She has discovered one particularly effective method: by sending an owl familiar in the form of a succubus among the leaders of the armies on the eve of major battles, they often lose their will to fight or their interest in the impending confrontation. However, sometimes more direct action is required and Maria will summon great beasts to wreak havoc and chaos on the battlefield. But causing such a spectacle carries with it the danger of drawing the attention of Heaven and the risk of incurring the wrath of the Archangel Michael. There is a proper order to the world, and Maria poses a threat to it.

Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 1, page 118 Maria’s outlook on life (as well as her and her familiars’ character designs) does tend to be more contemporary than the rest of the manga’s setting, but I really like her as a character. She has strong convictions, and she is prepared to act on them, doing what she can to right the injustices she sees in the world. Michael and others criticize her for her interference and audacity; Maria is very forthright with her feelings and opinions. She is young, and perhaps a little naive, but I admire her earnestness. Despite her anger and frustration, she has yet to become embittered by the world.  Maria honestly and wholeheartedly cares about people, especially those who are powerless or taken advantage of. Though some of her methods might not be considered to be particularly respectable by most, she and the people she protects believe her to be a force for good. Even so, Maria is considered to be a heretic by the Catholic Church, an institution for which she quite obviously holds no love.

Although Maria the Virgin Witch explores some fairly serious subjects—religion, morality, power dynamics, sexuality—the manga also includes a good deal of humor. Much of the comedy has to do with sex in one way or another, but some of it simply relies of the quirkiness of the characters. Maria, for example, is old enough to be curious about sex, but is still completely embarrassed at even the mere thought of seeing a man naked. As a result Priapus, the incubus she creates, is rather indistinct where it counts and is generally just put in charge of cooking and running errands. The first volume of Maria the Virgin Witch can be a bit crass at times (personally, I could have done without the repeated “cry for me like a little whore”-type comments), but overall the manga is a surprisingly layered work. The more I think about it, the more it grows on me, and the more I want to read the rest of the series. So far, Maria the Virgin Witch is a very interesting mix of historical fiction and fantasy that can be both entertaining and sobering.

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  1. Interesting that you mentioned the title–I almost didn’t click the review link because I figured it was an ecchi comedy. This sounds more like an ecchi comedy that somehow grew a historical plot and complex characters, which is much more interesting.

    • Ash Brown says

      It really is an interesting start to the series! And not nearly as ecchi as one might be led to believe from the title alone. (At least the first volume.) There are sexual situations but the manga isn’t overly sexualized. There is a small amount of fanservice, but I almost hesitate to call it that since it largely makes sense and is appropriate within the context of the story.

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