Panning the Stream: Maria the Virgin Witch, World Break, Samurai Warriors

So scratch my last comment about there being no “middle-of-the-road” series this season.

Because this season is so heavy on sequels and carryovers, we’re actually pretty close to the end of the (licensed) new premieres, and I was finding myself with a lot of shows that were pretty much locks and very few that were hanging out in limbo. I’d still say that’s mostly true, but we do have one hard “maybe” this time around, worthy of a meet ‘n’ greet but definitely a series I’ll be playing by ear in the coming weeks. Past that there’s a big N-O and much smaller one, as we quietly close the curtain on the first week of the winter season.

Maria the Virgin Witch (Junketsu no Maria)

Studio: Production I.G.
Based On:
The manga by Ishikawa Masayuki (Moyashimon)
Streaming On:
Funimation (US/Canada)

In a Sentence: In this fantasy reimagining of the Hundred Years’ War, the witch Maria seeks to protect the people of France, despite her status as an outcast and heretic.

How was it? Entertaining with a touch of smart commentary, although I’m concerned for where the story might go from here.

Overall
I’m a sucker for historical fantasies, so it’s probably no surprise that I quite liked this premiere. It sets up the potential for a lot of future interactions and conflicts, both between individuals (Maria and Joseph) and groups (Maria and the other witches and the Catholic Church), and there’s a lot of promise for political and historical commentary, particularly in how the church used to treat women. The animation is dynamic (it is Production I.G., after all), but more importantly, the director seems to be crafting this with a modicum of dignity: Yes, the witches flaunt cultural norms by dressing pretty scantily, and the succubi are (of course) wearing little more than strategically wrapped ribbons, but where another series might constantly focus the camera on the T&A, this one just lets it exist, a part of the story without being in-your-face about it.

My only real concern is with the “virgin” angle, and how the story handles its other witch characters. It was fine here (making it a kind of contrast between witch stereotypes and witch reality), but there’s the potential that it will consume the story, distracting from the more interesting plot elements – or worse, be used to reinforce cultural stereotypes. We’re not there yet but I’ve watched enough anime to be wary of it, so I’m approaching this one on a week-by-week basis, for now.

Did it make the watchlist? This is probably the first true “wait and see” series of the winter season. I’ll be back next week to see how the story goes. Past that is anyone’s guess.

Probably Dropped

Samurai Warriors (Sengoku Musou)

Based very loosely on actual Japanese history and the “Samurai Warriors” video game franchise, both the art design and tone give me the feeling that this is intended for a fairly young audience, and it shows in the simplification of the story lines and the total lack of gritty, realistic warfare (although this does give us the most hilariously chill death scene ever, so it’s got that in its favor). The character designs are pretty ridiculous particularly in terms of their “period” clothing, and while nothing about it rubbed me the wrong way, there was nothing (except maybe the Sanada family dynamic) that made me curious for more, either. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good, and given how packed my schedule is already, I doubt I’ll be back for more.

Definitely Dropped

World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman (Seiken Tsukai no World Break)

I guess someone out there must be watching these cookie cutter harem fanservice shows because they keep making them, but I’ll be damned if I know who those someones are. The worst part is that some of them actually have kind of cool premises. I mean, a group of kids who remember their past lives and have special powers/emotional baggage to go along with it? That sounds like a solidly entertaining (if not spectacular) fantasy series, right? But instead it’s all about brother complexes and love triangles, and probably the most annoying character i’ve encountered this season. So, no, I won’t be back.

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