Archive for category Historical Fiction

A Great Reworking of a Wonderful Manga

The title logo for Maria the Virgin Witch.

The title logo for Maria the Virgin Witch.

My comment about magical middle-aged men definitely applies to the anime of Maria the Virgin Witch. After all, it could have been about Marius the Chaste Wizard.

Because the anime and manga industries have close ties with each other, they’ve created a fairly solid self-sustaining loop. That is to say, anime viewership can drive the sales of the manga source material and the fans of the manga source material can bring higher ratings to an anime adaptation. I am very much a part of this cycle as I have purchased a number of manga series because I found the anime adaptation appealing. Thus, in 2015, the anime series Maria the Virgin Witch (純潔のマリア Jyunketsu no Maria) spurred my interest in the manga series and reading the manga series gave me a better appreciation for the anime adaptation. I have already written about the major themes and literary references of the manga series in my article “The Immaculate Nature of Heaven on Earth,” however, with the inclusion of a handful of new characters, the anime series added another layer to the story. This came from two characters in particular, the mercenary, Garfa, and the Catholic monk, Bernard. The addition of these two characters greatly benefited what little of a story there was to adapt and also created a different perspective on the major characters. While some may be disappointed the anime series greatly diverged from the manga series, the changes made to the anime series were captivating in a different and unique manner as compared to the source material.

When a manga series is adapted into an anime series, there are times when the production team will alter some details in order to create a narrative that flows better for viewers. Some of those details are very minor, such as background designs, but there are times when entire plot points are rewritten and new characters are added. Depending on the franchise this can be very beneficial, but in certain cases it can be a nuisance. Many of the movies from the Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece franchises are like this, as they tend to wedge a narrative in between what were two sequential story arcs from their respective TV series. Not that I mind this, but it can be confusing for people who are not mired in these franchises. However, with TV adaptations this is less of an issue as plot points and new characters are never introduced in an overbearing way. Sanae Dekomori from Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! and Bardock from Dragon Ball were wonderful examples of anime original characters who blended into the narrative of their respective TV series flawlessly.

Maria the Virgin Witch is another anime series where a number of new characters were introduced to the narrative of the series. For those familiar with the manga series, at first glance this seemed to disrupt the overall narrative. In actuality, though, it added a great deal to the anime series, not necessarily in terms of contributing to the theme, but in how it added new layers of intrigue to the series. For example, in the manga series of Maria the Virgin Witch we saw how the protagonist, Maria, exploited multiple loopholes in the edict set by the archangel Michael and why she did this. This dynamic was still present in the anime series, but we also had the opportunity to see her navigate the politics of the Roman Catholic Church and deal with the interests of the local lord. Thus, while the series still explored Maria’s quest for peace on earth, the will of Yahweh (or God) wasn’t the only thing she had to contend with, as she also had to finesse human-made constructs such as the church and royalty.

Garfa dueling in the fifth episode.

Garfa dueling in the fifth episode.

This was best seen in the narratives surrounding two vastly different characters, the mercenary Garfa and the Catholic monk Bernard. They both had their own agendas, making a profit on war for Garfa and spreading the Gospel for Bernard, but both were constantly impeded by Maria’s will to make the world a slightly better place. While at first the two characters tried to bargain with her, it quickly became apparent they would have to either deal with her meddling or use subterfuge to remove her. It’s very riveting watching the events play out and added a great deal of depth to the main cast of characters. For example, in the fifth episode we saw Garfa caught in a tryst with a knight’s lover. This led to a duel sanctioned by both the provincial lord and Bernard as a ploy to have Maria intervene and blatantly disobey Michael’s edict. However, what came from this was a very interesting examination into when Maria was willing to defy the will of Yahweh and what motivated Garfa as a mercenary. While there were instances in the manga series when we saw Maria ponder the dilemma she was in, placing her at odds with the agendas of more people gave viewers of the anime series a better understanding of her personality.

True, this deviated from the source material greatly, but through this the production team at Production I.G was able to maintain the overarching narrative while adding plot points to flesh out the content. To be honest, three volumes of content were not much for the production team to work with. Therefore, it is understandable new material was created to fill out the twelve episode series. The creation of Garfa and Bernard most certainly helped in that regard, but it also required many aspects of the series to be rewritten. As disappointing as this may sound to some, it created a new perspective on the narrative as a whole. Looking at the third volume of the manga series for instance, Maria was captured by locals and put on trial. It’s a very quick turn of events, and in the manga series we barely had the opportunity to fully grasp what was happening. Yet, in the anime adaptation of Maria the Virgin Witch we had the chance to see the merciless tactics Bernard was willing to utilize against Maria. So, as opposed to what was a quick scene in the manga series, here we saw in greater detail how those closest to Maria were conflicted in where they should place their loyalties.

It’s a unique perspective on the series, and one that could have been explored in the manga series. Yet, because Maria’s effect on those around her was only touched on lightly in the manga series, expanding on this was certainly welcome in the anime adaptation. This is why I feel it’s important for anime production companies to use their artistic license in certain instances. Had the team working on the anime series at Production I.G decided to follow the narrative as it was presented in the manga series, we would have never had the chance to see just how deep a hole Maria was actually in near the end of the manga series. Not all adaptations need to stay true to the source material and in certain cases by altering certain aspects of the source material we are allowed a better perspective on the themes and narrative. Thus, in order to provide viewers of Maria the Virgin Witch a new vantage point, the plot points may have been altered ever so slightly, but the overarching narrative and themes remained untouched.

I very much enjoyed the anime rendition of Maria the Virgin Witch. It was similar enough to its manga counterpart, but different enough to present a new angle on the themes and narrative. What bolstered this was most definitely the inclusion of new characters, but also by giving preexisting characters agency within the story. While some people may be literalist in what they expect from an adaptation, I feel if the core narrative and themes are untouched, certain aspects of an adaptation should be altered for the betterment of the work. Therefore, I suggest watching Maria the Virgin Witch, but that you also read the manga series around the fifth or sixth episode of the anime series so you can see how the themes and narrative inspired both works. However, if you only choose to watch the anime series, you will still be satisfied.

Work Info
Maria the Virgin Witch (純潔のマリア Jyunketsu no Maria)
Under: Production I.G.
Official Site:
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