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Maria the Virgin Witch 3 by Ishikawa…

Maria the Virgin Witch 3

by Ishikawa Masayuki

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Maria the Virgin Witch is a three-volume manga series (four volumes if counting the sequel Exhibition) created by Masayuki Ishikawa. It was actually because the series was by Ishikawa, who is also the creator of Moyasimon (which I enjoy), that it first came to my attention. The first volume of Maria the Virgin Witch intrigued me, and the second ends with the heroine in a rather dire-looking situation, so I was very curious to see how the story would continue to play out in the third. Happily, Kodansha Comics was kind enough to send a review copy along to me. Maria the Virgin Witch, Volume 3 was originally published in Japan in 2013. Kodansha's English-language edition of the volume was released in 2015. Despite being a short series, the narrative of Maria the Virgin Witch has the tendency to be a little unfocused, but I still find the manga to be consistently engaging. I especially appreciate the quirkiness of the series in general as well as the quirkiness of its characters specifically.

Maria had been warned by the Archangel Michael: If the young witch continued to interfere with the natural order of the world she would be struck down. However, so devoted to ending the long-lasting war between France and England, Maria continued to flaunt her powers, even while in the presence of Michael's messenger Ezekiel. Now the time has come for her to face the consequences of her actions. She was, however, somehow able to survive what was intended to be a fatal blow from Michael's spear. But she's still vulnerable and must rely on the protection of her two owl familiars and the kindness of her fellow witches who don't necessarily approve of her efforts to force a peace. Maria was at one point alone in the world—the Heavens, other witches, and even some of the humans she was trying to save all standing against her—but over time her earnestness and innocence has earned her some friends, a few of whom could have at one time been counted among her enemies. But even with their support Maria is beginning to lose her naiveté, realizing that bringing happiness to humanity may be more complicated than she initially considered.

Maria the Virgin Witch has always been a peculiar mix of quirky humor and more serious philosophical and theological reflection. There are a lot of ideas that Ishikawa was able to work into such a short series, although at the same time it's difficult to thoroughly explore all of them in only three volumes. (It actually makes me wonder if Maria the Virgin Witch was originally intended to be a longer story.) The third volume brings up questions about Maria's family and backstory without really answering them. Also, apparently many if not all witches are loners, something that wasn't clearly established until now. Maria's close friendship with the English witch Viv develops suddenly, and their discussions about the true meaning of happiness and love come across as a little forced. It was as if Ishikawa needed to rush in order to make sure that the heart of the series was addressed and made absolutely clear, paring down the seemingly extraneous elements introduced earlier in the manga.

Although overall the narrative of Maria the Virgin With is somewhat uneven, in the end I did largely enjoy the series and I would like to read Exhibition as well. Since the very beginning of the manga, I've been particularly fond of Maria herself. While she and the other witches feel more contemporary in thought and appearance than the rest of the series' setting, I do appreciated her struggle to come to terms with not only her own position in the world, but also the role of the higher powers of Heaven. It's a debate that humankind has been wrestling with for ages and is one more link between the manga's historical backdrop and the present day. Ishikawa explores the answer to this timeless question through Maria's growth as a character. She begins as a young, determined woman seeking to right the wrongs of the world, becoming wiser and more mature as she is confronted with the often brutal realities of life. But importantly, Maria never loses her ideals or succumbs to despair, which is why so many people come to love her so dearly.

Experiments in Manga ( )
  PhoenixTerran | Aug 10, 2015 |
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