Her new school should have been heaven,
but Mariya turns it into hell.
Over the weekend I watched the first season of an interesting anime called Maria Holic. I was very excited after the first episode, thinking that I’d stumbled onto something awesome.
Kanako Miyamae is a second year high school student who has just transferred to Ame no Kisaki, an all-girls Catholic school. Kanako’s parents met there (her mother was a student and her father was a teacher) so Kanako hopes to make her mother in heaven proud by meeting her one true love within the hallowed walls of her parents’ school. She feels that her chances will be especially good since she’s a lesbian, and immediately Kanako meets an array of girls so dazzling that her nose is a constant fountain of blood (her nosebleeds are one of the main recurring gags throughout the initial twelve episodes). On top of that, should a boy so much as touch her, Kanako will break out into hives on her face, neck, and arms, but that should be no problem at an all-girl’s academy, right?
However, the hitch in Kanako’s giddy-up comes in the form of first year student Mariya Shidō, a blond cross-dressing boy who also attends Ame no Kisaki. Kanako inadvertently discovers Mariya’s secret and threatens to expose him, so in turn Mariya rips open his maid Matsurika’s blouse (Matsurika, though surly and frequent with name-calling, is always present where Mariya is) and tells Kanako that he’ll fabricate a lie about Kanako attacking his maid. Since Mariya is the late former chairperson’s grandchild, who will the school believe? Kanako doesn’t want to be kicked out or outed as a lesbian, so she puts up with sadistic Mariya rooming with her, watching over her, and basically controlling her nearly 24/7. To make matters worse, Kanako can’t help having a crush on Mariya’s girlish facade, which Mariya exploits to no end.
I tend to love anime high school comedies because, like American college films, everything seems fun and zany and the biggest worries of the main characters are always who they have a crush on or who has a crush on them or how to prepare for the upcoming festival/party/beach vacation. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there someone fails a test, but it’s never a big deal.
And this high school comedy has gorgeous art (some frames are even in the style of Alphonse Mucha or resemble stained glass) as well as cross-dressing (which I’ve always said is the mark of an excellent anime, or at the very least one of my favourites). But even though Maria Holic has great elements in it and even reminded me in some ways of Ouran High School Host Club, somewhere along the way it just fell flat.
Most of the episodes revolve around Kanako getting flustered about some situation or another, Mariya using her, Matsurika calling both of them curse words, and nosebleeds, nosebleeds, nosebleeds. Even though you meet several other students, you never see below the surface of any of them, including Mariya and Kanako. In episode six you finally learn why Mariya is cross-dressing in order to attend Ame no Kisaki, but after that it’s back to the same old, same old.
Maria Holic pokes loving fun at yuri perversion just as Ouran pokes loving fun at fan culture, and both anime series consist of mostly comedic episodes, but Maria Holic fails to develop its characters past the initial jokes, unlike Ouran which slowly clues you in to each host club member’s life outside of Ouran Academy. I wanted to know more about Kanako’s past at another school, Mariya’s family life, and why Matsurika is so sour, but that never happens in season one. And in my opinion, though the funny situations are amusing, they aren’t so riotous as to sustain the series on their own. I thought that the funniest episode was number eleven when a well-intentioned priest is introduced, but it took too long to get to that point. Ten episodes of the same joke gets a bit repetitive.
Overall I think that I was disappointed because I had such high expectations after episode one and the rest of the series failed to deliver on those expectations. Still, I enjoyed the artwork a great deal, and I would watch a second season to see if it picks up and explores any new areas of the characters’ lives. Perhaps that’s where the manga does the series more justice, but since it was published by the now-defunct Tokyopop, good luck finding those volumes. I was worried that Mariya would end up “curing” Kanako of her lesbianism, and a couple of episodes hint that it might happen, but it’s too soon to tell if it would be done in a gentle “exploring your sexuality” way or in an icky “thank goodness she’s out of that yuri phase” way. It’s all in the details, and Maria Holic, though lovely to look at, is sorely lacking in those.