Here’s another of my end-of-series anime reviews, and this time it’s for one of the quirkiest series of the season, Maria Holic. Does Yuri + Trap = WIN? Read on to find out.
Maria Holic, adapted from the manga by Minari Endo and animated by Shaft, is about a second-year high school student named Kanako who transfers into an all-girls Catholic school. Due to previous experience, Kanako has an irrational fear of males in general and she transferred to the all-girls school to find her female soul mate. During her first day on school grounds Kanako meets a beautiful first-year student named Mariya who appears to be her ideal soul mate candidate, but Kanako soon finds out that Mariya is actually a cross-dressing boy with a sadistic personality. In order to stop Kanako from blabbing out his secret, Mariya forcefully becomes Kanako’s roommate and the series follows Kanako as she tries to find a soul mate among the school’s myriad of beautiful girls while trying to survive the abuse from Mariya and Mariya’s rude and condescending maid Matsurika.
From the very start, Maria Holic differentiates itself from other anime series with its outrageous plot and, even more noticeably, various artistic cues. From the trippy opening and ending sequences, to the numerous art stills used in Kanako’s inner dialogues, to the nonsensical not-a-preview segments that parody other famous anime series, it is clear that Shaft went wild with the art direction, and all of these art cues help give Maria Holic its off-beat style. Moving on, the general art style of Maria Holic is appealing and successfully fills the screen with a cast of attractive yet distinctive girls (plus a girlish looking boy pretending to be a girl). On the other hand, the quality of the animation is only average, but it’s not too important as Maria Holic isn’t an action-heavy series. The music used in the series is also quite nice, especially the piece that was played during Kanako’s first meeting Mariya. Overall, Maria Holic uses visual cues and music in an effective manner to create the right atmosphere and style for its non-standard plot.
Other than the use of artistic cues, the other defining element of Maria Holic is of course its outrageous plot. Despite the setup about Kanako trying to find a yuri soul mate, Maria Holic is not a yuri show and not a romance series. This is because Kanako is only real lesbian in the show, and everyone else is either oblivious, confused, or, in Mariya and Matsurika’s case, appalled by Kanako’s perverted behavior and no one really has a romantic interest in Kanako. What Maria Holic is really (mostly) about is Kanako having very elaborate, perverted fantasies which end up with her either nose bleeding into unconsciousness or shot down by Mariya and Matsurika. In this sense, Maria Holic is probably more of a parody to yuri romance than anything else.
Regardless of the plot, the most important question when it comes to comedies is “is it funny?” In Maria Holic‘s case, the question is “Does Yuri + Trap = WIN?”, and the answer is yes, but Maria Holic is not always funny. The trap Mariya and Matsurika have great screen presence and their deliciously evil antics to abuse and belittle Kanako are hilarious, but the problem is they don’t actually get that much screen time. Maria Holic is primarily Kanako’s show, and the only tricks Kanako has are nose bleeding, getting rashes after being touched by males, and having monologues consisting of either long-winded rants or perverted fantasies. Depending on the situation, these activities can be very funny, or they can just be bland or even annoying. Basically, when Maria Holic is funny it is hilarious, but that level of comedy is not always maintained and there are segments that are either boring, mildly irritating, or just plain bizarre.
One final complaint about Maria Holic is its tendency to set up cliffhanger endings to episode but not resolving them in a satisfactory manner. There were a few instances where the cliffhanger situation just turned out to be something minor (the seaweed monster turned out to be the dog, and the forbidden door is just an overstuffed storage room etc.), but there are other instances where the situation is completely forgotten about in the next episode (Kanako’s party trick and God’s wrath for knowing the school’s seven mysteries). Ignoring the cliffhangers didn’t really affect the plot as the episodes are more or less disjointed, but it was disappointing not to exploit these potentially hilarious situations.
Despite its flaws, Maria Holic is a show that stands out for its unique setup and quirky attitude. It wasn’t always laugh-out-loud hilarious like some people expected, but it’s not really a disappointment either and overall it was a decent series. After 12 episodes, the story of Maria Holic hasn’t progressed very far as Kanako is still suffering at the hands of Mariya and Matsurika, and the perfect yuri soul mate still eludes her. The show will probably get a second season, and hopefully in the next season we’ll see Mariya and Matsurika getting more screen time as their presence makes the show a little more exciting. As experience has shown, just letting Kanako run wild can sometimes be a bad idea to both the cast and to audience.