#1 A magical take on European history
Maria the Virgin Witch takes place during the hundred years’ war. English armies are marching through France to conquer land and desperate French lords are raising their levies to defend their domain. Greedy mercenaries sell their swords for coin or ravage the countryside to pillage and rape.
It’s an interesting period of history and one that would be fun to explore in an anime on its own, but this particular show infuses it with a bunch of magic and mythology. Fairytale creatures exist and all of religion is true as well. Gods and angels are there, yet so are valkyries and religious entities from other faiths. All of them keep their distance and prefer to watch over the people from above, but not everybody is quite so uninvolved.
#2 Maria the busybody
Maria is a powerful witch living in the woods of France. She is deeply involved with a nearby village, provides medicine to them, and performs odd jobs for the local ruler. Even so, the church is none too pleased with any of it and denounces here as an evil heretic.
As the war rages on, Maria becomes frustrated with the senseless loss of life. Furthermore, she begins to take a romantic interest in the count’s servant who delivers her letters and frequently visits to talk, except he is also drafted to fight the English. Unwilling to let the fighting continue and her crush put himself in danger, she begins to appear on battlefields and uses her magic to scare soldiers from both sides into retreating. This causes the war to get stuck in a frustrating stalemate.
Her behavior soon attracts the attention of higher powers, causing Maria’s ideology to clash with that of heaven. God and his angels are concerned that her actions upset the balance of the world and that Maria only acts out of self-interest. After all, as kind as it may be to break up a fight and rescue a few soldiers, it also forces the war to be prolonged further and it costs the lords a fortune. Likewise, it may seem sensible to rescue a village from raiders, but what is Maria to do when peasants who realize they have gained the upper hand begin to attack the raiders instead.
This forms a great central point to base Maria’s character around and it’s through the conflicts it creates that we learn more about her. And her rival in this philosophical conundrum is none other than the Archangel Michael himself.
#3 Authentic battles & fantasy monsters
A common point of praise directed at the show is the quality of its battles. Maria the Virgin Witch features many skirmishes between England and France, as well as smaller battles like a certain duel between a mercenary and knight. These are lovingly animated with a lot of attention to detail, perhaps owing to being directed by Code Geass veteran Goro Taniguchi.
The battles have a good flow to them and frequently zoom in on smaller moments like English longbowmen delivering their iconic taunt or soldiers diving behind their shields to block a rain of arrows, without losing track of the bigger fight. Lines break, soldiers rout, and the balance of the fights shift. And some of the individual battles are amazing to see too, especially those involving the mercenary Galfa.
It’s fun to then see these battles being crashed by the sudden intrusion of dragons, gorgons, and whatever else Maria decides to summon forth. The very idea that you are watching a serious medieval battle unfold one moment and suddenly an ice titan wanders in… it’s beautiful in its ridiculousness.
#4 Sex as a central theme
As the title implies, sex is kind of a big deal for the series, or rather, the lack thereof is. Maria is a young woman and, like her biblical counterpart, remains a virgin. This causes some amusement and also some frustration for her two familiars, a succubus and Incubus, who she tasks with disabling enemy camps and officers by… keeping them up all night. It lends a lot of good comedy to the show and also serves as an important element of the story.
Maria is a fun character who deeply wants to have romance in her life, but is also prudish and self-conscious about it. She hates discussing it and is easily flustered when it does come up, which makes her choice of familiars a bit of a bother. This then becomes even worse when God decides to intervene and imposes a new rule on her: if she ever loses her virginity, she will also lose her magical powers.
As her romance with the servant Joseph begins to grow deeper, it’s this rule that also keeps Maria from pushing forward with it. Her magic is such a core part of her identity and, without it, her self-imposed mission of obstructing the war would become impossible. When this information reaches nefarious forces, it also creates a different threat for her entirely. Joseph is an endearing character and makes his romantic interest in her very clear, you really want to see the two get together and it’s obvious that they want to do so as well. It’s just a question if Maria can accept that and make the next step in her life, knowing how much she’ll lose as a result.
Not content with merely condemning Maria to celibacy if she wants to keep using her magic, Michael also goes ahead and puts her under the watchful eye of Ezekiel. A young, female angel, Ezekiel is to keep an eye on Maria and prevent her from using magic to “upset the balance” to the best of his abilities.
Ezekiel starts as an interesting contrast to Maria and her familiars. She is strict and easy to anger, she wants to follow Michael’s orders to the letter and attempts to boss Maria around. However, she is very easy to undermine and it doesn’t take long before Maria starts using magic again whenever Ezekiel is otherwise occupied or being bullied by her familiars. While frustrations between Ezekiel and Maria often escalate into arguments, the little angel does begin to grow fascinated with maria’s resolve and philosophy, causing her to start doubting her mission.
When this shift begins to happen, Ezekiel turns into an interesting and tragic character. She is literally a tool of heaven granted a cruel amount of agency. Michael, by comparison, is nearly devoid of emotion and executes his tasks without remorse or question. Ezekiel is clearly affected by her time spent with Maria, but is powerless to go against the will of Heaven. Her story is almost as interesting as that of Maria and leads up to an exciting finale with many memorable moments sprinkled between.