I typically try to review without too many spoilers or mark them when I have them but this is going to be about some very important developments and events during the show and a lot about the final episode as well so it’d be pointless to have 90% of this thing blocked out as spoiler content, so just don’t read this if you don’t want to be spoiled on the ending and some big events on the way there. Even the images are spoilers.
Maria is a show that manages to handle some serious situations and themes in a pretty phenomenal way, its a show that I really have a lot of praise for in regards to almost every aspect – but it ended up being something I could barely justify giving an 8 at best. Goro Taniguchi is a man who has directed many really great shows including some personal favorites (Gun x Sword, Planetes – and I’d say Galfa is heavily inspired by a character or two in the latter, both in looks and personality) and some pretty big turds, but Maria seemed to be a title easily on track for the former. That is until the show reaches the last 5 minutes of the penultimate episode; once you reach this point the writers apparently just didn’t know what to do to close the story out because it becomes a contradictive mess of incredibly stupid and childish shit that is entirely out of place in this show and in anything that isn’t aimed at 8 year olds. It’s very reminiscent of the “conclusion” to Yuki Yuna is a Hero in that regard, though I’d say this ending is way less fucking stupid even with how bad it is.Let’s look at some other things first before getting into the ending though. The art and animation are consistently fantastic throughout, the directing and cinematography was top notch, the music is pretty good with a few stand out tracks, the character designs are unique and nice to look at, the mostly historically accurate battles and culture were very interesting, and the story – while sounding stupid in any summary – was actually pretty great from the very beginning. From what I’ve heard, Galfa doesn’t even exist in the original material, and Joseph and several others are totally different, the rape doesn’t happen, and many other big events never did as well. This is one of those cases where the series has a lot of different and new content and it really does pay off.
The thing I have to praise most about this series though is a pretty easy to remember scene – one that many, including myself, were worried was coming the moment Michael set his rule about having sex meaning losing her magic: the attempted rape on Maria. With anime, “rape” never tends to be shown in any way that can be taken serious. You get it used as an excuse for fanservice and showing some skin for the viewers, or you get an over the top version of what takes place – either way it ends up a comical or stupid viewing experience. Here they opted for something far more disturbing and genuinely unsettling – something that, as someone who doesn’t really care about this shit usually, made me feel sick to my stomach for days after. Realism. There’s no flashes of her skin for the crowd, there’s no over the top violence or thrashing about while a big spooky no-faced man has a giant grin. Maria is scared shitless and literally cannot move due to both fear and being drugged, is pretty viciously beaten, gets the most creepy gag imaginable shoved in her mouth, has her arms tied up and her legs spread wide, and there are no wastes of time or extra motions before he goes to violate her. Its all extremely cold and mechanical. This was all made worse by the fact that Galfa and Maria were (and still are) my favorite characters in the show and that Maria wasn’t the only one who didn’t want this. We do learn Galfa never actually did anything to her (though that took till the next week to find out really) but even knowing that if you go back it won’t change how watching it feels. This is something only a very talented director could pull off along with a great staff, and I really do respect how well done this was – not only for anime, but even for fiction in general.On the negative side would be a scene much earlier in the show where Viv comes to visit Maria for the first time at her house. This entire meeting was the exact opposite of the rape, it was tasteless, poorly written, and insanely out of character. Maria becomes a whore in literally seconds and doesn’t even blush at the fact. She even openly agrees to have sex with a random guy Viv picks out for her because Viv told her “it feels really good” and apparently this was enough to make Maria go from entirely against sex plus NOT ABLE TO HAVE IT without ruining her entire life to being totally cool with it because this random girl she essentially just met told her it’s totally worth it (let this be a warning for the way the show would end up concluding the story). Instead Viv opts to ride Priapus’ cock because he’s right there and tells Maria to come watch and then join in a bit of the way through, which she is about to do before Viv finds that he has no dick. Throughout their whole conversation and saying things like sure I’ll go jump on a dick because you said it feels nice there’s not a blush and not a sign of being against it at all. This all gets ignored after the episode and never comes up again (and Maria goes back to being a consistent character again and being embarrassed as shit and put off by the idea of anything remotely lewd) and I’ll never understand what the fuck happened here.
What I really want to talk about aside the ending though is how confused this show seems about several cast members – people who are shown to be some of the greatest characters in the show yet seem that they were meant to be hated.
Galfa is essentially the very best character and really is one of my favorite anime characters in a long time – he’s a man with incredible will power who will stop at nothing to continue towards his dream of becoming a king. That’s not just words, he will do absolutely anything it takes, and he does. He’s brutal. Yet at the same time he takes his single real friendship equally serious and goes as far out of his way as he can to keep from ruining it or doing anything that could hurt Joseph. Even during the attempted rape and after it, it’s clearly shown that Galfa didn’t want to do it because he knew Joseph’s feelings for Maria, but he absolutely had to make her lose her magic. Luckily she does without that and he leaves without doing a single thing to her, though having just done something that has been proven time and time again to be mentally as traumatizing as actual rape, he tries cutting his ties with Joseph from then on who would no doubt find out about what happened. Choosing to be hated instead of making Joseph feel betrayed while also keeping himself safe from this massive weakness of his as Joseph on several occasions directly or indirectly put him in very bad situations. This is a man who stabbed his boss and “friend” directly in the throat without warning just because the guy was being a piece of shit to him and he knew killing him would get him a raise anyway. He also has an only hinted at backstory but from the little bits we get there’s a lot to him.
I’m not saying Galfa is an angel, he’s a massive piece of shit because he believes he has to be and because he’s human. He’s the MOST human of all the cast at that and also the one with the most conviction and power of will. He’s someone who is admirable – not for his acts, but for his sheer force of will and refusal to let anything get in the way of his ambition and yet also the compassion to really truly care about even just one other person so much that he did start going against his own will just for that person. The problem is that the show, and many fans, seem to just see him as a piece of shit and nothing more once the rape came up because people are retarded. Rape is fucking awful, I don’t disagree, but Galfa is not magically nothing but a rapist because he almost raped a girl once in order to stop her from using magic and conjuring fucking dragons and demons and shit. If you even stop for one second and consider the context, let alone the time period, plus keep in mind that Galfa canonically DID NOT WANT TO DO IT, then there’s no way anyone but the most immature viewers could see him as nothing but some kind of attempted rapist. He is an incredibly well written character who has the most development in the entire show, a shit ton to his personality aside “almost raping Maria that one time”, and is someone who I’d love to see fulfill his dreams and become king because he has everything a truly good ruler needed in that time, attempted rape or not.
That won’t happen though because of that ‘confusion’ I mentioned earlier on the shows part. In the final episode Galfa is shown as pathetic shit of a man who has given up on himself and his dreams – he has absolutely no will power and doesn’t even lift his head the slightest bit. He even starts tossing all responsibility from himself onto Maria like some kind of bullied manchild who got rejected by a cute popular girl and then started yelling what a slut she was minutes later because he was embarrassed and upset. There’s no explanation how he gets this way, there’s no build up or development towards it, it just happens – it’s literally the first and last time you see him after his fight with Joseph (which he was totally himself during). The staff clearly just didn’t know what to do with him at this point and were also afraid of showing him in a positive light which may upset otaku, and the entire show suffers for it.
The other really great character, and my second (very close to beating Galfa out) favorite would be Bernard. I don’t know enough about religious history and debates to appreciate it properly, but once Bernard was going ape shit in the prison cell with Maria I did understand what he was getting out of it and that’s when I started liking him. He went from an alright character to someone in the church that was actually willing to open his eyes to more possibility and even actual freedom for humans which goes entirely against the vast majority of popular religions – including his own. Something about that just makes me respect him a lot more given the position he holds while realizing these things. However, what really made him a personal favorite has nothing to do with that and all to do with the fact that he LITERALLY TRIES TO CHOKE AN ARCHANGEL TO DEATH WITH HIS BARE HANDS. You do not get more cool than that. Nobody has, nobody will. He doesn’t even hesitate once he puts things together and goes right on over telling him “You aren’t needed any more!” and grips his throat with both his hands without an ounce of fear in his eyes. Of course he’s zapped into dust for ever even considering humanity having control of their own destinies, but that has to be one of the most incredibly badass ways anyone has ever died in real life or fiction. It’s also thanks to him that the final episode didn’t completely ruin everything, though at the same time it feels like the show is “punishing” him as if he ever did anything wrong – which becomes far more strange when you consider God just magically forgives Maria and lets her keep on using magic as she pleases.
Now back to the original biggest issue – the ending. The problem with it is simple but big, the entire thing is just a random mish mash of hilarious friendship and love conquering all and what comes off as a parody of those TV commercials where someone goes around with a mic and hands a stranger a drink before asking if they’d believe what they’re drinking is actually a diet soda but tastes just like the real thing (spoilers: it doesn’t) or that this burger isn’t from some gourmet restaurant but is a new menu item at participating Burger King locations. For some reason Michael decides to ask absolutely everyone who has dealt with Maria their views on her in the most awkward way possible while, and this is the funniest part, almost none of them seem phased by the fact a fucking angel just appeared before them aside from the two church guys which results in Badass Bernard. Unsurprisingly, all of them aside from about three or so say she’s complete shit and needs to burn in hell.
Apparently three people is enough for Michael and GOD HIMSELF to believe she is generally loved and wanted by mankind (which is even more amusing when, after he says she’s no longer hated by God, you see a scene showing a bunch of angered, confused, and upset characters with only a few smiling) and so he pulls out the most generic and cliched JRPG lines imaginable. He chuckles, grins, and basically tells her “Heh, you won this time ;) Your love and friendship (with fucking who? Everyone hates her) along with your words (all she did was tell him to fuck himself) means I’ll let you go…this time ;) But I’ll be watching…heh.” This results in God literally going against everything he stands for, an archangel going against the laws he set upon her entirely, and was just the biggest most retarded asspull I’ve seen in awhile. All she did was yell at an angel that he was wrong for about 10 seconds, he threw back the fact that absolutely all but 3 people totally hate her, and then for some reason he said “you win lol”.
Overall, I did mostly enjoy this show and it has a lot of truly outstanding characters and moments, but when you fuck up the ENDING of something that really does retroactively make everything worse – as the journey may be important but if the journey leads you into a pile of shit it’s not one worth taking. In this case I don’t regret watching it by any means, it’s still a great show up until the ending and one worth watching regardless, but it could have been so much better.
I really just wanted to talk about these parts and these characters primarily rather than do a typical review, so sorry if you were expecting one of those but too bad. I can only hope they make some kind of spinoff about Galfa continuing towards his dream of kingship and just tearing through everything that gets in his way – be it men or hymen.