Sunday, April 5, 2009
After watching the fantastic first episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood today (raw; I'm waiting until it streams on Funimation's website this Thursday to view it subbed), I'm loathe to write about this show, but I might as well while it's still fresh in my mind.
Maria Holic is an unremarkable series with interesting animation that could aptly be described as a poor man's Maria-sama ga Miteru that pretends to be more clever than it actually is. I'm going to try to write this review while pretending that the offensive elements present in this show do not exist, because a good many of the people who have seen this either didn't notice that said elements are offensive or conciously glossed over this series' homophobic and misogynistic qualities because they like the pretty pictures, service, and nosebleeds.
Anyway, Maria Holic is about a girl named Kanako Miyamae who transfers to her mother's high school alma mater, Ame no Kisaki, which is an all-girl's Catholic school. Kanako is enrolling at the school in the hopes of finding a girlfriend (since she's a lesbian who thinks of nothing but "zOMG, HAWT GIRLZ!!!") and generally basking in the yuri paradise that only exists in her mind and the yuri mangas/light novels she reads. She meets a beautiful, seemingly kind-hearted girl named Mariya Shidou who is the granddaughter of the ex-chairman of the school. By accident, Kanako discovers that Mariya is a boy cross-dressing as a girl, and he subsequently reveals his true nature. He's a sadistic a$$**** who treats her like crap and tells her that he knows she's a lesbian right off the bat, to which she responds by freaking out and insisting that "yuri" sounds better (later in the show, we see Kanako remembering Mariya calling her a "yuri pig" while stepping on her). We then learn that Kanako hates all men because she was teased by boys as a kid and breaks out into hives whenever a man/boy touches her. Mariya has her moved to his room so that he can keep an eye on her and ensure that she won't leak out his secret. He then proceeds to be a controlling a$$**** for the remainder (as far as the series goes) of Kanako's school days. And in the few, precious moments when Mariya treats Kanako decently (like agreeing to leave the room where she needs to change after threatening not to leave; how magnanimous...), Kanako starts to show signs of falling for him (as the narrator points out in episode 2). Will Kanako find true love? Will she become cured of her man allergies and lesbianism and find true love with a man (Mariya)? Will Kanako stop drooling over everything in a skirt without being de-gayed, and will Mariya ever get that stick out if his a$$? zOMG.
Hmmm...it looks like trying to review this series without considering the inherently offensive plot elements when one is aware of them is like trying to refrigerate ice cream by boiling it. It can't be done. ^^
Here's a little Women's Studies 101 for anybody who doesn't see anything wrong with the above description:
-Treating women like crap is a crappy thing to do. It makes for a crappy story, worse still if it's played for comedy. (Example: When Mariya douses Kanako with gasoline and threatens to light her on fire for backtalking to him until she apologizes on her knees. lol?)
-Lesbians aren't gay because of bad experiences with men. This misconception helps instill the idea that lesbians will fall in love with men if only they would meet the right guy or resolve their issues. (See: Kanako's little heart-pounding moments over Mariya when he briefly acts "nice.") This is wish fulfillment for some male viewers.
As for the remainder of the series, it tries to be a clever parody of Maria-sama ga Miteru and other Catholic all-girl's school yuri series, but winds up repeating the same tired gags repeatedly ad nauseaum until, by the end, it isn't anything more than another stale schoolyard comedy that pretends to be more intelligent than it really is. Character Personality Checklist: Kanako got another nosebleed! Father Whatshisname jumped to conclusions again! The maid said something snarky! Sachi said something cute and optimistic! Mariya said something snarky! Etc.
As for the art, it's very appealing. I like the surreal, quirky visuals, rapid editing, and unique use of camera angles, a la the brilliant Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei. The character designs are distinctive and visually appealing also. Nothing I disliked there. But praising the art in this series is like admiring the decorative frosting on a stale birthday cake.