One theme of ecchi that has never really appealed to me is traps; young, beautiful boys dressing as girls to deceive those around them and cause some utterly hilarious situations. Personally speaking, I like my girls with no padding in the mammary department or for them to be brandishing a “surprise inside”. And so it was with more than a little trepidation that I embarked on Maria Holic – a show that has long been a favourite with certain members of Club ISSUP (The International Study of Something Umm Perverted) because of what has been described as a “delicious trap”.
Telling the story of Kanako, Maria Holic’s delicate setting of a Catholic school for girls instantly put me in mind of Maria-sama ga Miteru. Thankfully, Holic instead quickly cements its name in perverted comedy as the hapless protagonist reveals her true nature via a somewhat unique reaction to a jaw droppingly stunning shoujo. As frequently occurs in ecchi anime, this leads to an unexpected twist that sets this show apart from others in the genre. Instead of the overly done harem or tiresomely vapid heroine, the writers instead choose to make the most desirable female a cross dressing megalomaniac. Cross the fact that poor Kanako is wrestling against her overtly yuri feelings against an allergy to males, and you quickly realise that the blend of dark humour works wonders.
In an effort to keep this joke from becoming tired, Kanako’s over the top nose bleed reactions are compounded by a classroom packed by a bevy of stereotypical typecasts; the bespectacled bookworm, little miss "ditzy but kind" and the skilful sports star all tickle our heroines fancy on regular occasions. Sadly, it is these once comical immense exsanguinations that are killed by the aggressive repetition. In my mind, the rapid expulsion of blood from a male character is representative of a sudden surge of blood to the head (if you know what I mean). As Kanako is lacking a one-eyed trouser snake, this initially funny joke results in questioning whether the writers have tried to be a little too clever with this little quip and resulted in completely missing the net.
Disregarding this one lack of judgement, the show's primarily episodic approach works well. The storyline easily flits between perverted swimsuit antics at the swimming pool and adventures of the adorably sinister dorm mistress named God. As time progresses, the flow of dark humour permeates every pore of this surprisingly amusing show but sadly seems to lack drive as it loses all momentum by the time it reaches a pointless cliff-hanger ending. At its best, Maria Holic is extremely reminiscent of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: the non-stop flow of inner monologues and angst-ridden teen years flow by effortlessly with much mirth from the viewer. Lacking the same exclusive Japanese driven humour of the latter, Maria Holic is an easy going flirtation with a titillating blend of comedy and ecchi that will definitely tickle the fancy of many an otaku.
Once again, parallels can be drawn with Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei in the art department; boldly drawn cartoonish characters are lovingly rendered with garishly complex patterns and designs. Although not quite as deliciously obnoxious as futuristic Gankutsuou, the crazy palette composition strangely works for the modern day Maria Holic; girls sparkle and glow as they become the latest object of Kanako’s affections, occasionally being turned into a shimmering stained glass piece of artwork in homage to the show's Catholic setting. The sparing use of CG finds its way into some unusual scenes, such as the fantastically crazy opening credits – I have to say, the sight of a maid’s ample bosom being freed from her apron never looked so good!
Initially breaking out with an upbeat and funky opening track, the musical score throughout Maria Holic is catchy and boogie-liciously addictive. The closing track is an electro-beat ditty that is impossible to get out of your head once it works its way in there, and the ambient background tunes are pleasant on the ear.
Thankfully, the voice acting is also up to par, with each of the seiyuu turning out a stellar performance. From the lovelorn Kanako to the creepy yet innocent dorm mistress, it seems that the casting department were on a roll the day of the auditions. Worthy of a mention is Yu Kobayashi, whose vocal talents bring the gender confused Mariya to life; flitting between her girlishness when public facing, the change to a gruff male is seamless and only goes to enhance the curiously mischievous side of our beloved cross dresser.
Starting with the best of the bunch, the troublesome pairing of Mariya and Matsurika is an absolute pleasure to watch. Their relentless bullying and manipulation of weaker personalities that surround them is both genius and cringe worthy at the same time. Mariya’s gender deception sees his inspired plotting at its best: playing both a delicate flower carefully picking her way through life and an insensitive despot who lives to prove his supremacy over the lesser beings in life, he wears each persona as easily as a mask. On the other hand, Matsurika is happy to play the deadpan sidekick to her master, only getting caught up in the merciless scheming when ordered to. Her cold, almost robotic facade never slips, thus making her intriguing to follow onscreen.
Unfortunately, the main protagonist does not come across quite as well. Kanako starts off as a mildly likable character, but her unwavering attraction to the fairer sex quickly plummets from being amusing and quirky to gut-wrenchingly dull. Setting out with so much promise, she quickly becomes nothing but a two dimensional, stereotypical pervert. Although this does keep the show moving along at times and can be very funny, it just seems a little too over the top to be used and amplified as the episodes roll by.
Overall, Maria Holic is a delightfully different mismatch of genres; from schoolgirl angst to black comedy, yuri fantasy to surprisingly sexy cross dressing, the bizarre combinations work well. Although far from being perfect, the series wields enough charm to keep the viewer entertained for all twelve episodes. If you harbour even a smidgen of curiosity about pretty females packing heat, then this show is less of a guilty pleasure and more of a stupendous introduction to the fascinating world of lady boys. Comparing it to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, it feels like a lighter version that includes a lot more boobies and far fewer in jokes aimed at the native Japanese audience – perfect for those who like a substantial handful of mindless pleasure with their entertainment.
Lets get this out of the way first, this show is a full on comedy. And, gladly, most of the time its incredibly funny.
The story itself is based on Kanako, the perverted yuri character who breaks out in hives at the touch of a man, attending an all-girls school. Their she meets Mariya, who she initially thinks is the perfect women, only to find out that, well, hes a he. And a rather sadistic one at that. From here the story takes a more slice of life kind of feel, showcasing the many adventures that Kanako gets up to.
This works quite well, as it allows for a number of fantastic comedy bits, and for the characters to really shine. In other words, it sets up the show well, and then does its part. We do get a cliffhanging at the end, which is really the only notion of a really focused story.
Firstly, the character designs are quite good, particulary Maria's and Matsurika, although all the girls are designed very well. The anime includes lots of experimental animation, which may throw some people off. Generally however, it adds to both the comedy and crazyness that occurs. Lastly, the op is fantastically animated.
The seiyuus for the cast are all fantastic, especially Mariya's. And a very good thing too, as lots of the comedy would be lost without successful voice acting, such as Mariya's brilliant insults to Kanako.
The music pieces are good, and for the most part suit the show.
Lastly, the op is fantastic, and the ed is a good listen as well.
A show such as this would be a failure if its characters were not up to par. Thankfully, most of them are very good. Mariya and Matsurika are certainly the best of them though, with Matsurika's deadpan expressions creating great laughs, and Mariya's seemingly dual personalities handled greatly. Kanako however, suffers later in the show, with what could perhaps be gags that are far to often repeated, and her pervertedness which just increases whith each episode.
Really though, the most important thing you need to know about this anime, is thats its hilarious. If you want a show that WILL make you laugh, then this is certainly a must watch.
Its a good show if your looking for a laugh. This show is the exact opposite of Ouran High School Host Club.
The story is weak ...and weird. A guy is dressing in girl a visits a girl-only school while his sister dresses in boy and visits a boy-only school. It has similar cast as in Bakemonogatari and as in Bakemonogatari a simple story stransforms into something strange and mindblowing.
This is my favorite type of animation, except some parts. Well, those parts are short and I can close my eyes there.
I fell in love in both, the music and the visual part of opening and ending.
After every episode I wanted to drop this show but every time something inside was telling "continue. I want to know how this nonsence ends".
In a discussion with my friends I somehow found reasoning to sit down and watch Maria†Holic. I am not in the slightest bit attracted to Shoujo-ai anime but because Maria†Holic was made but Shaft I decided I would give it ago. Much to my surprise, it was hardly Shoujo-ai, the only thing that was yuri about it was that the main character is a lesbian. That aside I still thought I should review it.
The story itself sounded over the top and unwatchable, the main character Kanoko breaks into hives on contact with boys – I thought this would definitely set it up for yuri-dom- and on her arrival to the all-female boarding school, meets with a bishoujo known as Mariya. Things couldn’t be better for Kanoko or so she thinks, but take a bit of Shaft randomness, and you get the ideal setting for a yuri –based on a friends opinion- turned upside down beaten over the head and left for dead. It seems to totally avoid any yuri premise what-so-ever, but in fact ridicules it in the typical dark humour that Shaft revels in. The story, if any is abandon within a few episodes, and becomes almost episodic in a fashion that is similar to Arakawa Under the Bridge. The themes differ from each episode and use the gag-plot line (in which a gag is brought up expanded on and then dropped for a new gag) reminiscent of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. So story-wise, as I’ve mentioned a few time, is typical of Shaft’s individual productions.
The animation style is fairly good, looking a lot like Shaft’s work, the use of interesting scene and camera angles as well as repeated scenery porn does however drain on the audience after a while. The clever intermixing of chibis and normal animation is probably what influenced Seitokai Yakuindomo’s use of chibi, usually switch to this style when something stupid happens or when Mariya uses her obnoxious attitude to try and explain certain thing to Kanoko. The opening has interesting visuals showing Mariya at her best, been a sadistic b!tch, the scene where she strums Matsurika like an electric guitar is extremely funny. The ending is visually different using 8-bit animation as a base for the ending song and plays out like a side scroller game mixed with real world picture and animation.
Shaft like in every respect, compare the Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei soundtrack with this and you’ll find many pieces are very similar, both complement the dark humour of the anime and the overall ridiculousness of it. On a side note the opening was extremely addictive and so was the ending and both deserve a mention.
Avoiding it but if you read the description of the anime this won’t be a spoiler. Maria†Holic has a large and varied cast with three major characters. Firstly there is Mariya who is actually a guy masquerading as a girl under his grandmother’s ‘orders,’ the thing I liked about him is his complete shift of personality, he disguises himself almost perfectly among the female population of the school. While acting ‘she’ is a perfect role model and an idol to the student body, however in the confines of his dorm, his is nasty, sadistic and cruel and uses every chance he can get to make Kanoko’s life at Ame no Kiseki a living breathing hell. However there is a slight change in this brash boy as the anime progresses, hinting towards so sort of development – maybe expanded on in Maria†Holic Alive – which makes him interesting. Matsurika his maid, is just as cruel and sadistic as Mariya is, but prefers to switch between her master and Kanoko for the receiving end of her harsh words. Kanoko is the only openly lesbian character in the anime, and to my surprise, is dealt with as a pitiful human being. Every day events seem to be twisted by her and made extremely perverse resulting in the running gag of her having a nosebleed. The hive problem of Kanoko’s is another gag that is constantly played with throughout the anime, leaving Kanoko –compared to Mariya- fairly boring as a lead character. Other characters added to the scene providing ammo for gags and minor character development.
Maria†Holic is an enjoyable anime, you don’t need to commit yourself to it and there nothing heavy to it, if you were looking for a shoujo-ai however, I advise you not to watch it. The Kanoko is the only yuri character and is beaten around for having such ideologies. To quickly summarise, it’s a good anime but being how it is, it’s not top-ten material, great from a random laugh, if you like Shaft’s dark humour.