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.