A young lesbian looking for love transfers to an all-girls high school to help find more fish that are in the sea. What could go wrong!? No. Seriously. As an anime lover and admirer of fanservice in general, could there be anything wrong with that scenario? I don't think so!
Minari Endo's original manga from 2006 is still going strong, and a few short years after its premier Maria Holic finally made its way onto the animated scene. The show was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo (Hidamari Sketch) and produced by Shaft (also Hidamari Sketch). To say the show's premise is out in left field and a little peculiar would be an understatement. Yes it's about a lesbian teenager trying to find another girl in an all-girl's school, but you know what the catch is? She winds up finding a boy! It should go without saying that you're not going to find a series show rife with drama that makes you think. This series is dedicated to eye-candy, guilty pleasures, and skewed anime stereotypes. Not that that's a bad thing.
When Maria Holic begins we're introduced to sophomore Kanako Miyamae. She's the aforementioned girl that is a raging lesbian and all around horny teenager. She breaks into furious nosebleeds whenever she's around, or thinks of, hot girls (ala typical horny mal stereotype), but even worse is the fact that she breaks out in hives whenever she's touched by a boy (something we saw with the Haru Hana manga recently). Considering she's been unlucky in love while attending a traditional high school she has determined that attending the all-girls Ame no Kisaki Academy is the best of both worlds. Hot girls and no guys mean she's hive free and set to score.
Things seemed good for Kanako until she bumped into Mariya Shido. Trailed by her maid quite often, Mariya is a beautiful blonde of reasonably decent stature at Ame no Kisaki. After all her grandmother was a chairperson at the school and her family is honored around the school, so naturally she has high standards to live up to. Kanako instantly falls for Mariya, but when she touches her she realizes something's amiss. She breaks out into hives!
Soon enough Kanako finds herself being blackmailed by Mariya, who knows her secret as a hardcore horny lesbian. If Kanako so much as peeps about Mariya's identity as a man the whole school will know about Kanako. In an effort to seal the deal Mariya even becomes Kanako's roommate. This way she can keep an eye on her and ensure she's holding up her end of the bargain. Eventually it comes through that Mariya is a bit of a masochist and quite enjoys tormenting her new roommate in twisted ways. Adding insult to injury is the inclusion of the maid character, Matsurika, who is just about the bluntest, rudest character ever introduced in anime.
With such a bizarre set up Maria Holic quickly asserts itself as an oddball comedy. It's not necessarily a romantic type, but rather one that exploits its quirks to their fullest extent. It's unique and strangely endearing throughout all twelve episodes, though to be quite honest it's a bit rollercoaster-like in terms of quality. Some scenes are laugh-out-loud funny, while others are just awkward or deadpan. The show gets so much better towards the end, but by that point it feels like the good stuff came too late.
Despite the fluctuating quality, Maria Holic is too quirky to pass up. Anyone who loves comedy anime will absolutely want to add this into their collection, and lovers of fan-service even more so. This stands out as one of the oddest shows I've watched in a while, but I say that as a good thing. It's remarkable who twists on stereotypes can take on a whole new life and in that sense I applaud the effort put into this show. It was also nice to see some of Shinbo's personal touches as director of this series. After recently watching Hidamari Sketch, I dare say that Maria Holic is certainly the better and most lively of his efforts.
Maria Holic is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The show is especially vibrant and there are many moments in the design that stand out, such as the emphasis on blood red (Kanako's nosebleeds). Adding to the dynamism that makes this series stands out is the animation technique and flare provided by Shaft and Shinbo. Black and white panels, clear backgrounds, and infused pieces of original manga add to the peculiarity of this show and make several scenes pop. Technically speaking this series is sharp as well with fine resolution and hardly any artifacts. Some grain is here, but it's nothing too distracting.
As is the case with other Sentai Filmworks releases Maria Holic lands in the States with its original Japanese language dub and English subtitles. The show is presented with 2.0 stereo as its only output, and with that some of the scenes feel relatively flat. Granted this is a wordy kind of show and the humor is largely visual, but just because it lacks action doesn't mean it should lack presence on the soundstage. The track is serviceable for what the show is and its material, but it's not exactly going to give your home theater a workout.
Some clean animations and trailers are included. In a surprising twist Sentai Filmworks has actually included additional content as well. There's a Japanese commercial collection, promotional video for the series, an interview with the original cast of three Japanese voice actresses, and Christmas Day screening of Maria Holic with cast members. There's over 40 minutes worth of supplemental material! How often do you see that with anime? Let alone obscure ones like Maria Holic?
Maria Holic is a fun, eccentric show that will endear itself to the perverted outright, and lovers of comedy shortly thereafter. Kanako's twisted tale of high school awkwardness is hilarious, unusual, and somehow strangely familiar. It's similar to other anime, but at the same point it's different due to the gender reversals for stereotypes and personalities of its characters. Anyone looking for an original show to fit into their library should definitely give this one serious consideration. Know that it's not for everyone, but it has the makings of being a cult favorite for those with an open mind. Strongly Recommended
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!