The Absence of the Church of Heaven: Junketsu no Maria and Catholicism

So, the headline here is that I’m dropping Junketsu no Maria and that I’m pretty bummed about doing so. I like, even adore, a lot of the peripheral elements of the show—Maria herself, her little posse of misfits, the character designs—but the show’s handling of Catholicism and the Catholic Church, which was more or less the focus of this episode, has left me both uncomfortable and a bit upset after watching the second episode. And, as much as I want to, I just can’t ignore those warning bells in my head.

Junketsu no Maria

The initial vibe I got from Junketsu no Maria‘s premiere was that it didn’t particularly like Catholicism. But there was enough other stuff going on that it was pretty easy for me to pass over it, and even agree with it in places. This episode, though, took things to a completely different level that all but radiated anti-Catholicism.

To start off, I think it’s necessary that I make explicit my awareness of the historic Catholic Church and its faults, failings, and sins. This is not going to be a post apologizing the rampant hypocrisy, corruption, and decadence of the medieval Church. I’m well aware of the more sordid elements of the Church’s past, as I expect most are (it seems a common topic for anti-Catholic arguments to gloat over—but sorry that’s just me complaining). This post will, however, be about Junketsu no Maria‘s portrayals of the Catholic Church and the various ways in which I find those portrayals to be incorrect. I mean to address the structural elements and attitudes of the show more than the actual historical details themselves.

Firstly, I think there’s an important distinction to make between Catholicism as an institution (in other words, the Catholic Church) and as a religion (as in, a set of religious beliefs). That may sound a bit disingenuous and, certainly, the two are conflated in the majority of cases, but I think it’s a fair distinction to make. As with any religion, there is an particular religious essence that is Catholicism, which exists in lived reality through the practical applications and motions of what, for lack of a better phrase, I think can be called the “spirit of the religion.”

Junketsu no Maria

As an example, let me use one of the most important teachings of Catholicism: the belief that bread and wine literally become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ as Mass. Now, over the years, the liturgical functions that surround the actual event of transubstantiation (the moment at which bread becomes Body and wine becomes Blood) have varied. Before Vatican II, the priest faced away from the people; after, towards them. But the actual belief in the transformation never changed. That’s what I would call the “spirit of the religion,” while facing forwards or backwards is the practical motion. The direction the priest faces has no impact on whether or not the event occurs, but it’s the prescribed method established by the institutional Catholic Church.

This is obviously one very specific example related only to the liturgy, but the point I’m trying to make is that the ways in which the human Church enacts the divine teachings is not infallible and can change…or be wrong. The Church, including its leadership, is made up of fallible, sinful human beings. And so, to come back to Junketsu no Maria, it’s understandable (if very much wrong and awful) that the very people who preached messages of morality often failed to live out those messages themselves. But does that void the validity of the message? If a man who steals cars regularly teaches me that I ought not to steal, is the lesson itself false due to the teacher’s failings? I don’t think so. By the same token, though, it’s understandable (if quite sad) that the laity would become disillusioned with a Church whose leadership told them to do one thing, and then did another themselves.

With all this in mind, Junketsu no Maria reads to me like a one-sided curbstomp using the absolute worst of the Catholic Church’s institutional history—hypocrisy, corruption, lack of care for the common people—to invalidate the entirety of the religion without even a hint of an attempt to acknowledge the essence of true Catholicism. It has, as is so common, conflated the “spirit of the religion” with the practical application of it by flawed humans and condemned both.

Junketsu no Maria

The Catholic Church as an institution has certainly been responsible for a vast number of bad things that have happened, but it’s also a towering historical pillar of artistic and scientific merit and charitable works. To criticize the institution’s faults without presenting its triumphs, to me, seems unfair. But I could overlook that, because it’s not as if the Church really deserves to be praised for living out its mission—after all, that’s its purpose. Furthermore, it’s not as if the good the Catholic Church does somehow karmically erases the bad. Rather, my real issues come from the way Junketsu no Maria seems to be interested in systematically disassembling all aspects of Catholicism—including the “spirit of the religion”—without any sort of discrimination as to what it attacks.

Whereas the early parts of episode 2 were more focused on the critical failings and hypocrisy of the church’s leadership (a relevant and valid point of critique if actually used as critique, not mockery), I really felt like Maria turned its attacks in a different direction once Maria returned to her home village. Bandit mercenaries have gathered the common people together, and we see Anna, the little girl who has befriended Maria, praying for St. Margaret and St. Michael’s aid, but eventually crying out for Maria, who indeed appears. Now, I have no problem with Anna crying out for help from an individual who has proven in the past to be merciful and helpful to her. (There’s also a kind of neat element of Maria being named after the Virgin Mary at play there, too.)

What I do take issue with is that, coupled with Maria’s earlier comments, the non-response of the heavens and Maria’s subsequent appearance seems to specifically ridicule the source of the common people’s hope. Actually, perhaps ridicule is too strong a word—I don’t really think Junketsu no Maria is attacking the idea of having faith in another power, even if Maria explicitly states that “angels won’t protect you from bandits or wolves.” But what it is doing, intentionally or not, is setting up a shallow strawman of the Catholic view of God.

Junketsu no Maria

When Michael descends from the heavens to halt Maria’s kind-hearted and just actions in the name of the “church of the heavens,” the lines that are being drawn are too bold to ignore. The implication is, of course, that the Catholic God is only a god who watches from the heavens and seeks to maintain the status quo, without regard for or even at the expense of the people on earth. In fact, it’s not an implication at all. Michael tells Maria, “The church of the heavens keeps watch over the world. We stop those like yourself to maintain order.” Which, of course, is nonsense.

The Catholic God (or the church of heaven or whatever you want to call it) would never intervene with a person on earth doing good for others for the sake of some abstract reason like “maintaining order.” But Maria is actively helping people, where it appears that heaven does not. I’ve heard this critique against the Catholic God enough to know exactly what Maria is driving at—the classic question of theodicy, the problem of evil. “If God were truly a loving god,” the argument goes, “He would stop all the evil in this world.” Now, I know plenty of theological-philosophical answers to this argument, but I don’t want to bring those out right now. That’s an entirely different debate. I just ask that you trust me in this case: considering the real Catholic teaching, this is a radical misunderstanding of how divine intervention works. The relevant point is that Junketsu no Maria has taken the premise, “evil exists” and spun out the logic to the practical conclusion: “God not only does not stop evil from occurring, but he actively maintains the balance of a world where evil does exist.”

Junketsu no Maria

In case the logic isn’t clear, I’m essentially arguing that Junketsu no Maria has established a facade of the Catholic understanding and conception of God (and the ways he interacts with earth) and then used that strawman to construct the God of the anime’s Catholic Church.

“But, iblessall, this is fiction! Stop treating it like it’s real life!” I hear you saying. Well, kind of yes and kind of no. With something like Rage of Bahamut: Genesis’ setting, it’s easy enough to divorce the names (St. Michael, Joan of Arc, etc.) from the associations I have with them as Catholic figures, because they have been relocated from their real world positions into an obviously fantastical world, but Junketsu no Maria is very specifically and intentionally placed in an actual historical time period—one where the church on earth was perhaps at its very worst. The unity of specific, authentic details about the distasteful realities of the church and the setting in the time when those realities occurred seems to me to indicate our understanding of Maria‘s setting to be: this is the real world, this is the real church, and creative liberties have been taken to insert the witch faction into the real history of the world (seemingly, for the purpose of attacking the real life church and its beliefs). In other words, a fallacious presentation of the Catholic God’s nature has been associated, through actual historical details, with the real Catholic Church. This isn’t a fictionalizing of history; it’s an appropriation of it coupled with a distortion of a Catholic belief.

It’s not so much that I resent disagreement with Catholic doctrine (heck, even devout Catholics struggle with various teachings of the Church) or disdain critique of the Church, but this is just ignorant and false constructs being portrayed as the truth. I can’t accept that, even if it’s unintentional. To attack something, you need to understand what it is you’re actually attacking; otherwise, you’re just swatting at shadows, as Junketsu no Maria is doing.

Junketsu no Maria

Maria is the axis around which the whole set-up exists. Given the same name as the Virgin Mary (a potentially beautiful parallel I somewhat suspect is intended as a sort vicious irony), she has been branded a heretic for being a witch, despite the fact that she stops violence and acts in the interests of peace. She also is literally the perfect viewpoint character through which Junketsu no Maria can mount its twin attacks on Catholicism. Maria, and rightly so given the situation that’s been created for her, disdains both the church on earth and the church of the heavens. One seeks to burn her out of some absurd sense of religious zealotry, while the other demands she desist with her peacekeeping activities in the name of a status quo based on nothing but arrogance and preservation of power..

Maria, after all, is a pacifist who specifically goes out of her way to avoid actually harming anyone. She is unequivocally placed in the position of righteousness, with one super strange exception: our first encounter with Michael comes as a spear soars out of the sky as a warning to Maria as she’s about to scorch the town. It’s a just thing to do, for the heavens to protect the innocent in the town from Maria’s rash, childish actions. But when Michael returns, there’s no ambiguity as to who we’re supposed to see as being in the right. It’s Maria. Why Michael was introduced with a heavy-handed, albeit somewhat justified, entrance, only to be later propped up as the strawman portrayal of divine intervention already discussed? I don’t know. Perhaps it was to show that Maria still is capable of foolishness. Whatever the reason, it’s just a blip in the otherwise consistent dynamics of justice consistently siding against Catholicism shown in the rest of the episode.

Junketsu no Maria

Maybe Maria will move away from these attitudes in future episodes. Maybe it will decide it wants to focus on hit-or-miss sex jokes (if you ask me, it’s not all that funny to throw a character looking like a young boy unwilling into a sexual encounter, no matter if he’s an incubus or not) (if you also ask me, Artemis’ quip about the serpent after Maria explodes out of the house made me laugh). But, frankly, I can’t muster up the energy to try and sit through another episode after the exhausting experience that this one was. Watching Junketsu no Maria this week was an exercise in constantly trying to gloss over the anti-Catholicism and ignorance so I could enjoy the rest of the show. I can’t do that for 11 more weeks.

Warning: You May Not Like What I Have to Say Here

To everyone I’ve seen snickering at the modern Catholic Church behind their hands with Maria screencaps like, “Females are filth” and “The Catholic Church is full of people who hate women,” you probably don’t care what I think. Meme away, by all means—I’m well aware that the Catholic Church is an easy and popular target; however, I feel compelled to decry your smug “critique” of an institution you probably know little about and probably have made little effort to truly understand. At the risk of sounding overly moralistic or pretentious (a risk I’m willing to take in this instance), I do not do what you’re doing to atheists, Muslims, Jews, or any other group of people with their own set of beliefs. I hope you’d afford my faith the same respect—of leveling true critiques in your own words, with the intent to reform or improve rather than mock, and based on well-intentioned understanding—rather than hiding behind a screenshot. I think what you’re doing now is cowardly. And that is all I will say on that matter.

79 thoughts on “The Absence of the Church of Heaven: Junketsu no Maria and Catholicism

  1. I thought this was a very thought-provoking piece! As someone who was brought up Catholic myself, I can certainly empathize with feeling a little uncomfortable with the beating the Church takes in history books. As you said, most of that is justified, but I like to think there was and is something more to the Catholic faith than dumb peasants being misled by crooked priests, as it is so often portrayed.

    And yeah, this show doesn’t seem like a reasoned critique of Catholicism–the Church is an easy target, and its renowned misdeeds make it a convenient villain. But there’s a definite difference, as you said, between criticizing the institution and criticizing the faith and teachings. I’ve never found the bitter “God will never help you” message to be a rewarding takeaway, it’s far too pessimistic for my taste. And most of my favorite shows, even if they’re not explicitly religious, don’t follow that–they’re optimistic, they enforce the idea that we should have faith.

    And I do think Catholicism is capable of producing that kind of faith, which is why it is kind of disappointing to see it portrayed in such a negative light here. It’s probably not something that would factor too heavily into whether or not I watch the show, but I found your take on the intersection of religion and media very interesting.


    • I would not say that the Church is a villain, even as portrayed in the show, but merely a source of opposition or antagonism. I think it’s also too soon to deduce what message or answer the show is trying to transmit, even if we can detect some of the broad strokes of how the question is being asked.


    • I’ll agree with Xander’s above comment that “villain” doesn’t seem quite the right word to describe Maria‘s treatment of the Church, but I think the point’s more semantic than anything. What it does seem to portray the church as is a foul-faced cloud of hypocrisy worshiping a heavenly church that very nearly seems to despise the suffering people of earth.

      I like optimistic shows best, too! People are free to think, “The world is terrible and there is no hope and no God to help me” if they want, but I couldn’t keep on moving forward in my life if I thought like that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You know, I think you convinced as to how problematic Maria’s depiction of heaven is. I’m not religious, but a lot of what I you said about Maria reminds me of the popular conservative/reactionary view on Islam in the West. In particular,

    “[…] The relevant point is that Junketsu no Maria has taken the premise, “evil exists” and spun out the logic to the practical conclusion: “God not only does not stop evil from occurring, but he actively maintains the balance of a world where evil does exist.” ”

    is similar to how the extrapolation of “violent Islamist groups have not been curbed” into “all of Islam promotes this behavior and all Muslims are covertly in support of extremism” happens.

    Anyway, yes, great post. Normally I’d post it on Reddit some time in the future, but the sensitive nature and Reddit’s somewhat tonedeaf disposition makes me somewhat, uh, wary. I’ll leave it up to you.


    • Haha yeah, this was never a post I thought would go over well on Reddit, unfortunately.

      To clarify, though—it’s not that Maria‘s specific presentation of heaven irks me on its own so much as I feel the show presents its version of heaven as the valid and true Catholic version of heaven. Which, clearly, it’s not.


    • “God not only does not stop evil from occurring, but he actively maintains the balance of a world where evil does exist.”
      In particular, I find this wrong for one reason: The Archangel does not condone or support evil in any way. He is a passive watcher, and his authority seems to stem to the point where other magic-wielders, or non-true humans, are not allowed to step in and interfere, no matter their intentions.

      That does not mean, of course, that the show is wrong in any major fault. The church was not known for its “good deeds” during times of holy war, state-funded wars or any other war. They’re in the middle of a French-English conflict. I find this an important distinction between “the normal, everyday Church.”

      Of course, the author is judging a rather edgy, thought-provoking piece on two episodes and dropping it when its become 2edgy5me. Come on.


  3. I’m guessing from this post that you are Catholic/were raised one? Since I was raised Catholic and your writing really sounds like someone who knows personally what they’re talking about (I mean, I’m not even more but even I have to defend it and say “no, Catholicism thinks that creationism is dumb and teaches evolution” on a regular basis, heck I almost had to do it today!). And this does really make me more hesitant to check out the second episode, I still want to and maybe it won’t rub me the same way but your reasons for dropping are not giving me much hope here.


    • Yup, I’m a cradle Catholic who has found reasons beyond “I was raised that way” to stay Catholic!

      I definitely don’t want to discourage people from checking out the show if they want to—I just felt I to speak up and basically go, “No, this actually isn’t what Catholicism is like,” kind of like you were saying with the evolution thing. I feel like people should actually know what they’re seeing isn’t actually Catholicism, but a really common strawman conception of what the religion is.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A few thoughts:

    1. In a way, this show is similar to Maoyuu Maou Yuusha. It’s some guy coming in after the time and imagining that he could have easily made the world an infinitely better place by bringing the brilliant superior enlightened ideas of the modern world to a backwards people. Although at least Maria isn’t nearly as open about it: in Maria they actually need magic powers to do it.
    2. I’m not entirely convinced the show is trying to be anti-Catholic. Especially in the western sense of the term “anti-Catholic”, many of the criticisms, such as they are, could be levied against other Christians just as well.

    Maria seems to me like many children’s stories— there’s a hero who saves people from some bad guys, who are very unambiguously evil. Since it’s set in the Middle Ages it’s the most powerful people there are, in this case the church. I would guess that later on the nobility will do some equally horrendous things.

    I actually think it’s just a very common story in anime with the catholic church of the middle ages awkwardly transplanted on top (obviously, with very little research, as we see from that scene with the little girl bringing the communion bread to snack on at the witch’s house). But it’s the same story story we often see, where there is some powerful system (they always use the line “You could call it… God!!!”) which people worship but is actually evil and needs to be destroyed. I would speculate that this story archetype could have its roots in Hirohito’s humanity declaration. We see how the church of heaven is a “god system” in this story by how Michael is pretty much a robot enforcing rules.

    I appreciate Maria because it brings this common story into a historical period, and here, we see how silly and simplistic it is to blame all the world’s ills on a single system. It’s disrespectful of people and their freedom to blame all of their problems on the things they have been “fooled” into worshiping rather than on the people themselves.

    1. Tying again into how I see this more as a story about Japan rather than an attack on Catholicism, the view of the world is entirely Japanese. There’s not just God and his angels; all the western mythologies are real. There are witches and Valkyries and Thor and whatnot. God isn’t in command of them either. They can fight each other on equal footing. There is no God, and the angels are just one group of gods among many. Maria could probably beat up Michael if she trained more. So again, no understanding of Christianity at all so it can’t serve as an effective criticism of Christianity. But I don’t think that is the intention.

    You’re right in that it’s disappointing they don’t go further into Michael’s viewpoint. The more I think about it, the more I find myself agreeing with Michael. Sure, Maria is a “good” witch who does good things. But what about all the other witches? They don’t want peace. They could easily use magic to force people to go to war. Sure, it’s a good thing to save lives. But Maria comes from a position of enormous power. Should those with magic be allowed to impose their will on the weak through magic? Without any rules and checks on her power, this is simply tyranny, without any respect for the free will of others.

    Thanks for posting this! Obviously, you made me think about it a fair amount since you inspired me to write so much. 🙂

    But I for one look forward to continue watching Maria. Its anti-Catholicism, such as it is, reveals more about its author than it does about Catholicism. Same with Maoyuu Yuusha, Mahouka, Gunbuster, Gasaraki, Gigantic Formula, etc. and what they reveal about the authors.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Should those with magic be allowed to impose their will on the weak through magic?

      This leads into what I found confusing about this whole situation. Michael said that by Maria doing good deeds using her “power”, she is disturbing the natural order. That’s well and dandy, and like you said, should those with magic (which I would say is another word for power) be allowed to impose their will on the weak?

      The issue is that in-universe, there are plenty of OTHER people with enormous power who are imposing their will on the weak. English and French nobles are using their power to force peasants to form armies and fight their battles for them (of course, it’s not QUITE the same in that, willingly or not, these peasants have a contract with their lord to obey this command in exchange for a place to live, but I think you get my point), all for ostensibly selfish reasons.

      This is why I’m not sure I understand Michael’s point about Maria “upsetting the order.” If she is imposing her will and doing good deeds and is actively punished by heaven for it, why are the angels not doing the same to noblemen, who are also imposing their will on the weak?


      • I’m probably reading between the lines / making stuff up, but I had assumed that there was some order whereby those with magics would not openly interfere in the lives of humans, which was the order she was upsetting. So if good witches could save people, bad witches / valkyries could also kill people.

        I don’t think the nobles should be able to impose their will on the peasants either, of course. But the nobles, although powerful, are only human. I can imagine how much worse it would be if witches and demons used their magic powers to control people. Normal people would be helpless. At least with normal people you can slit their throats. It would kind of be like Tigana.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Would it really make a substantial difference if the nobles were oppressing peasants with magical in place of physical arms? More often than not, peasants wouldn’t have a say about their fates regardless.

          I mean, think of it as armor clad, sword bearing, castle-owning nobles already have a lop-sided advantage over peasants, who often have nothing save the comparatively fragile tools of their trade. Magic may conceptually provide a lopsided advantage over nobles, but that hardly upsets what’s always been a lopsided dynamic. Guns and cannons made swords, armor, and eventually castles obsolete as hell, but we wouldn’t accuse the use of guns and cannons to be unnatural.

          Actually, it wouldn’t be out of the ballpark for people, nobles and not, confronted with guns and cannons for the first time, in their ignorance, to accuse them of being… magic.


          • No, I don’t think it makes a substantial difference if it’s physical weapons as opposed to magical ones. So should people not be forced to do things against their will with physical weapons? I would argue yes. That’s why we have gun control laws and police and armies, to prevent people with weapons from forcing us to do things against our will. (Well, ideally, in reality the police and armies do the things they were supposed to prevent…) So Michael and his angels could be a supernatural analogue, preventing magic being used to harm those who are defenseless, such as the mercenaries Maria blinded. Why wouldn’t Michael use his power to save the villagers? To avoid being a hypocrite, he is also bound by the rules preventing the use of supernatural powers on humans.

            Btw, I don’t know if this is correct or if I even agree with Michael, just offering a possible explanation.


          • In reply to draggle:

            I mention something similar in my long post below, that the emphasis seems to be more in the natural part than the order, but where does this rule come from? After all, assuming that the Catholic faith is true in this setting (what’s with the real life Angels and all) then haven’t Heaven done plenty of direct supernatural interference to mankind before? Also, why do witches still exist in this setting then? As I can’t see them being able to do much with their life and talents otherwise.

            Yeah, I really hope they elaborate on this in later episodes, as so far it doesn’t really make much sense.


          • Still a bit arbitrary in a way because we consider those powers supernatural because… well, because they just don’t exist in nature. But if they did, as they do in the world of this anime, and they belonged to simple humans, not fallen gods/demons/demigods, then they would basically be part of the regular set of human abilities. Sure, not everyone could use magic. Not everyone would be a strong sword fighter either, or invent an atomic bomb. So why does “magic” get this special taboo status? What makes it more “unnatural” than other things?

            (of course, this presumes that the author thought about all this. Which is maybe a long-ish shot)

            Liked by 1 person

    • As per my own post below, I don’t think the series is assuming that there is no God in the world or that the Church is unambiguously evil (rather, it’s an institutioanl antagonist) and that Maria is perfectly right about every single thing. Similarly, I think we aren’t necessarily meant to understand the entirety of Michael’s (or heaven’s, or the Church’s) point of view in a single episode, so I hope we’ll get further elaboration about that in the coming weeks.

      I suppose you could also say that with greater power also comes greater responsibility, since Maria is powerful enough that she could potentially keep the war going on forever in her good-hearted attempts to delay or stop individual battles from taking place.


      1. I actually find that kind of mentality to be incredibly arrogant. It totally ignores both the context of the actual history and the fact that the developments of that age were necessary for us to be able to have our enlightened modern thoughts.
      2. I definitely do think it’s fair to say that Maria isn’t specifically trying to be anti-Catholic. I think it just ends up that way. As you’ve pointed out, a lot of these same attacks could easily be leveled at Christianity as a whole (or even just institutionalized evil)—it’s just Catholicism that’s the chosen representative in this case. That being said, I do feel like the specific historical details personalize the attacks and specifically direct them at the Catholic Church in this case. Like I said in the post, Maria connects evil to the Church through association via those details.

      3. That’s some great insight in viewing the show through traditional Japanese conceptions of religion and gods. As you’ve said, a lot of things about the show betray a pretty obvious lack of understanding of Christianity and Catholicism, so the show actually can’t function as a critique. I guess my issue is that I feel it is trying to function as such, when it’s inherently unable to. So, intentionally or not, it feels like misrepresentation and attack on an unfair playing field.

      So, as far as dropping it goes, I just can’t keep up the mental processes of constantly going “Okay, they’re just attacking a false perception of Catholicism, chill out self.” It’s kind of exhausting. ^_^”

      In any case, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you enjoy the rest of the show. I’ve said my piece, so I hope it’s a good ride for all those who have decided they’ll continue to watch it.


      • Even if you’ve completely closed off the possibility of revisiting Junketsu no Maria in the future, I feel that I must urge you to at least consider viewing the two final episodes of the show to find the resolution of The Church of the Heaven’s actions toward the world of mortals. It appeared to me, even with my lack of a deep and profound understanding of the Catholic Church’s history, that Michael’s actions regarding Maria and the priest Bernard seem particularly redeeming. On a tangent, Bernard engages in a rather interesting monologue prior to this incident. I wish to explain more thoroughly, if not concisely, but I can’t gather my wits firmly enough about me to do so this late in the eve.

        It occurs to me that perhaps you already know the entire story through discourse with your peers, and if so, then my request loses a large amount of its compelling force.


  5. It was interesting reading this viewpoint. Especially given it is so radically different in a sense from mine.

    If I were to say I were raised by a “religion” the closest that comes to that is Paganism or simpler I would be a Witch, or Warlock given my gender, like Maria due to being partially raised by my aunt who is more or less a modern day witch (she follows Pagan beliefs and everything). Also my parents didn’t want me to be a part of the religious stuff given they were forced to do such things by their parents and they didn’t want to deal with it.

    So in the end my viewpoint is closer to Maria’s and the whole side that attacks Catholicism because it is easy since they are such a big and easy target with a muddy past (though really I am smart enough to know ALL religions have that if you look deep enough).


    • Yeah, I think Catholicism’s muddy past is just easier for people to see due to the fact that it was such a huge power (and is, to some extent) in Western civilization for such a long time.

      No other religious institution has even come close to having the same sort of political, economic, etc, etc, influence that Catholicism did. So it’s kind of a “stand in the spotlight long enough and eventually people will notice your scars” type of deal.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “If I were to say I were raised by a “religion” the closest that comes to that is Paganism or simpler I would be a Witch, or Warlock given my gender”

      A bit of a random note, I suppose, but guys can be witches too! Few would have identified as a “witch” during the Middle Ages and modern era – witchcraft would be a term levied against people for their perceived wrongdoings, and it was a term levied against women and men alike. In some examples of witch-hunts, men made up majority of the victims. In most, however, women were disproportionally targeted, for reasons that are still not completely clear to scholars today.

      It should be noted that witch-hunts and witch-burning is a very modern thing, not medieval. By “modern” I do not refer to the present day, but rather, to the modern era of history – one of those arbitrary eras that historians like to use for the sake of convenience. The early modern period is generally considered to have “begun” around the 16th century. Of course, these eras aren’t official, but they can be useful. Anyways, witch-hunts occurred prior to that, but not nearly as often as people frequently believe. Inquisitions focused on heresy and individuals suspected of being false converts – it didn’t target witches. This goes for the famous Spanish Inquisition. Pagans were targeted by Crusades, but they were pagans or heathens, not witches.

      Witchcraft is a bit of an interesting and nebulous thing, and there was no official Church view on it throughout the Middle Ages. Many Christians had a significant issue with the idea of witchcraft as an accusation – since it implies a sort of spiritual power outside of Christianity and outside of the Church. As such, prominent Church theologians actually often targeted people who accused others of being witches, rather than accusing people of witches themselves. This is reflected in Carolingian law, which had harsh punishments for witch hunters.

      However, witch-hunts and accusations of witchcraft do seem to have picked up by the late 14th century. By the end of the Middle Ages, they were becoming more and more common, and the idea of the gendered witch began to emerge. “Malleus Maleficarum”, a German manual on how to prosecute witches published in 1487, became extremely popular in Europe, particularly amongst Protestant groups (the Catholic Church condemned the book). The invention of the printing press in the 15th century no doubt helped its spread. Malleus Maleficarum did not say that only women could become witches, but rather, that women were more emotional and less rational than men, and therefore were more likely to be witches (this general belief does offer one explanation as to why so many more women would be accused of witchcraft than men). Maleficarum really started the trend of witchcraft being associated with women in literature. Men were still victims of witch hunts (making up a non insignificant minority of those accused in Salem), but the process of the gendering the term “witch” would never be reversed.

      Nowadays, we are at the point where people in the Western World are not accused of witchcraft. Some even embrace the label as describing their own practices. Most use it in works of fantasy. Even still, the gendered idea of witchcraft remains – witches in fiction are almost always women, and if men are alongside them, those men are “wizards” or “warlocks.”

      I’ve always thought that there isn’t much use in keeping the word so gendered.


  6. What a well-written post. I don’t know much about the Catholic faith and so did not have the same reaction to the second episode as you did, but I do believe you’re justified in your words. I want to applaud you for standing up for your faith and beliefs! 🙂


    • Thanks, Jamie!

      It was kind of a “put up or shut up” moment for me. In a way, I felt that I really needed to say something or I would have kind of violated all the talk I’ve done about my faith being important to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s an interesting viewpoint. Part of the problem, though, is that to maintain the sense of history in Junketsu no Maria, Heaven cannot interfere with mortals, or has to be very subtle.

    Like if you read Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, I think you would like the depiction of the Church in that. But it basically operates under the same restrictions as Junketsu no Maria. Heaven cannot make an open move unless Hell does first.

    The issue here is that Junketsu no Maria hasn’t really set up the role of witches in this world. Are the witches mortals, with free will, and thus Heaven should treat them like normal mortals? Or are the witches a separate group from mortals, and represent an attempt to circumvent free will by a supernatural power? In the second case, Heaven should interfere with a witch who uses power as openly as Maria does.

    Personally, I think Junketsu no Maria would benefit from a good priest antagonist. A cleric who opposes Maria, but is otherwise a good man.


    • Also, after thinking about it a bit more, I’m not so sure that the show is anti-Church. There are three separate points-of-view here.

      1. The character Maria’s view of the Church. She’s anti-Church. I think that’s a fair view for her considering they burn witches at the stake.
      2. The clergy as portrayed so far. So far, the clergy that has appeared seems pretty normal. You have a village priest who seems pretty normal, priests travelling with their respective armies praying for victory, and perhaps that one gay pair of monks (who were played for laughs, but not evil).

      The clergy are shown as disapproving of witches (from the villager’s comments). I think that’s a fair portrayal so far.

      1. Heaven as portrayed by the Archangel Michael, who’s main interest appears to be keeping the natural order of things.

      I think that you are conflating the character Maria’s view of the Church with the show’s view. Because Maria is a sympathetic character, you are assuming that the show endorses her view.

      That may or may not be correct. It is too early to tell.


      • “I think that’s a fair view for her considering they burn witches at the stake.”

        In this era, they generally didn’t. The Church was far less likely to sanction witch-hunts than secular authorities, and most witch-hunts that did occur likely occurred as a form of mob violence. Throughout the preceding centuries, the Church issued bulls and statements that cautioned against witch-hunts and prevented the Church from getting involved in trials on matters such as sorcery.

        Heresy was what could really get one punished. Not sentenced to death immediately – the Church’s policy was to attempt to reform heretics, not exterminate them (Albigensian Crusade notwithstanding, but the Albigensian Crusade was well before the era covered in Junketsu no Maria and the anti-heretical violence was not Church-run). Inquisitions are often misunderstood as being affairs in which Monty Python-esque Church prosecutors rolled into a town and started torturing and burning people, but in reality, Inquisitions generally involved far more rigorous procedures of conducting trials and proving guilt than secular trials of the day, and Inquisition officials were far less likely to use torture than secular authorities (this is even true of the infamous Spanish Inquisition). Inquisitions would often keep people in jail for years if they did not confess and reform – the fact that the Church used resources to house prisoners and keep them alive indicates that extermination was generally not their intent (secular authorities didn’t prisons, due to the costs). Nonetheless, heresy is a serious crime, and it is the potential charge of heresy that Maria seems to be more worried about.

        Towards the end of this era, anti-witch violence began to enter into a real upswing. However, the witch burnings that people often associate with Catholic medievals were mainly the work of Protestants in the early modern era. The Church condemned “Malleus Maleficarum”, a German manual on witch prosecution written in the 15th century that would serve as the basis for witch-hunts across the Protestant regions of Europe.

        I don’t want to say that the Church never did anything wrong, or to say that Catholics never went after supposed witches. I come from a religious group that was the target of Crusades, after all. However, the real history of the Church was a lot more nuanced than just burning witches. In Maria, the Church might be different – after all, it is an alternate history – last time I checked, there were no witches in the Hundred Year’s War (Joan of Arc was not burnt for being a witch, she was burnt for heresy, and she was burnt after a trial that was run by English-aligned clergy and was condemned by many of the clerical observers at the time). It’s a shame that the series doesn’t look likely to include that nuance, though it might prove my pessimism incorrect.

        I know it’s just Wikipedia, but the Middle Ages section on the Wiki article on witch hunts is pretty good:


      • I’m gonna respond to this one, as it represents your most current thoughts.

        I’ll start with your final point about conflating Maria’s view of the Church with the show’s view. I actually think that’s a fair point and maybe an area of weakness in my argument, although I think the way the plot played out this episode somewhat validates that. As I pointed out, Maria’s arrival at the village is framed as an answer to prayer—a prayer then not only left unanswered by heaven directly, but also directly halted by Michael.

        As you say, it might be too early to tell, but I’ll have to leave those interpretations up to others!

        EDIT: Oh, I did want to note, from your original comment, that I agree the status of the witches blurs the situation substantially. Are the witches just mortals with magic as their chosen tools? Or are they forces of darkness? Or are they just supernatural beings able to stand on par with the powers of heaven? If it’s either of the latter two, things begin to make more sense. I guess I’ve felt Maria herself has been very much humanized and so I’ve seen her as belong to the first category.


  8. Congrats for writing against that series!

    First, some details:

    The term what describes what happens at the consecration of bread and wine, is Transubstantiation.

    Facing towards the High Altar, Ad Orientem. Facing towards people, Versus populum.

    There are lots of myths, exaggerations, and lies about the Medieval period, not only directed towards Catholicism, but directed towards the time period itself. After the “enlightenment”, French Revolution, etc. Many secularists began a campaign of desprestige against what came before them, while it had some precedents in the more known Reinassance (the one linked to the Italian Quattrocento) with writers as Petrarca (that disliked Gothic architecture, considered it “barbarian”, and preferred Greco-Roman ones, for example), they managed to influence people’s views more, and is linked to various processes known as the Black Legend.

    Speaking of Church corruption, the worst offenders would be the Iron Century, and some years of the Italian Reinassance. Actually, the Medieval period saw various types of artistic and scientific developments, in fact, before the Italian Reinassance, were 3 Reinassances too. Carolingian, Ottonian, and the Reinassance of the 12th Century, so is unfair to paint the period as a decadent one.

    “…responsible for a vast number of bad things that have happended”?

    Not really, that would be an exaggeration.

    Now, onto the series. I haven’t watched it, and wouldn’t wacht it either. I think you did a good description of what happens in that series and the really bad elements it has One thing is to have sexual jokes, not something good, but what they are doing it regarding Catholicism, is way worse. From what I understand of that series, is misotheistic too, right?

    So, basically is a typical anti-catholic piece, with some XIX century secularist bent. There have been various anime series with anti catholic elements, but it seems this managed to surpass the others in that.

    Now the comparison with bahamut, and the is fiction excuse. Yes, that’s a typical excuse to justify all sorts of immoral things in media. I think productions like Bahamut are problematic too, but this is actually worse, since it has a more direct reference to a real world time period.

    I think that the witch name is part of the problematic content too. Is very offensive.

    Yes, Catholicism is an easy and popular target.


    • I guess I wouldn’t really call this writing “against” series so much as “responding to it” and trying to clarify some point I felt were made in error.

      Thanks for correcting me on transubstantiation, though! It is, obviously, quite a long piece, so there were a few things that slipped past my editing/proofreading processes!


  9. I did a similar post at CR / again that the Cathoilic Church did bad things in the past!/ But my main complaint was that Shinto Buddahism Judism and oh my Islam is rarely potrayed in a negative light in anime!

    That being said I had mostly (all ?) opposite replys to my post!And I said I would continue to watch mostly for Maria being a pacifist!

    I support your view but will watch it with very reserve views.Just too bad the writers had to push into the gutter!

    I wonder how the Japanese will view Radical Islam after the 2 Japanese Hostages were shown today by ISIS ? Just a thought!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, it’s definitely true that we see a lot more of Catholicism/Christianity being used a force for evil. Some of that, perhaps, comes because Catholicism does have the secular-political presence that’s still felt around the world to this day and some of it because Christianity doesn’t have a particularly strong presences in Japan.


  10. To be honest, I’ve been really waiting for you to make something like this since I saw the episode, as I know you’re a practicing Catholic.

    Yeah, I see your point that it’s harder to just say that this is all fiction. Everything else bar witches are pretty much true to life, and they didn’t bother to make a different religion (that is really Catholic/Christianity in all but name) but straight up calling it Catholic with its specific practices like mass etc. I also see your point with the whole spirit of the religion part – if the thing came from a human priest, it can be dismissed as him being corrupt/misguided rather than the religion itself (so pretty much the No True Scotsman fallacy), but when Archangel Michael says it it really feels a direct representation of the Church of Heaven there.

    There’s a few things that confuses me though, that keeps me from thinking that it’s really a direct attack of the strawman version of the religion. Sure, it takes potshots to the religion previously, but that being very unsubtle is why I’m confused that they don’t go for the jugular here. That is, when they’ve already taken effort to get some truth in real life for their previous potshots, why bother making up arbitrary rules and changes when they attack it again?

    Because really, Michael’s creed (and ostensibly Heaven’s as well) of total non-interference makes no sense. In fact, his whole argument to Maria is very weak. For one, Maria would gladly help the other village if she’s omnipotent enough to know and do something about it. Also, I can kinda understand if he says that Heaven is busy helping somewhere else which would be more helpful in the big picture, but it’s as if no supernatural forces are allowed to do anything here. God doesn’t answer all prayers, yes, but surely He answered some instead of none? Otherwise, what’s the point of having churches and prayers?

    I mean, Japanese media depiction of Churches being evil isn’t that uncommon (especially in JRPGs) but when they have devout followers prayers being useless there’s usually two causes: either God doesn’t exist and they’re just being manipulated by corrupt clergymen, or to have a prideful God that doesn’t care about lesser beings. But here, it’s not that Heaven don’t want to help – it’s as if they can’t.

    And that’s the most confusing thing to me – when Michael says they’re not allowed to upset the natural order, the emphasis seems to be on the natural part. When Maria stops the war by using her Succubus’ seduction, there’s no angry Angels from Heaven because it’s technically a mundane method done by a supernaturally made creature. It’s only when dragons and cyclops are directly interfering with things that they put their foot down (literally). So where exactly does this arbitrary rule come from? After all, the Bible and Jesus presumably existed if they have angels and churches, and that’s as direct a supernatural being can do to mankind.

    I still think that we’re not getting the full picture yet, and I’d like for them to elaborate a bit more. This will also be important to know the exact viewpoint of the author – whether he truly believes this is how Catholicism is (and probably take shots at it), or that he deliberately changes some things to fit the story that he wants to tell (that is more relevant to his OCs of Maria, Joseph etc).


    • Oh, haha your final sentence made me notice for the first time and that it’s Maria (Mary) and Joseph. Dunno how I missed that the first time around.

      As for the arbitrary rules thing, my argument there was that all those rules seem to be reflective of a particular solution to the problem of evil: God does not exists; or, if he does, he will not help. I don’t know if I really got the feel that heaven “couldn’t” help—to me, I definitely got more of a “won’t” vibe from Michael than a “can’t.”

      Where that started to rub me the wrong way in regards to Maria (and others in the comments have touched on this idea of power, is that she’s just doing what she can. The fact that she’s unable to save everyone in the world doesn’t, or shouldn’t, invalidate the fact that she can save some.


  11. I learned a lot from your post and from the comments!

    Now, as someone who is not a Catholic (or Christian for that matter), I’m unsure if I should continue watching the show (I haven’t watched EP 2, yet.).


    • I don’t want to discourage anyone from continuing to watch the show if they want to! I just thought it was important to note my perspective on the way I felt the show was portraying Catholicism so people could, at the very least, be aware of what’s going on.


  12. So I’m basically with you on Maria‘s specific text—and I’ll have to echo everyone on thanking you for the post, because I wouldn’t have been emotionally aware of just how appropriative the show feels, to someone in your position. I’m not really in a place where that consideration comes to mind first, second, or anywhere down to like five-hundredth, so I’m going to try to be very careful while saying this.

    Where I think you stumble a bit is in not getting where the show—where the people behind it—are coming from. You understand the argument, and you and I are aware that, say, the specifics of the problem of evil have been a topic of literally centuries of Catholic philosophy—but that matters very little to someone still feeling the burn of the Catholic Church. Maria isn’t trying to disprove God’s benevolence to Augustine; it’s trying to communicate to you the viewer just how much it’s hurting.

    I read Maria as a show born of anger, the kind of white-hot core of anger that comes from the most primal, fierce, protective parts of the self. It doesn’t surprise me at all that the show isn’t being fair, because I don’t think the show’s even interested in being fair.

    I think the show’s out for vengeance. For blood. Or, perhaps, for righteous redress.

    And I’m inclined to say that it gets to be. It at least gets to be angry, because, well… the Catholic Church isn’t exactly the underdog here. I appreciate that it may not always feel that way to you!, and it’s certainly true that atheism has been able to find a loud, brash, voice in recent years, but…

    …well, a lot of the soft power of the world is still in the hands of the Catholic Church. A vast, vast amount. And as encouraging and often beautiful the Church’s progress has been, this still matters very little to someone living under the consequences of the same literal centuries of calcified oppression.

    I’m not saying I necessarily agree with what Maria‘s doing. (I’m probably in that same halfway house between enjoying it a bit too much and being a bit too skeeved out that I was in for His Dark Materials.) I’m certainly not asking you to keep watching the show!

    But I am asking you to accept that that anger exists. I am asking you to allow that anger to exist, in your mind, as a real feature of the world that leads to real, understandable, human actions. I am asking you to empathise with—not be in favour of, not champion, just empathise with—those actions.

    Because then, I think, Maria will have done its job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It depends on the context of where this underdog dynamic in the first, because for the longest time in Japan itself, Catholicism was the underdog. Catholics were the underdog, and just by virtue of it being a challenger to the Shinto-Buddhist order were Japanese Catholics back in the day targeted for persecution. Many majority Shinto-Buddhists in the past were very cruel to the minority Catholics, not particularly because of their beliefs per se as because of the potential harm they posed to the status quo.


    • This may be somewhat cynical point to make, but it’s possible that the show’s anti-Catholicism is a product not only of Catholic institutional indiscretions, but just general Japanese xenophobia to foreign religions.


    • Aha, I definitely see where you’re coming from after our conversation the other day on Twitter.

      You’re making a great point here about understanding and validating the emotion of those hurt by the Church. I very much agree, because there’s no way that amends can be made if we just close our eyes to that pain and pretend it doesn’t exist.

      However, there are two points I’d like to expand on briefly here:

      1. While the experience of an emotion is, of course, valid and justified, the next step of responsibility is always to decide how you are going to act on that emotion. As you say, Maria isn’t at all interested in being fair—it’s trying to convey an emotional truth. I can certainly respect that. But, as I’ve argued, when the method of conveying that comes through an attack on misrepresentation of Catholicism, I think that’s disingenuous. It’s attack a false image propped up as the real thing for the sake of, for lack of a better phrase, venting the emotion. Now, if this anger was directed at the actuality of the Catholic Church, I would probably feel differently about that. And yes, I realize that people’s perceptions define their personal realities, but I don’t think slapping at an imagined oppression is all that great an exercise (that sounds a lot more uncaring and dismissive than I mean it to be, but hopefully what I’m actually trying to say is clear). Which brings me to my next point.
      2. There’s also the consideration, I think, that this is the Catholic Church of the medieval era. There is no one still alive who experience the oppression, hypocrisy, or corruption of the church of that age. So, if this is someone trying to communicate how much they’ve been hurt by the Church, they’re doing so through the proxy of a historical situation literally hundreds of years removed from their own experience. No one person has actually lived under centuries of calcified oppression (and this applies even more to someone living in Japan, where Catholic power is probably as diluted and inconsequential as it is anywhere in the world). I almost named this piece “What Do You Hate?” before settling on “The Absence of the Church of Heaven.” Do the people behind this show hate the modern church, or are they attacking a medieval church whose faults and failings have already been well-documented? If Maria is meant to be an expression of the emotional truth that the pain the Catholic Church has caused someone, I almost find it disingenuous to express that through a historical situation entirely detached from the creator’s lived experience.

      I’m very uncertain as to how well I articulated myself here, and I fear I may have said some things that sound unintentionally callous or unfeeling. If so, please call me on it so I can (hopefully) better express what I was trying to say.


  13. It seems I’m in the strange position of having a Catholic background myself but also continuing to enjoy the show. That said, I’m not an expert on the nuances of theology either, so my own views have a very different frame of analysis behind them. I can’t exactly attempt to go as deep into those specifics as yourself, so my apologies for that limitation.

    Above all, I certainly respect the feelings of someone who might find some of the depictions in the series to be troublesome, annoying or otherwise not something they want to watch. It’s not my own reaction, but I accept it.

    At the same time, I happen to think it’s rather premature to assume that the series is saying the entire Catholic Church was cartoonishly evil in the middle ages or that having faith in God is a useless belief. It’s merely highlighting some of the real or perceived flaws that the author has identified in that period, in order to set up the context surrounding Maria’s actions and beliefs.

    There are surely some exaggerations involved, but as a student of history and someone who is aware of the very human side of even the most important institutions on the planet, I would say there is a grain of truth even to its use of hyperbole, rather than coming completely out of thin air.

    Based on some pieces of information I’ve read elsewhere, plus what I can see for myself in the next episode preview, I think the show hasn’t quite revealed all of its cards in this particular regard either.

    Specifically, it seems that we might get to see some actual members of the Church who will hopefully not be one-note characters, which might help balance the depictions of the institution and its beliefs that have been presented thus far. In addition, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the version of God in this series can and does influence the world in other ways, for that matter, beyond acting through the so-called heavenly church. It doesn’t seem that the fictional world view is promoting atheism or agnosticism here, in my opinion.

    Of course, I don’t expect the show to suddenly become pro-Catholic or anything, but I do believe that complicating the dynamics of the setting is a good thing, from both a storytelling perspective and in terms of the significant (though always insufficient) level of research that the creators must have done to even get this far in their depiction of the middle ages, beyond the controversial matters of religion discussed above, in spite of its own inherent anachronisms and the continued use of various sex jokes. I haven’t found most of those to be funny either, but I also haven’t been seriously offended by their usage.

    We all know that the manga author is definitely Japanese and not Catholic or even Christian, thus likely to be preemptively critical of what he apparently perceives to be against his own views on morality and ethics. He also has a sense of humor that is, inevitably, restricted to his own personal tastes and preferences, as well as his entire cultural background. But I think that, more than anything else he is trying to introduce a source of conflict and tension into the narrative, which is a work of fiction that is following its own rules and remains at the very start of its running length .

    While the Archangel Michael does come across as rather harsh and not completely reasonable on the surface , he does have a valid underlying point that, while not necessarily fully accurate to the actual historical beliefs of the Church, does start to make more sense in a fantasy world (even one with a historical flavor) where witches and other supernatural beings, including those of other world religions, did exist in a visible capacity that goes far beyond what could have happened in history. That state of affairs should bring extra complications that don’t have much of a place in the real world, even if they can be used to comment on certain aspects of reality, directly or indirectly, as the author does appear to connect the two. He is raising the valid question of why does evil happen in the world, but also setting things up in a way that works to advance his own story, rather than immediately bringing up whatever the technical or theological answer is supposed to be.

    In that complex context, the Archangel isn’t just attacking Maria because it’s allegedly alright for evil to happen in the world or because God somehow doesn’t want people to do any acts of good for others. He is referring to the unforeseen consequences of Maria’s actions as a unique witch, different from all the others given her unrestrained activities. We did start to see that her actions aren’t always perfect solutions when the villagers could have easily killed the blind mercenaries. That’s one of the limitations of her interventions.

    Yes, we are certainly supposed to sympathize with Maria and she could help everyone if her powers were omnipotent, but that’s the thing. Maria is not God and cannot possibly hope to assume the responsibility of publicly taking on the mantle of a savior, both helping everyone else and making sure the fallout from her activities is positive rather than negative. There is certainly some selfishness and arrogance to her attitude, even if it’s born out of pure intentions. The show, with all of its various quirks and flaws, isn’t saying that the Angels are being supporters of evil or have absolutely no need to question her methods. Rather, I think the point is that Maria could and should do good in a different way. In fact, Michael was going to take away her powers as a witch rather than automatically kill her, which I think is an interesting nuance.

    I feel like I’ve written too much and simultaneously too little on the subject, but I hope this will contribute to the discussion in one way or another.


    • I think, perhaps, my thoughts on the dynamics between Maria and Michael can be easily summed up as: I have perceived Maria to be, essentially, a normal mortal aside from her supernatural powers. In other words, I feel she’s been presented as just one human among many, albeit with more power (although, as others have pointed out elsewhere in the comments, there are kings and warlords who hold power of a different order by comparable potency).

      From that viewpoint, then, I see Michael’s interference with Maria to be a case of heaven directly interfering with an individual’s good works (her limitations, I think, serve to further de-emphasize her power and emphasize further her mortality). Maria is not God, but she is doing what she can to cause good in the world, even if it is just because she hates fighting.

      In any case, I might keep my ears open for more talk about the potential nuancing of the themes, and perhaps I’ll give the show another chance if I really like what I hear.


  14. Thank you for writing this, and I respect your position. 12 years of Catholic education didn’t really take, so I realize we’re coming at this from very different places.

    My feeling about the show is a kind of Western Mythology Buffet, where Valkyries, and Archangels are given equal credit for existing, if not equal footing. These are all game pieces set out to put a story in motion. I expect depictions of the Church of Rome to be every bit as accurate as depictions of Shao-Lin temples in the old “Kung-Fu” TV show. There may be a fascination, with the exotic here, a setting with plenty of opportunities for sex and violence, without there being an actual axe to grind. It’s an Asian show about medieval Europe, after all. Not saying there is no way the creators could have a chip on their shoulder, they very well might, but it’s jut as likely that the Abrahamic faiths are as dead and disttant to them as the Greek goddess of the Hunt, and simply fodder for storytelling.


    • I’m certainly not asking you to watch a program that offends your sensibilities, by the way. Just positing the possibility that it is not intended as a hit piece.


      • I definitely think that possibility exists and I hear what you’re saying about the mythology buffet (it’s quite common, as we both know).

        I guess, really, I was just too uncomfortable and having to spend too much mental energy working through what I was seeing to really make the rest of the show worth the watch.


  15. I’m also a practicing Catholic. I haven’t watched this series, but based on what you’re saying that I’d probably have a similarly uncomfortable reaction to it, so thank you for sparing me. If what you’ve written about is indeed what the writers are trying to do here, then I agree with your take. I’ve avoided The Da Vinci Code for basically the same reason, because I know enough about what kind of dubious dogma it’s presenting as “factual” to know that trying to read it would just irritate me to no end.

    That being said, I see where draggle is coming from too. We have to be judicious in how much we read into anime based on our western POV, because this is a completely different culture with different belief systems and not a lot of exposure to real-life Catholics. There’s a good reason why “Anime Catholicism” has its own page on TV Tropes, and if we aren’t careful it’s easy to make interpretations and associations that from a Japanese perspective just aren’t there. Of course, there’s a huge difference between a flawed depiction of Catholicism based on harmless ignorance or the “rule of cool”, versus one that’s actively hostile to it – but that’s where it’s important to figure out intent. And there are plenty of anime where the East-West fusion actually works quite well, like the purgatory setting in Angel Beats, for instance (a Catholic concept cleverly re-imagined in Buddhist terms).


    • Yeah, it’s definitely always an interesting tightrope to walk on cultural differences and perceptions. I guess I do somewhat fall on the side of, “if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, especially as it regards to other people’s core values and beliefs, you should at least try and figure out what that’s all about before you start to talk about it.”

      As you probably know if you’ve seen my top shows list, I love Angel Beats! I really appreciate the East-West fusion and I think it’s a wonderful example of some of the overlap that exists between world religions. We like to focus on the differences, but they all have numerous things in common with each other, which I think is pretty cool.


  16. Ok, since I see almost zero disagreement in the comment section, I’ll be the first I guess. By the way, I’m an atheist brought up in an Orthodox Christian family and have read the Bible when I was younger. I’ve also spent quite some time before getting rid of any remaining guilt and admitting to myself I was trying to find excuses for a long time not to let go of a scheme I was immersed in. I’m no hipster or hater for the sake of hate –that’s where I’m trying to get at. I’ve worked quite a long time with myself to stand where I stand now.

    Let’s start with in universe stuff: as draggle pointed out we have Valkyries so it’s kinda unsure how religions look like and how they work. I think he also pointed out that Maria isn’t just anyone trying to help. She has immense power. Someone else who helps their neighbor, chances are, won’t have the same impact. Maria tips the life-death balance off by A LOT.
    Now let’s head to the religious content which was the main focus of your post:

    “As with any religion, there is an particular religious essence that is Catholicism, which exists in lived reality through the practical applications and motions of what, for lack of a better phrase, I think can be called the “spirit of the religion.””

    This “spirit of religion” is at the heart of your post and yet you don’t address it clearly not even once. Judging from the following part:

    “The Catholic God (or the church of heaven or whatever you want to call it) would never intervene with a person on earth doing good for others for the sake of some abstract reason like “maintaining order.””

    I guess you imply that “spirit of religion” is about offering our neighbor help and saving our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. The thing is, isn’t it hubristic to assume you know what’s on your god’s mind –granted he exists? If the answer is “we know from the Bible” we have two big issues: a. the Old Testament is full of awful things like slavery condoned by god, that Jesus didn’t totally reject (he said he didn’t come to undo the teachings of the previous prophets) despite the many contradictions between the testaments, b. Bible is a text not written by Jesus himself and thus there are issues of credibility and moreover of interpretations –what’s the right one? Who’s to say?
    Even if that’s the case then why believe in God and not directly to the goodness humanity is capable of? Or is the interpretation that God is moving good people’s actions? Because that would go against free will. Why pray then? And why get judgement?

    “Now, I know plenty of theological-philosophical answers to this argument, but I don’t want to bring those out right now. That’s an entirely different debate.”

    Why don’t you bring them up? Because it’s not really a different debate when that’s the main issue you have with the series.

    “To attack something, you need to understand what it is you’re actually attacking; otherwise, you’re just swatting at shadows, as Junketsu no Maria is doing.”

    Since your POV is that of a devout person it’s a bit difficult to try see things from outside. You mentioned earlier in your post that religion as the institution and as a set of beliefs are two different things and that’s where things get muddy for non-believers. Because in my POV, religion is a product of human needs and a small clique who desire power and want to preserve status quo. If seen from my POV, the series does know what it attacks and that’s conservative human structures and preconceptions about divine.

    “Meme away, by all means—I’m well aware that the Catholic Church is an easy and popular target; however, I feel compelled to decry your smug “critique” of an institution you probably know little about and probably have made little effort to truly understand.”

    I wonder why the Catholic Church is such an easy and popular target. It’s not like there are reasons even nowadays that there are no big religious wars in the West, right? (Notice that you bring the institution in the forefront again yourself while you complained about the attack and mockery of the beliefs). Catholics don’t accept divorce between two living and consenting adults (which usually is at the expense of women) or abortion… You might say that women are equal at the eyes of Jesus since he had female students and protected that woman from getting stoned, but they are still cast in a light of sin and in ways that their sexuality is not their own (see Eve vs Mary the Virgin) or in a way that sex and carnal enjoyment is a sin. Why is it that way? Why does it have to be that way in religious circles? Women can’t be the same as long as they can’t make decisions for their bodies. And specifically for the Catholics, women aren’t considered equals, since they aren’t allowed to be ordained.

    As for the respect and mockery, faith as you said is a set of beliefs and thus it’s not beyond criticism and ridicule.


    • I’m no Catholic devotee myself, but I was raised Catholic and have more understanding of Catholic Church doctrine than your non-Catholic Joe and even Catholic Pat, so allow me, the mortal I am, to intercede on iblessall’s behalf.

      It’s reductionist to assume that Catholic doctrine can be summed up based on sentiments of scriptural literalism and self-fabricated and arbitrary whimsy. The Catholic Church’s teachings are the accumulated and vetted thought of thousands of theologians over the course of thousands of years. One of the more important teachings that have sprung from that millennia-long wellspring is the belief that the Bible, unlike the Quran, is the “inspired,” as opposed to the “dictated,” word of God. Inspired by a perfect God, interpreted by imperfect human beings. In other words, the Old Testament is seen by the Catholic Church, whose clergy have debated its nuances over and over with each other for centuries upon centuries, as an evolutionary text to Catholicism, not an infallible one.

      The Catholic Church does not preach predeterminism. It adheres instead to a paradox, of the notion of providing free individual will to man so that man can submit themselves and become one with God. Without free will, there is no conviction, and without conviction, at least according to the Catholic Church, there is no true and everlasting joy. That conviction must be attained through the proper paths laid out by God as determined through the Church, generally in the form of faith and good works. Hence, there is judgment to determine whether or not that faith and those good works are correct and sincere. And above all, that conviction must be obtained through prayer, for it is through prayer that the intimacy required in faith is achieved.

      According to the Catholic Church, whatsoever good you do for your brother, neighbor, and fellow human being, you do for God. Whether you believe in God or not doesn’t matter.

      You should learn more about religion from the personal narratives of legitimately religious people. Those people have no ulterior motives about what they want from their religion except joy, salvation, enlightenment, etc. To claim about these people otherwise is a disrespect to their nature as human beings.

      According to Catholic doctrine, joy, salvation, enlightenment, etc. cannot be obtained through physical and finite pleasures. It can only be achieved through union with God and obedience to his will.

      It’s quite alright to be critical of different religions, as much as it’s quite alright to be critical of different ideologies such as feminism. It is not alright to when one is deliberately propounding a negative worldview of a particular religion that omits the other aspects of said religion that can potentially challenge one’s claims of what is. There’s no discourse there. It’s just imposition, and people who don’t know any better may potentially take that worldview as infallible.


    • Well, first off, zeroreq11’s reply above mine is very good and much better written than mine, so I encourage you to read through that first. Now…

      You’re not alone! Sohum is keeping you company and I think there are quite a few people here and there who have raised valid critiques about various parts of the piece! 🙂

      This “spirit of religion” is at the heart of your post and yet you don’t address it clearly not even once.

      I tried to address that in the example about the Eucharist, but I’m getting the feeling you’re asking, “What is the spirit of Catholicism specifically?” Hopefully I’ll answer that as I go along.

      I guess you imply that “spirit of religion” is about offering our neighbor help and saving our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. The thing is, isn’t it hubristic to assume you know what’s on your god’s mind –granted he exists? If the answer is “we know from the Bible” we have two big issues: a. the Old Testament is full of awful things like slavery condoned by god, that Jesus didn’t totally reject (he said he didn’t come to undo the teachings of the previous prophets) despite the many contradictions between the testaments, b. Bible is a text not written by Jesus himself and thus there are issues of credibility and moreover of interpretations –what’s the right one? Who’s to say?

      Well, I see you coming at this from a Christian angle, but I’m speaking from a Catholic perspective. The Bible, certainly, is part of it. I unfortunately don’t know the answer to your slavery critique, although I am aware that there is one—sadly, I’m not perfectly versed in Catholic apologetics, so I can’t give it to you (if you want, I can probably find it for you, though!). As for point b, this is where the Catholic angle comes in. Our understanding is that the Bible, like many, many, many of God’s actions throughout human history, is divine inspired action through human instruments open to his will. Both credibility and interpretation are issues only able to be answered by faith: the Catholic magisterium exists to provide direction and interpretations—and so Catholics have the opportunity to accept the credibility and interpretations offered with the faith that God will guide those making those judgments.

      Why don’t you bring them up? Because it’s not really a different debate when that’s the main issue you have with the series.

      Firstly because there are a LOT of them and it would have taken a very, very long time to articulate them all fully (although the book of Job is a great starting point). Secondly because my main issue with the series, actually, is that of misrepresentation of the Catholic viewpoint. So, in this case, I’ve simply claimed expert knowledge and asked that readers trust me when I say the presentations of Catholicism are in error. I wanted to focus more on why I found using incorrect arguments problematic than what the arguments were. It’s also impossible for me to cover every single detail in a piece like this and extend every single part of every single supporting argument. I had to make choice in what I was going to talk about.

      Since your POV is that of a devout person it’s a bit difficult to try see things from outside. You mentioned earlier in your post that religion as the institution and as a set of beliefs are two different things and that’s where things get muddy for non-believers. Because in my POV, religion is a product of human needs and a small clique who desire power and want to preserve status quo. If seen from my POV, the series does know what it attacks and that’s conservative human structures and preconceptions about divine.

      I kind of take issue with your assumption that I can’t see other people’s perspective on Catholicism because I’m Catholic. This piece, obviously, was written from that perspective, which is my own. But writing this from my own perspective doesn’t mean I can’t see the other side; it just means this is where I stand. I do see your point about conservative human structures and preconceptions about the divine, but it’s pretty clear that Maria is directing those attacks specifically at the Catholic representation of those structures and preconceptions.

      And specifically for the Catholics, *women aren’t considered equals,* since they aren’t allowed to be ordained.

      There’s a lot in that paragraph, but I just want to let you know this is completely untrue and is actually EXACTLY the type of thing I was decrying in the article proper—a particular misrepresentation of Catholicism that is your (or others’) idea of what Catholicism is presented as the truth. I feel the need to turn your questions back at you at this point. Have you ever actually engaged with a devout Catholic on this issue? Have asked a devout Catholic to explain the Church’s teachings on divorce, abortion, sexuality, or ordination? I don’t know where you got your information, but you’re not talking about the realities of my beliefs as a Catholic, just some vague misconceptions of what they are.

      I will maintain my right to take offense at that. And please know that I’m trying really hard not to get too hot under the collar, but I HATE seeing people assuming they know the depth of all Catholic teaching just because they see the top-level teaching. I don’t do that with feminism, LGBT issues, atheists, or other faith groups. I make sure I know what they’re actually saying before I disagree.

      As for the respect and mockery, faith as you said is a set of beliefs and thus it’s not beyond criticism and ridicule.

      Criticism, agreed. Ridicule? Absolutely not. Ridicule is born out of disrespect and leads to nothing but negative conflict. Ridiculing another person’s set of beliefs? The idea of that is awful to me.

      In conclusion, I feel like we’ve drifted fairly off topic from the subject of the post here, so if you’d like to talk more about this, please feel free to shoot me an email! I’d be happy to talk with you more and clarify anything that needs clarifying. It somewhat seems to me that you have some issues with the Church that run deeper than the scope of this post, and if I can help try and illuminate them for you, I’d be happy to do so. But, of course, I leave that for you to decide. I’m not going to force you to do something like that haha ^_^


  17. This has been quite an interesting read. But I believe you might be making the mistake of taking for granted that satire, parody or mockery are not valid forms of criticism or dissent, when history is full of examples where the opposite has been true.

    Critical thought does not need to be expressed through a solemnly serious or respectful presentation. For instance, forbidden books that combined both pornographic descriptions, crass comedy and genuine philosophical arguments against the King and the Church were among the most popular works in circulation during pre-Revolutionary France. Where their depictions completely accurate to the reality of the situation that the Kingdom of France was experiencing? No, they often contained a mix of accurate statements, caricatures, unconfirmed rumors, folklore, utopian proposals and purely personal beliefs. But that didn’t make them any less influential, both in addition to and instead of the more serious critical writings that some of the same authors were also fully capable of producing and distributing, despite the vigorous censorship policies of the French Monarchy. In other words, even the most simplified portrayals of governments and religions have the right to exist and may contain a degree of merit outside of their inherent inaccuracies.

    Likewise, I tend to disagree with your view that Maria the Virgin Witch is ruthlessly attacking the entire “spirit of the religion” as you would call it, let alone when we do not have sufficient information to reach that conclusion yet. If, after the show is over, that turns out to be what is actually going on, then I might reconsider my skepticism and embrace your objections. Right now, I don’t think that is the case. I would be careful to assume that just because there is a partially historical medieval setting it means that Masayuki Ishikawa himself wants to present this story as the whole truth behind what Catholic faith stands for in this present day and age. No to mention that, in the end, neither religious beliefs nor theological arguments have remained static throughout the centuries, let alone the practices of the Church’s earthly representatives. Catholicism in the 15th century is not identical to Catholicism in the 21st. It’s entirely possible to caricaturize the medieval Church without intending it to be an exact reflection of the contemporary institution and its followers.

    So far, there has not been an inherently evil portrayal of any representative of the Catholic faith. The witch known as Maria may believe that “[Heaven] not only does not stop evil from occurring, but (…) actively maintains the balance of a world where evil does exist” yet my impression is that in this story it would be wrong to equate the Michael and the “Church of Heaven” with the “Catholic God” as you have apparently concluded they are one and the same. The fact that Archangels, such as Michael who is explicitly stated to be an observer, are in charge of keeping the balance of the world and might or might not intervene does not restrict the scope and capabilities of what God is actually able to do. Is it not often said that God works in mysterious ways for a reason? Noticeably, Michael seems to only explain why the angels don’t come out of the sky on request to prevent people from killing each other in the same manner that Maria does with her magic. It’s also never stated that Michael wants Maria to avoid helping anyone at all and merely stand aside while evil occurs, in complete indifference, but that perhaps her motivations and actions should take another form that respects whatever the natural order is supposed to be, which I feel needs more elaboration from the show, though it does seem to have something to do with not using magic in grand public displays.


    • I’m certainly in favor of satire and parody as forms of criticism! Mockery, I’m not so sure about, as it seems to imply a fundamentally disrespectful and malevolent intention. That’s a disrespect of a different order than satire/parody and I think it’s important to make that distinction. Let’s just put it like this: consider your own most deeply held beliefs—are you going to accept someone mocking them with just an “oh, that’s a valid criticism”? I hate to assume, but I highly doubt you would. Unless you mean something else entirely by mockery, but in that case we’re talking about different things.

      Again, as I’ve reiterated elsewhere—my main point is that it’s wrong to satirized, parody, or otherwise criticize a false representation: it’s fundamentally disingenuous to break apart a facade of something and to then claim you’ve defeats the real thing. That’s the core takeaway here.

      Apologies if I sound a bit hot-headed! I don’t mean to be; it’s been a long day of replying to comments on this piece.


      • This may seem off-topic at first sight, but I believe that certain recent events in France speak for themselves. There they had a satirical publication that didn’t shy away from criticizing several major world leaders and depicting the representatives or beliefs of very important religious communities in ways that could be considered as offensive.

        Does the fact that a lot of people, in both France and abroad, were offended by several of its depictions mean there was absolutely no value to its satire?

        And yet I don’t think they (nor the creators of Maria) were even pretending to single-handedly “defeat the real thing” either, since the point of a satirical cartoon isn’t always found in its literal meaning. You can use very real elements, including persons and institutions, as part of a larger symbolic or metaphorical criticism of something that’s merely related or even distinctly different. I believe that same approach is valid when creating and judging entertainment media, even without going into the complete abstraction and surrealism of Yuri Kuma Arashi, where everything is a symbol.

        There’s no doubt that in the case of this Maria the Virgin Witch anime its contents aren’t going to get anyone killed, nor I do believe it has gone as far into offending anyone as that French publication went, but I will defend the underlying principle behind both forms of expression. It might not function as a solid criticism of real Catholic theology, if we must insist on that approach , but it might perform much better when interpreted from another vantage point, less restricted in nature.


  18. I don’t watch Maria, but this reminded me of a novel, “The gospel according to Jesus Christ” by Nobel laureate José Saramago – so a work of definitely higher value from someone who wouldn’t fall easily in the trappings of generalizations that certainly a generic Japanese comic author with a passing knowledge of Catholicism could fall into. That book deliberately attacked what you call the “spirit” of the religion, and not only that; it actually construed the Father as a distinct character from Jesus, and one who could only be defined to be evil: a controlling entity with immense yet fundamentally finite power who needs human beings to buy into his doctrine in order to be able to exert MORE power on the world. That seems to me to roughly be the gist of what’s happening in this anime too. What I mean is, it is wrong to presume that criticism on the spirit of the doctrine is necessarily due to ignorance of how the failings were committed due to lack of adherence to that doctrine. And from an atheistic point of view, the two are hardly separable: if God is a human/social construct, then you can’t tell him apart from the men who preached his doctrine, and who shaped him as basically a means of keeping social doctrine.

    I won’t get on the matter of the nature of evil either since this isn’t a theological debate – let’s just say that I was raised in Catholic Italy so I know what we’re talking about but honestly, I still find the justifications to that to be sorely lacking and based on a fundamental inability of the human mind to grasp the true meaning of “omnipotence”. Whenever an infinite quantity is thrown into the mix, it completely messes up everything: I don’t buy that the finite free will of a finite amount of humans is enough to justify the inability of an infinite power to stop certain things from happening. It’s not too surprising that not everyone does so, and I don’t think one can attribute all such disagreement to “ignorance” rather than to willing disagreement.


  19. “To attack something, you need to understand what it is you’re actually attacking”
    You’re asking too much of Japanese creators.


  20. There are a million responses to this article so I might be repeating stuff. While I don’t think you’re characterization of Maria as anti-Catholic is inaccurate, and Goro Taniguchi is type of director to pave over subtlety in the name of melodramatic affect, I think that you’re missing a layer to Maria’s story that’s fairly important.

    Maria is basically anime Lysistrata. I don’t know if the mangaka was influenced by the play when writing the original manga, but the similarities are so numerous it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t a factor. It’s the same basic story of an ideological conflict between two armies manipulated by a virginal woman messing with their sex drives. It’s about how the sexual economy intersects the political economy or, more generally, how selfish gain and pleasure is a bigger motivator of conflict than ideology. It’s materialism over idealism; Aristophanes was pointing out how the Athenians as a nation were more hypocritically motivated than they claimed (conquering neighbor city states in the name of ‘democracy’) by showing them as hypocritical on an individual level. Maria’s thematic undercurrent is similar but transplanted to medieval Europe, replacing the Pagans with the Catholics and “freedom” with God. If Maria’s presentation of the Catholic church is oversimplified, it’s mostly because the story is fundamentally anti-idealist; the same conceit could work just as well with atheistic neocons using “democracy” as an excuse to invade Iraq.

    I get that if you’re Catholic the cartoonish nature of the show’s Catholic Church can seem off-putting, but I don’t think the show ever establishes itself as anything more than political body humor. The sexless angels are foils to the physiologically-minded Maria, not serious critiques of Christian orthodoxy. It’s a political cartoon from the 1400s. Obviously this is based on the first two episodes and is subject to change, but I think the abstinence of the Heavens in the show is moreso about using the caricature of God as dispassionate to critique inaction rather than using their inaction to critique God, if that makes sense.


    • I should also add that my interest in Greek shit is casual and I’m no authority on Aristophanes. The man himself obviously had a highly conservative political agenda of his own and his caricatures largely served that. But I think the materialism vs idealism thing is present in the story, and most similar stories about how sex crosses into politics.


  21. It’s never pleasant to watch a story make war on straw… I don’t even like it when I don’t share the view that is being attacked, and it’s even harder to sit through when the straw-man is supposed to be me. As you mention, there are good ways to criticize or question views, beliefs and institutions. Setting up strawmen isn’t one of them. At best, it’s wildly naive and insensitive. At worst, it’s cowardly and vindictive.

    May the memory of this cease to rankle soon so that it will only be a reminder of how not to tell a story.


    • Jubilare:

      It’s also not pleasant to label any aspect of a fictional story you don’t like as a strawman, especially when it is not possible to judge the work as a whole.

      It appears that you are presuming, or so it seems to me right now, that not being absolutely accurate to all the complex nuances of a real belief automatically equals constructing a “strawman” or that the entire story cannot be any good under its own rules as soon as it happens to offend any of your specific personal sensibilities. I don’t think that’s the case at all.

      A story can fail to meet the standards of a literal, scientific or historical truth but still reach a valid symbolic, thematic, ideological or philosophical conclusion about either that same truth or a completely different one. I believe that strictly literal readings should not obscure the scope of one’s analysis or judgment.

      Evidently, I’m not going to tell some people to not feel offended, that’s a purely personal matter, but I do think freedom of speech and freedom of the press would be severely limited if we were to artificially enforce some sort of golden rule that the critical use of allegory, satire, parody and, yes, even mockery, cannot be the slightest degree removed from the exact truth about any political, religious or social reality, let alone a belief.

      If that were the case, then political cartoons should be banished from the face of the Earth as soon as someone is offended or finds that they are not being entirely true to the biographical record or reputation of a person…even when that same cartoon actually is well-constructed and has artistic merits beyond a superficial reading of its meaning


      • You presume a whole lot about me and my views from very little, and as is usually the case in such situations, you’re swinging at shadows. Your effort goes to waste if you spend it “arguing” with people who agree with you.

        I do agree with you, for the most part, though I think you may need a better grasp on what a “war on straw” is:
        Inaccuracy, in itself, doesn’t constitute a straw man.


        • Then this becomes nothing more than a circular exchange, since I’m already aware that in this particular situation the relevant inaccuracies found in the show in question are being interpreted as the product of a presumed need to portray a false version of the Church and its beliefs in order to pretend to dismantle them. I have already addressed that above.


          • I’ve not read the other comments. This isn’t a debate that interests me.

            I’ve expressed sympathy with someone who has been frustrated and hurt by a misrepresentation of their identity. That’s something that sucks no matter how it happens. Many stories and shows have artistic or narrative merit, and yet wound people with straw men and misrepresentations. The damage does not invalidate the merit, but then the merit also does not justify the damage.

            Remember that freedom of expression belongs, and should belong, to the blogger and the other commenters as well as to you. Disagreement is fine, so long as you’re disagreeing rather than attacking others for speaking their minds. I’ve not read your other comments, so I don’t know whether or not you’ve stuck to that principle, but I know you were quick to your guns with me, and read a lot into my words. Next time, be sure of your target before you pull the trigger.


  22. […] We’re blessed to have iblessall joining us as our guest today.  You know him from Mage in the Barrel, a wonderful and very active anime blog.  I highly encourage you check it out – and perhaps very germane to our discussion today, click over and see iblessall’s critique of Maria the Virgin Witch. […]


  23. I think you are missing an important point here, this is a Japanese show, made for Japanese people.

    Less than 2% of Japanese are catholic, so most of them know or care much about it. This show is less an attack on catholicism, than an example of the misunderstandings of Japanese people about Christianity.

    Take for example, Ezekiel is portrait as a young girl… Why?

    In japanese traditions, specially shintoism, celestial beings are mostly female, so in the Japanese point of view angels be mainly female. That is why angels in anime usually are females ore very feminine males. This misunderstanding comes since the first contacts of Japanese with Christians and it has never gone away.

    Also Japanese are essentially polytheist, that is why in Maria the virgin witch there are the old gods still around. They imply that the faith of people it what gives the Christian god tips power and as most polytheist religions, gods are much less than perfect, and in that order , they can have the same motives and feelings than people.

    If you look at the portrait of Christianity in general in anime you will find the same, and must not interpret it as an attack but lack of comprehension of a religion that is alien for them. Just flip some pages of manga like “Saint Young Men ” (the adventures of Buddha and Jesus….) to see this.

    While the author of this manga probable tried to read about the historical place ( way, the historial details of people, weapons, clothing and battle movement are very acurate), the author is showing how Christianity is perceived in Japan.


  24. I frankly love Maria and found it to be a beautiful anime, with many good points to make. The sexual jokes at the beginning were the way, that I believe, the way in which the animators thought it would be best to gain an audience. It worked for High School of the Dead right? (Sarcasm)

    Anyway, I am no more uncomfortable with this than the portrayal of Christianity in Evangelion or God in Haibane Renmei.


  25. (disclaimer I’m not super well-versed in academic theological stuff so if I’m off base or wrong about something from either a general Christian or Catholic perspective, feel free to correct me)

    It’s been over two years since I watched Junketsu no Maria but I definitely resonate with a lot of what you said in this post. I managed to get through the show and did enjoy watching its accurate depiction of medieval/historical battles & other parts of the show’s story (partly from the whole, “I’m new to anime so all of this stuff is so COOL and AMAZING” thing I was going through at the time). But I also felt similar to how you did with regards to its depiction of the Church and God: it made me feel uncomfortable and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, and though I was able to get over it in the past I’m not sure how much I’d be able to get through now.

    There are times I feel where it is important to address and comment on the times the earthly Church and those who are a part of that institution have fallen and hurt others. The times I’ve heard from others in our anitwitter community about how they personally have been hurt or even victimized by those in the Church are devastating and worth silently and sorrowfully reflecting on how these sorts of failings have manifested and continued in the modern Church. That sort of melancholic reflection does not invalidate or turn away from the good that the Church is done, it just chooses to put the focus elsewhere while asking “where have we failed? where have we sinned? how can we repent of our actions?” But with media like this, that isn’t a concern – if this was a show specifically addressing those failings and pressing into them, then I would understand, but here it takes a more historical, seemingly neutral perspective while doing so and thus ultimately feels like an unfair misrepresentation of the Church and of God.

    And as a final aside: I’m basically silent on my faith on twitter, and while I frequently dwell on whether that’s a good or bad thing (or both) I think your final paragraph very much describes part of my fear with being more open about my faith there. I’m not unwilling to acknowledge the ways the Church has perpetuated evil in the world and how it continues to do so, and I have no issue with offering silence and space to those I know who have been hurt by the Church at some point during their lives. I feel like it is important for me to do those things, to offer what kindness and understanding I can. But I also find generalized misrepresentations of my own faith to be painful and distressing to read and process, and from reading your final paragraph I can imagine that the general atmosphere on twitter around this time was likely uncomfortable and difficult to be present in. I obviously have no way of knowing whether that was the case for certain, but if it was I’m sorry to hear you had to deal with that stress at that time, and I believe you made the right decision in being open about that here, even if it ruffled some feathers at the time.


  26. Interesting perspective. I have only just come to this series by way of numerous good reviews. And I dropped it here, at Episode 2, because I agree with Michael and just can’t hack another 11 episodes of Maria as a protagonist.

    Good intentions or not, immense power yoked to complete naievity is rarely ever a good thing. Sure, Maria stepped in for this village, but let’s not forget that the entire reason she needs to step in is that the mercenaries deprived of a pay-out from the battle she just interrupted now have to look elsewhere for their pay. Are we assuming this is the only mercenary company hired and then stiffed in the war? What’s the bet Maria’s intervention is also the reason that other village Michael mentioned is being attacked? So basically, Maria has done a “good” deed, and the situation has devolved from a clash between two armies, to a clash between mercenaries and villages of unarmed men, women and children. Good work, Maria.

    Now, perhaps the series changes direction and its protagonist actually ends up learning a few hard lessons about life and realises the error of her ways, but given, a) the “humour” thus far has just made me cringe, and b) my tolerance for anime’s over sexualisation of women has waned dramatically over the years, I’d still be hard pressed to give it another go.


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