I wouldn’t go so far as to say Junketsu no Maria was a sleeper going in, but in a schedule nearly bereft of interesting prospects it was a cut or two above most. It comes from a mangaka with a halfway decent series (Moyashimon) under his belt, from an elite studio in Production I.G., and features a pretty strong staff headed by Director Taniguchi Goro and Art Director Ikeda Shigemi. At the very least this series figured to be interesting to look at and not abjectly stupid.
With that rather low bar in mind, the premiere was fine. It was indeed very nice visually, with a medieval storybook aesthetic and nice character designs from Chiba Yuriko. I can’s say I found the story or characters immediately compelling, but at least they’re slightly unusual. The setting is during the Hundred Years War between England and France, an era featuring some of the most stupid and pointless extended conflict in European history (and that’s a pretty high bar). The anime wrinkle is the involvement of witches both French and English, with the main focus being on French witch Maria (Kanemoto Hisako) who professes to hate all war and seems determined to do what she can to stop it.
That premise might be dumb, it might not – I haven’t decided yet – but at least it’s different. Maria employs a succubus named Artemis (Hikasa Youko), who takes the form of an owl, to help her in her task (there’s an incubus too, though we haven’t met him yet). The hook is that Maria’s powers are apparently only valid until she loses her virginity (I just think it’s better not to ask) which is sure to provide the source of most of the hijinks to come. There’s also a local boy named Joseph (Ono Kensho) who looks to be the greatest threat to Maria’s virginity.
I really have no idea what we have here yet, but there’s the vaguest hint of something interesting in the premise and execution. Is this show is serious about showing the stupidity of war that might be something to latch onto, but it may be more of a straight-up sex comedy – it’s hard to tell just yet. If nothing else Junketsu no Maria is a professionally-produced affair with a bit of style to it, though there’s certainly nothing awe-inspiring in the premiere. We’ll see.
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 00
I think the most interesting thing about Saekano is the question it raises: is this the lowest NoitaminA has ever sunk? It’s not as though the block hasn’t had mediocrities and worse before, but I’m hard-pressed to think of another show that seems so utterly anathema to what NoitaminA was founded for.
I’m going to give this series another week for two main reasons. It’s directed by Kanta Kamei, the man who directed Usagi Drop. And it’s written (both in LN form and for the screen) by Maruto Fumiaki, who wrote the excellent White Album 2. There’s also the fact that this is apparently some sort of “Episode 0” prequel, and not part of the main narrative. But boy, there sure isn’t much to draw enthusiasm from here.
I’m not crazy about anime that try and cash in in inane and insipid anime tropes and gratuitous fanservice under the premise that they’re actually “satirizing” them. If it weren’t for Maruto’s involvement I would frankly have bolted about five minutes in, because I found Saekano’s premiere (or whatever you want to call it) both idiotic and insultingly crass – not to mention utterly unfunny. By all appearances this is a dumb formula harem LN adaptation with a very thin veneer of meta-humor supposedly layered on top. So far, it’s a complete washout as far as I’m concerned. I’ll watch the next episode on the grounds that it’s technically the premiere, but I’d be lying if I said my expectations weren’t at ground zero.