New Anime Season Winter 2009: Mariaholic

January 7th, 2009

New anime Mariaholic (まりあ†ほりっく), is meant to be a comedy about a “Yuri obsessed girl” (by which the coyly clever writers mean she’s a lesbian) at a girl’s school, who falls under the control of a sadistic cross-dressing guy.

Let’s start with the good. The art is very good – I genuinely enoyed it. The surreality is also quite good. Like Melody of Oblivion, it provides a slightly pregnant, omninous atmosphere. The VAs are recognizable “6 degrees of Yuri” actresses, which was nice.

But on the downside, the story at its most basic is about the emotional torture of a young lesbian. Which somehow isn’t reading as “funny” to me. If I thought that this story would lighten up, I could deal, but knowing that Kanako’s tortured misery is not just the story, but is meant to be seen as *comedy,* I’m fairly certain I won’t be able to enjoy it, ever.

It feels like another story in which the “comedy” is a thin mask to give the audience a vicarious thrill of harassing a woman. Much like the very thinly veiled aggression in That Is My Master. My gut feeling is that if you like Master and think it’s funny, you’ll probably like Mariaholic and think it’s funny. If you look at the promotional picture up top there, you’ll notice that protagonist isn’t in the forefront of the picture. I kind of think that that’s pretty representative of the whole thing. This is series about the torturer, not about the victim and we are meant to empathize with him, not her. I think of it as an anti-Yuri series.


Art – 9
Story – 2
Characters – 4
Yuri – 0 or 6, depending on your point of view
Series – 8, if your fetish is emotional torture

Overall – 3 or 8, depending on your point of view, interests and sense of humor

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38 Responses

  1. grace says:

    “emotional torture of a young lesbian” – that’s just not funny or enjoyable to me in any way and neither was Mariaholic. i like to think i’m pretty easy-going and enjoy all kinds of shows, but Mariaholic did nothing for me. but that’s okay because i have plenty of other shows i actually care about and want to watch.

    thanks for your two cents, erica!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I read the manga a while back, and it was Not Fun, capitals included. Heck, due to a weak grasp of Japanese at first I didn’t even notice the transvestite wasn’t an actual girl and I still thought, “this can’t be a healthy relationship”.

    I guess Maria+Holic would constitute good mindless entertainment if one managed to turn off that part of the brain that thinks abusing a girl for comedic effect is genuinely funny, but somehow I can’t feel for it.

  3. Katherine says:

    I watched the first episode of this with abysmal expectations, courtesy of the buzz that I heard beforehand (even though I held a small flame of hope that this would be a clever parody of Maria-sama ga Miteru, with the humor and visual style of Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei), and was surprised to find that it wasn’t the house of horrors I thought it would be. The visual style was great, and there were a few really funny jabs at the “girl’s school” genre (like the opening exposition speech) but there were a few things that just killed the show for me. A) Kanako getting hives when she comes in contact with men (please) and B) her balking at Mariya telling her that she’s a lesbian and saying that “Yuri” sounds better. o_o (Eh?) Mariya actually got a few points from me for his reaction (“It’s the same thing.”), although neither of them are really likeable.

  4. Ida says:

    I’m pretty sure boys at our anime club would enjoy it. But as you said “what others think lesbians would find interesting and what lesbians would find intersting are not the same thing” (not sure if the quote is corretc, though).

    And the male reaction to this anime does pain me. I read somewhere “Final verdict: if you liked the characterizations in School Rumble, the Yuri/catholic(?) themes in Strawberry Panic, and SHAFT’s crazyness, you will definitely enjoy Mariaholic.” Strawberry panic, this, strawberry panic, this, I don’t see the connection! One is a trashy comedy which did turn out to be quite good, and other is vomit-endusing reagent. (they tried to compare it with marimite, too, albeit not with much success, thankfuly)
    When I commented on that blog, that is “don’t mix apples and oranges”, I recieved the most enjoyable responce “an idiot who thinks of Simoun only as “quality Yuri” is ten years too early to call Maria+Holic dumb for not being Yuri” and that I should do unmentionable things to myself.

    Finally, though, what pains me the most is that we are forced to watch this, because they don’t make a lot of quality even remotely-Yuri anime.

    Good thing that it is not the only thing that is there this season. Long awaited marimite is, of course, excelent. Minami-ke is funny. And we’ve yet to see how Sora Kake Girl would go Yuri-vise but I have good expectations for it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I hated the first episode, and I see no reason to believe it will improve. It’s a shame because, as you said, the art was very impressive. What a waste of talent on this though…

  6. Knight of L-sama says:

    I’ve got to say I seem to be in the minority when I don’t find this show offensive, mostly because I view it as pure genre parody. I don’t think it will be any good but that’s mostly because it’s attempt at parody are too ham-fisted to be anything but very repetitive after a couple of episodes.

    Where my point of view seems to diverge from most others is that I don’t actually view Kanako as a lesbian or a stand in for one. I view her more as a stand-in/surrogate for the sort of fans who watch something like Strawberry Panic and take it for a realistic portrayal.

    Of course my view may be coloured by the fact the only parts that I found genuinely funny were Kanako’s over the top fantasy sequences.

    As far as the art is concerned, my immediate reaction upon seeing the silhouette was ‘So this is what the Utena art crew is doing to pay for their drug habits these days.’

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Erica. This is one of the times I absolutely agree with you (HxB and some Fujieda Mangas being the other times)
    It’s not fun, and it isn’t Yuri but anti-Yuri.

    It killed me when the main character was all about “NoooO! I’m not lesbian, thats icky! Use Yuri”.

    Just no. Same with the idiotic “I hate men, because men are mean, so I must like women”

    Liking women because one happens to be into women doesn’t seem to be allowed in a protagonist…

  8. @Knight of L-sama – You’re not wrong about it being parody, of course, but allow me to overthink this for a moment. :-)

    Many young lesbians do not think of themselves as “lesbian” and often shy away from the word, and the negative connotations that often accompany by it.

  9. Motormind says:

    That Is My Master? Don’t you mean He Is My Master?

  10. @Motormind – He is the English-language version. the original Japanese title is Kore ha, i.e., “that” and I have always taken it to be read ironically, as in, “That is my master?”

  11. pilsner says:

    Thank you! I though something was wrong with me, becouse everyone around me seems to enjoy the first ep. but me.
    it’s not just “not funny”, I felt simply bad and annoyed at the same time and sorry for the “Yuri girl”…

  12. mistressatma says:

    As a lesbian myself and a huge fan of Yuri and this blog, allow me to thank you for this review. This is the exact thing I thought myself upon discovering this series and it pissed me right off. I’ve been told crap like “You just need to find the right guy to cure you of this” and that is exactly what this series is telling the poor girls in the series and those out there like us. It’s vile, it’s disgusting, and I refuse to support this series, even if it may be genre parody and all that.

  13. darkchibi07 says:

    @Knight of K-sama

    “As far as the art is concerned, my immediate reaction upon seeing the silhouette was ‘So this is what the Utena art crew is doing to pay for their drug habits these days.'”

    Akiyuki Shinbo’s/SHAFT productions can do that. Those pairing are becoming well-known for their eccentric, abstract style since the days of Tsukuyomi ~ Moon Phase.

    It’s weird, the premise in Maria Holic can be considered like a subset of the premises found in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei as both play off the dark comedy angle (I mean in SZS, we have for example a suicidal teacher and a student mistaken for domestic violence) by taking rather sensitive issues and turn them into comedy. Yet SZS is pretty damn hilarious at that department (I don’t remember any recovered suicidal people complaining about that), but Maria Holic ended up pissing off a good section of the Yuri fanbase.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Maria Holic pissing off i watch the first episode and the story is bad they make fun about the lesbian bad anime i Will not watch the rest of this stupid anime

  15. Motormind says:

    He is the English-language version. the original Japanese title is Kore ha, i.e., “that” and I have always taken it to be read ironically, as in, “That is my master?”

    Well, the official translation is “He Is My Master”, so I was a bit confused. The series is indeed quite mysognistic, but I still like it somehow since I think it is beautifully drawn.

    The artist, Asu Tsubaki, has recently split up with the writer (and husband) Mattsu and is now delving more into Yuri territory, so it might be worth to check out her work–even though I suspect it is a bit too cute for your tastes.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I might have tried to get over the complete torture of the first episode if I didn’t belive that the girl is probably going to end up with that guy somehow. Definately not going to watch anymore of this.

  17. sgdoso says:

    “anti-Yuri series”, yes this is the whole story. I read the manga a little bit, and I can say this is totally what this story is all about.
    I’m really annoyed many of my ACG-obssessed friends think that I should like this anime because this is “Yuri-like”. So tired to explain this. omfg

  18. neo_hrtgdv says:

    these days everyone in the Yuri world has heard about Maria+Holic, it’s just that polemic that discussion ensues.

    My opinion about it is that, unless the anime really takes a new course, it’ll be branded “fake Yuri” just like “Otome wa boku ni koishiteru”; but the anime still runs and I don’t know whether the manga has or hasn’t gone too far to make a full season, one can only just hope or, better, ignore it until you hear the cries of joy/rage of the masses.

  19. yakusoku says:

    I also was disappointed by this series. Having the thought that this is pretty good since many are watching this, I made an effort to watch it myself. At first, I was quite amused at Kanako being too flamboyant in her povs. And the art work especially the chibi is really cute. But the part wherein that crossdressing guy used his wracked brain to take advantage of Kanako’s weak will, I was like ‘this is not at interesting at all’. I can’t even bear to watch the 2nd episode. All I could predict was it would be a barrage of mindless banter among the characters. And I also agree that this is an anti-Yuri. It is indeed disheartening that certain anime these days brand themselves as Yuri and yet they actually mock the concept of Yuri. I would not consider this as a parody but as a mere INSULT not only to us who hold intense passion for Yuri but also to the spectacular Yuri series being made fun of. This series is not worth watching.

  20. @yakusoku – I don’t think the series is branded as Yuri at all. Not the manga, not the anime. Fans here might be blurring the lines as they often do, but there’s no sign that the Japanese publishers consider it to be Yuri or are targeting it to that audience.

  21. jamdox says:

    I agree. This is not a Yuri anime. It is the true heir to He’s My Master. I’d call it a very twisted harem anime, and I appreciate genres getting twisted, especially since so much anime is so stale nowadays.

    As a (wait for it) … male (AAAH!), I really like this, as I did He’s My Master. Of course, I can totally see how a lesbian would be more sensitive about the content and find it offensive.

    Artistically (if the concept can be applied), I’ll be disappointed if the protagonist gets over her hives and becomes straight. That would be stupid pandering, and I think this series can have a great story, with good character growth, an exciting climax and a satisfying resolution, without de-gaying the protagonist.

    Of course, I am prepared for the disappointment that that’s what’s going to happen. But I’ve watched up to episode 4 now, and this series is very humorous and stimulating, as long as it’s not taken more seriously than it is intended (that’s not very seriously, in case that wasn’t clear).

  22. Dorota says:

    I watched first episode of this ‘quality anime’, because like half of my firends kept singing praise of it. I must only conclude they hate me.
    I never found the torture of a protagonist amusing. Even in the harem series I flinch when they beat the main guy up. I keep thinking – is this the only thing you can think up as comedy? That is just so pathetic. If you want to make jabs at people at least make them smart and amusing. Or maybe the fact, that I cut my comedy teeth at Monty Python is rearing it’s ugly head. My standards must be really high.
    (And oh, it’s really creepy that this girl obviously desrves such treatment! She is female pig after all. Gosh, how did Japan end up in OUR middle ages? It seems that werstern view of sex is like a metastased cancer.)

    It’s such a shame this comedy is garbage – I loved the visual style. Especialy the art noveau (or how do you call it in America?) designs and frames which just begged for a Mucha-styled female to be placed in the middle of them. Or the faces reminiscent of Ryoko Ikeda.

  23. @Dorot – We call it Art Noveau here too, and I also thought of Mucha, whose work I quite like. But I agree, the art and story don’t match at all.

  24. nolrai says:

    I wonder too if its not differnt senses of humor. I mean I find things funny not inspite of horrable ness but because of it.
    Or maybe I’m just trying to justify likeing something this mean. It also is not a Yuri anime. I mean the whole point is the main charators ambitions of romance are shot down at every turn.
    But maybe its just cause the humor isnt directed at me. I dont know.

    the cat girl dorm lady is random though

  25. Rachel says:

    It feels like everyone is taking this anime too seriously. It’s not meant to be the shining epitome of Yuri or anything. And I don’t know if Endou Minari (MariaHolic author) is male or female, but it shouldn’t matter. Everyone has their own views on what they want to see in a Yuri. Women can make trashy Yuri, men can make “pure” Yuri.

    Personally, I liked MariaHolic. I find it hilarious. And I love Marimite. And Kashimashi. And hell, even to some extent Strawberry Panic. (lol trashy soap opera amnesia).

    I’m a lesbian and I like women. If it’s a sweet and innocent Aoi Hana situation, to a comically, super lesbian girl who nosebleeds at every girl ala MariaHolic. I enjoy the focus being around a lesbian-identified character. Even if it has nothing to do with the actual plot or story.

    In a way, something like MariaHolic existing shows that lesbianism is on the forefront. A huge anime genre has always been guys pining over (a) girl(s) for 26 episodes. Now it’s like it’s OK for girls to do it for girls too.

    Whether you wanna be super demure and “onee-sama” driven, or if you wanna be the girl crazy type and love openly, it shouldn’t matter. In the end we’re all striving for being seen as the same, right?

    In both het and homo there are people who are seme and who are uke. You need both. So as much as you wanna say this is complete garbage, this needs to exist as much as the opposite, such as Marimite.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Wow Erica is being incredibly naive here. That the girl is not featured in promotional art is proof that we are not supposed to identify ourselves with her but her torturer? Should we make the same assertion about every male protagonist in the harem genre?

    From Keitaro to Tsukune, the male lead has always simultaneously being: an audience surrogate, excluded from promotional art and tortured by circumstances.

    And no, Kanako isn’t fit into this role because she deserves it, but because that *is* her *role*, this is a genre parody through out, not only of the girl’s school romance stories but of the harem genre as well.

    But the idea that Kanako troubles mean we shouldn’t identify with her betrays Erica’s Western heritage. We should like Kanako *because* she suffers so much!

    Did you know that in Japan, when somebody complains about their problems or aches the correct thing to do is, complain about your own problems?

    I find it amusing that Erica, who insists men can’t ever understand lesbians so epically fails to understand the entire culture she often chastises others for not studying their language.

  27. @Anonymous – You win. I have *NO* idea what you think I said and therefore have no idea what you are saying.

    But it hardly matters, because you clearly upset about something. Probably you like this series and since I don’t you feel angry and hurt as if I personally attacked you. I didn’t. I just thought this was not what I consider entertainment.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Not really, you didn’t understand anything I said so I did loose :)

    The distilled version is: No, we *are* supposed to empathize with Kanako, not Mariya, if you don’t get it, ask (a women) for help, hint: Urashima Keitaro.

    And I don’t love it, although I enjoy its sheer randomness, you can trash it all you want.

    And you know, there’s an interesting display of bias here. So there is a sadist in this anime, why assume this is for the entertainment of sadists instead of masochists? Personally I think its neither but your response to this pattern is interesting although I wouldn’t haste to make Freudian remarks, ever.

    After years of bumping into your blog my first interaction with you was a blend of disappointment for your hasty and clumsy response and respect for accepting dissenting comments, cheers, really.

  29. @Anonymous. It’s a valid perspective, but it is not *my* perspective. My point of view – that it is a miserable show that made me unhappy to watch is no less valid because you think that the heroine will appeal to masochists.

    I can’t help that you consider my analysis clumsy. I consider yours unlikely, but I’m not disappointed in you. I like that you’ve offered another perspective, even if I think it’s not probably the point. Too much of what passes for comedy in general is of the “haha – he slipped” variety for me to change my mind.

  30. Maria+Holic is an anime for people who don’t know anything about Yuri but assume they do.

    It’s a “safe” anime, that actually has a lot of fanboys. Honestly, you get real Yuri fans reading your review, Erica, and they all agree it is a trash anime about pseudo-Yuri (which it is), but you should see the praises this thing is getting in the world outside Okazu.

    I put my own criticism of it out, but it seems, based on the feedback I got, that the majority of anime fans:

    1. do enjoy sadism
    2. love cross-dressing
    3. can tolerate lesbianism once justified that it is a disease or mental illness
    4. get very angry when you question their… “classy” tastes in comedy

    Ah, the world!

  31. Anonymous says:

    “But on the downside, the story at its most basic is about the emotional torture of a young lesbian.” Thats the good part! =D

  32. Ari says:

    Heh, I seem to be the only (bi) girl that likes this series ._.

    +she’s a lesbian and kinda admits it
    +she’s perverted :3
    +I liked the drawing style and some of the music
    +the first roommate is sexy *drool* and some of the other girls too
    +kanako went after all the girls, which is a nice change: usually, in the comedy genre, it’s the boy who does this
    +I actually like the humour
    +the ending omgwtf

    -the nosebleed thing was a little overdone sometimes
    -the friends are a little cliché
    -there was a scene in the beginning.. kanako said mariya was evil because he’s a boy, and then he answered something like ‘you’re not much better, you’re a lesbian’ ;_; boohoo my heart bled
    -the priest in the end was insanely boring
    -the hives.. sigh
    -i never liked mariya
    -poor kanako, being tortured like that.. but they didn’t let her make an absolute fool of herself (ok maybe sometimes), doesn’t that mean she’s the ‘good guy’ so we should like her? I really liked her character

    so basically: I liked the show for Kanako and her crazyness (…she sometimes reminded me of myself) and her humour (chasing after everyone), and not because of mariya and HIS type of humour (torturing her)

  33. Anonymous says:

    I haven’t read all the comments here, but I did read about half of it… I’m surprised at how seriously the whole issue’s being taken. I mean, i can see how it’d be offensive to people but I didn’t feel like this was at all a Yuri anime, i felt that it was a parody of a Yuri anime, and that it was SUPPOSED to be offensive… which is why I wasn’t offended, even though i am a girl, and i do swing that way.

    I didn’t even see Kanako as a lesbian character so much as a combination of bad/offensive stereotypes put together and exaggerated, like the hives thing, i mean, it’s really just blowing the whole “Does not like men” stereotype out of proportion… didn’t think it’d be taken seriously. I mean it’s not like straight people are gonna see this and think lesbians are actually pathologically allergic to men… or that we perv over girls that much hehe. In fact, in a way, isn’t it making fun of those bad stereotypes too in it’s exaggeration of them?

  34. Jack Mackerel says:

    “1. do enjoy sadism
    2. love cross-dressing
    3. can tolerate lesbianism once justified that it is a disease or mental illness
    4. get very angry when you question their… “classy” tastes in comedy”

    Nice stereotyping of the anime fandom, jackass.

    Just because it’s parodying your favorite genre doesn’t mean you have to get THAT worked up over it.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I hate it that people who haven’t read at least four volumes of the manga are reading this blog and straying from the series b/c they believe it to be homophobic. I think I’ve said this in another comment, but the series is really different from what many think. At first, you may not like it, but once you understand it you’ll change your mind.

    Yes, Kanako is ridiculed, but not b/c she’s ‘lesbian,’ but b/c she’s just a pervent trying to find lust rather than love (that, and doesn’t have a bit common sense.) MH isn’t actually Yuri, either and was at the beginning just a parody of it. Now, some will watch b/c of the sadistic torment (don’t worry Mariya gets better), the trap-fanservice, or other reasons. Kanako’s a focal character, but Mariya’s the real protagonist of the story.

  36. Anonymous says:

    “Jack Mackerel said…

    “1. do enjoy sadism
    2. love cross-dressing
    3. can tolerate lesbianism once justified that it is a disease or mental illness
    4. get very angry when you question their… “classy” tastes in comedy”

    “Nice stereotyping of the anime fandom, jackass.”

    Congratulations for living down to the stereotype of anime fans being unable to *read* well.

    You failed to read the “it seems, based on the feedback I got” part of what Jack Mackerel said:

    “…I put my own criticism of it out, but it seems, based on the feedback I got, that the majority of anime fans:

    “1. do enjoy sadism
    2. love cross-dressing
    3. can tolerate lesbianism once justified that it is a disease or mental illness
    4. get very angry when you question their… ‘classy’ tastes in comedy…”

    Obviously, it’s * the people who gave Jack Mackerel that feedback* who are really the jackasses promoting the stereotype.

    The way for an anime fan to fight the stereotype of anime fans being jerks is to *not be a jerk* – not to be a jerk and then whine about anti-jerk anime fans openly condemning jerks instead of hiding your jerk-behavior dirty laundry for you.

  37. Anonymous says:

    “…Finally, though, what pains me the most is that we are forced to watch this, because they don’t make a lot of quality even remotely-Yuri anime…”

    I’m a straight woman and reading this sentence still pained me. C’mon, you deserve better.

    Who the hell dares to force you to watch this stuff that pains you?

    If nobody’s actually forcing you (such as a teacher who put it on the syllabus or a pushy parent who demands that you share his or her tastes in entertainment :( ), then you don’t have to settle for wasting any of your precious leisure time on this. Vote with your money and your clicks *against* series that piss you off! >;D

    Also, maybe you’ve already found and watched all the anime with positive portrayals of lesbians, so the only anime left that portrays lesbians does so negatively? *You still don’t have to watch it!* Instead, you can go look for live-action Japanese video (movies, TV, etc.) with positive portrayals of lesbians and go look for non-Japanese video with positive portrayals of lesbians.

    The same applies for manga. Even if you’ve already found and read all the manga with positive portrayals of lesbians, so the only manga left that portrays lesbians does so negatively, *you still don’t have to read it!* Instead you can go look for Japanese books that aren’t comics, and non-Japanese books, with positive portrayals of lesbians.

  38. @Anonymous – this review is 2+ years old. No one cares anymore. There is no machine here, please stop raging.

    Reviews here are my opinion. This was my opinion about an anime. Is it worth a second thought much less multiple angry comments? I don’t care what you think, so just don’t care what I think and move on man.

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