Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Reads You Review: MARIA HOLIC, VOL. 1

Creator: Minari Endou
Publishing Information: TOKYOPOP, B&W, paperback, 192 pages, $10.99 (US), $13.99 CAN, £7.99 UK
Ordering Numbers: ISBN: 978-1-4278-1671-9 (ISBN-13)

Maria Holic introduces readers to Kanako Miyamae, a teen girl who transfers to Ame no Kisaki Junior and Senior High School for Girls, a combination all-girls school and mission school. Kanako has not transferred to this elite school merely for its academic reputation and selective enrollment. Kanako is a lesbian, and she’s hoping to find the ideal mate. Kanako thinks she’s found a freshman that meets her criteria. Mariya Shidou is beautiful and captivating, but she is also a he. Mariya is not only a cross-dressing boy, but he’s also sadistic and blackmails Kanako to keep his secret.

Maria Holic, Volume 1 finds Kanako in the midst of a tough adjustment to Ame no Kisaki. Not only must she deal with the conniving Mariya and his maid, Matsurika, she must also find a way to be accepted by the other students, who are suspicious of and, in some cases, jealous of her. The cause of the jealousy is Ryuken Ishima, a statuesque, strikingly beautiful girl who is beloved by the other students. When Ryuken takes special notice of Kanako, the other girls are furious, and they make sure that Kanako’s troubles with Mariya aren’t her only problems.

Several of Maria Holic’s characters are interesting, and some also have the potential to really grab the reader. Much of the narrative, however, focuses on being a showcase for the usual feuds and conflicts one would expect to find in an all-girls setting. Yes, this manga sometimes seems like one long catfight. What is refreshing about Maria Holic is the rather bold way creator Minari Endou presents Kanako’s lesbianism. Rather than being controversial, the lesbianism simply seems like a plot element ripe for exploitation.

Endou depicts Kanako as lustful, and but she is no more ashamed of her desires than a teen male character lusting after his female classmates. In fact, Kanako is like a lesbian version of the teenaged male character, Junpei Manaka, from the shonen manga, Strawberry 100%. Maria Holic is quite yuri – a manga which depicts a romance between female lead characters, at least not yet. Hopefully, Maria Holic will become an exceptional romantic comedy, but that will happen only if the narrative focuses more on the trials of teen love and dating and less on girl fights.


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