Maria†Holic OP – Of Yuri, Sadistic Traps, and a whole lot of paint

by eternal on January 25, 2009

mariaholic-op-21I’d hit it.

After watching two seasons of ef and a Hidamari Sketch or two, I can honestly say that SHAFT has completely corrupted me. And by corrupted, I mean that they’ve taught me to appreciate the abstract and to look between the lines – even if there’s nothing there to begin with. Maria+Holic is a lighthearted show compared to the likes of ef, and while the kind of deconstruction that went on during the early days of memories is more suited to a story of ef’s intensity, there’s something oddly alluring about a sadistic trap painting walls with dolls fashioned after his lesbian roomate.

In other words, this show is about as insane as it’s OP, and I’m about to try to make sense out of all of this. I wonder what that says about my sanity?

(The only copy that seems to be available on YouTube is Portuguese, so this’ll have to do)

All right, time to start this thing. Watch the video a few times over – assuming that you haven’t done so already – and read on whenever you’re ready. I’ll be doing this episodic-style, starting with the screencaps.

mariaholic-op-30Maria + Holic TVA…TV Animation? Then again, I suppose it hardly matters either way. Beneath it is the three lines repeated in the following few seconds: “H”, “Sketch”, and “One Touch”. I don’t think I can attribute this to much more than Engrish. Sketch instantly brought to mind the (irrelevant) Hidamari Sketch, and Kanako reacts to a single touch from a male, but that’s still not saying much.





More epic Engrish, to put it simply. The first two lines remind me of the setting of the show and how it parodies the chaste, pure atmosphere of anime like MariMite. “Flower” also made me think of lily, which is apparently a symbol in Japan for lesbian relationships (don’t quote me on that).

On the other hand, “paint it red” (which we’ll be seeing much more of) completely contradicts the essence of shows like MariMite, and it can be a straightforward symbol of Mariya’s seemingly inherent sadism. He obviously isn’t a very nice guy, and his playful urges where he treats his surroundings like toys are brought out perfectly with that simple statement.

We also have Kanako, caught in the middle, wishing that Mariya would put an end to his crazy endeavours. I’m going to assume that this is what they mean by “no more war”.


Of course, we shouldn’t forget that not everything has to contain meaning. The sheer abstractness and artsiness of Maria Holic – and anything involving SHAFTxSHINBO, to be honest – can be viewed at face value and still enjoyed. The aesthetics of the utterly white room and the bring red paint cans are attractive to the eye regardless of their meaning (or lack thereof), and the remainder of the video is just as bizarrely intriguing as the beginning.


Mariya playing his maid like a guitar. Mostly comedic effect, partially a testament to his “do what you want” personality and Matsurika’s silent submission. If this were an eroge…


The Kanako dolls follow him wherever he goes, willingly or not. They look to me like they’re being coerced into treading Mariya’s carefree path of destruction, even if they don’t particularly want to be (and even if they get tossed around in the process).


Not sure how relevant this is, but Kanako seems to have a pretty bland expression. She doesn’t look too happy either. (And it’s worth noting that all of the dolls appear to have this cookie-cutter facial design).


The many colours of Kanako. Perhaps different sides of her personality? She definitely wouldn’t have that many sides though. You could also say that they represent the rest of the school as they somewhat unwillingly follow in Mariya’s footsteps, but I’m not sure how accurate that is either. Maybe I should just make things simple and label this as “artistic effect”.


A determined expression, if not a little mad. Either way, he’s not going to be stopping for any obstacles that he can knock over.


Just like the above picture, he proceeds to start kicking the innocent paint cans around. There won’t be any rupees/potions in them, but I don’t think he cares – after all, the story has gone out of its way to show us that Mariya isn’t afraid to do what he wants.


Mariya’s playfulness as he leaps from one ladder (step ladder, as Maya never ceases to point out) to the next. The world is his, after all, and he can do what he wants with it.


This one still confounds me for the most part. Maybe she’s blind to her master’s “dark” deeds? Or maybe she just doesn’t care? For all I know, Shinbo might have just been bored.


Heh, I thought they only did stuff like this in Brain Age.


Explanations aren’t needed for everything. Maybe the DVD release will answer our “questions” about this one…


Kanako’s nosebleeds are a prominent part of the story, representing her less-than-pure thoughts about entering an all-girls Catholic high school, and so it’s no surprise that they’ve also made their way into the OP. It would also seem that the nosebleed motif, if you can call it that without laughing, is a large part of the reason the video is so filled with red.


The phrase is still just as illogical, but placing it over the Kanako nosebleed picture leads me back to my original point: that the quote represents her unanswered pleas for Mariya to stop messing with things and for her to resume her ordinary life. Pulling a maid’s shirt open does not constitute as “normal”.



And then we arrive at the Kanako domino. Mariya evidently set things up so that a simple push of the finger can lead to a dramatic result. Once more, our innocent yuri princess is nothing more than a pawn in Mariya’s twisted games.


Hopping around on step ladders and kicking paint cans can be fun and all, but why stop there? Kanako looks like she would make the perfect paintbrush, figuratively and literally, so Mariya decides to “decorate” the room with her. None of us know what his real ambitions are, but if for whatever reason he needs Kanako to accomplish those goals, then this entertaining scene becomes all the more meaningful.


Tossing the doll against the ground, obviously proving his superiority (and insanity).


Further damage and/or humiliation is done through the splattering of paint. Kanako makes a surprisingly fun plaything. It should also be noted that the phrases “no more war” and “love & peace” start flashing again near the end.


Now here’s an interesting picture. Why would Mariya have surrounded himself with ladders, and why does he look perplexed? There’s a fair chance that I’m reading too deeply into this and thus making ridiculous assumptions, but looks to me like he’s trapped. Trapped in a girl’s body, perhaps? Trapped in an all-girl’s school, a cold family, a difficult situation? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is that he isn’t the kind of person that would be stupid enough to surround himself with ladders, and SHAFT has been known to say things without actually saying them.


With a few more pleas for peace and a final splashing of red, the room is abandoned in shambles, with the Kanako dolls looking rather like a Katamari.

Looking back at all of this, it should be noted that Maria Holic is in no way a serious show. It’s the kind of show that can – and probably should – be enjoyed at face value, with little to no meaning hidden beneath each shot. However, the return of SHAFT’s crazy yet brilliant direction is making me question that notion, and I believe that if you look hard enough, there is meaning to be found.

That said, the video can be summed up quite easily: Mariya is a sadistic trap that does what he wants with the world, and Kanako is his unfortunate victim that gets roped into the chaos and winds up destroyed. With its bright, vibrant colours and repeated use of the unnerving scarlet, the tone set by the video holds true when the episode starts, and the events parallel the actual plot almost literally. The only scene that still perplexes me is the one with the imprisoned Mariya, but there’s a fair chance that I might be wrong about that entire thing. Still though, I’ll leave my theory out there in the off chance that I wind up being correct.

With all of that said, however, you should probably get back to watching the show now. The video is brilliant – a work of art, really – but the show itself is also highly entertaining. Shinbo antics or not, it stands by itself as an incredibly original comedy and a clever parody of everything shoujo-ai. Fancy direction isn’t the only thing that the series has, and I’m mainly enjoying it as much as I am due to the sheer hilarity of it all.

But at the end of the day, fancy direction is still a good thing as it prompts reactions like this.


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

cuchlann January 25, 2009 at 9:18 pm

I find it disconcerting how resistant a lot of anime fans are to this kind of reading, which seems to me to be completely necessary. It even creeps in through your asides, how “Shinbo could just be bored” and so on.

As I was (re-)watching the OP I happened to think it would actually be one of the things I might point out to people who think animation can’t be “art”; though, of course, those people would willfully refuse to see anything in it, but still.

This is a really good close reading, I enjoyed it. I hadn’t even noticed Mariya trapped by ladders.

cuchlanns last blog post..Thank your mighty ghost of choice


shirokiryuu January 25, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Interesting post =)
On closer inspection I don’t think that’s Mariya in the middle of the ladders, I think that’s the class president (?), childhood friend of Mariya.


Kat January 25, 2009 at 9:52 pm

The girl trapped my ladders isn’t Mariya. She is the student representative of the senior class that called Mariya “Flat chest,” in episode two. Other than that, I enjoyed this break down of the OP, it was very insightful. :)


omo January 25, 2009 at 10:20 pm

I more or less agree with this read. I’d take a step and point out the whole yuri harem/”objectification of objectifying individual” angle as well. There’s a reason why Matsurika is not a doll but Kanako is.

And for that matter, what the crowd of Kanako represents.

omos last blog post..A Yuri Epiphany, Podcasts Ship


Jarmel January 26, 2009 at 1:55 am

I hadn’t noticed the ladders either. Maybe it represents social status or caste which is usually represented by ladders or stairs. Maybe Maria has to do this to get an inheritance or something in order to keep his social status or money.


Dop January 26, 2009 at 4:39 am

The ‘BLIND’ bit I interpret as meaning that as Mariya was skipping from the top of one stepladder to the next he’s fallen off (there’s a bit of camera shake here that suggests something has fallen!) and Matsurika is thinking “I didn’t see that”.


Captain Arepa January 26, 2009 at 7:40 am

This is an excellent analysis, in a “visually” speaking, but I think that there’s something missing: the song. It has it’s own “hidden” messages (bah! they’re horribly obvious), so it would be interesting to “analyze it” too, like you did with Toradora’s ED.

Captain Arepas last blog post..Random Otaku News: ¿El fin de Haruhi Suzumiya?


animekritik January 26, 2009 at 9:56 am

That was actually the first time I saw this by now fabled OP. It strikes me as extremely chauvinistic, almost like a stab at the heart of anime’s sole remaining pro-female niche: yuriland. That said, Matsurika is freaky hawt, man. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

animekritiks last blog post..Time and the Leijiverse Part I (Happy B-Day Sensei)


digitalboy January 26, 2009 at 3:19 pm
digitalboy January 26, 2009 at 3:21 pm

also I feel the need to talk about your new site design. It’s nice, the post column is much, much better and the design is more cleean. A right sidebar is a little disconcerting to me, but that’s because i’m weird.

digitalboys last blog post..Soul Eater Catch-up (1-41) “Madness and Discord Awaits”… “I Can’t Wait!”


TheBigN January 26, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Animekritik: That’s the angle that omo was talking about. And given that some people dislike how Mariya treats Kanako because it can be seen in that way, it’s an important thing to look at.

ETERNAL: More people need to do this more often, as you did a good job here. And it takes a bit to get me really interested with what I see in an OP. SHAFT just keeps doing it to me time and time again. :P

TheBigNs last blog post..A Little Something To Break The Monotony…


gaguri January 27, 2009 at 6:12 am

That’s an interesting analysis. My thoughts on the way Shinbo engages us in OP is a little different though. If you’re interested, you can visit my blog /shameless plug :D

gaguris last blog post..Akiyuki Shinbo, the Irrational Surgeon


Miraploy January 27, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I like this. I’m subscribed.


rangerroh January 27, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Interesting analysis of the opening song. When I first was opening for the first time thought it was bizzard and weird. I think you analyzed Mariya pretty good as he does go about his business doing what he wants and taking out anyone in his way (ex. paint cans and destroying everything).


M12 January 28, 2009 at 2:48 am

Ah, an interesting analysis! Yes, I’ve always wondered what the “blind” thing is about. To be honest, I never gave it this much thought. I reckon most of it is just for stylistic effect.

Matsurika is win!

M12s last blog post..Mom! Buy me a RideBack!


tmsidr January 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I haven’t take a deeper look at the opening so far and only enjoyed it for its crazyness, but I think you may be right with most part of your analysis. Unfortunately, the show is in my opinion only watchable so far, but perhaps I’m just not so much into yuri stuff^^. I have to say that I liked the ef openings better, especially the first one looks great and the song is a master piece imho.

tmsidrs last blog post..Neues zu Natsu no Arashi!


Rin January 30, 2009 at 5:36 am

I say….this is one of the most weirdest anime I’ve seen so far…still, has it comedy moments…
I might continue to watch it…if I have time…

Rins last blog post..A Week in Toronto 6


ETERNAL January 30, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Ah, my mistake with the ladder thing, I didn’t expect a different character to show up out of the blue when the rest of the video involved only Mariya and Matsurika. I suppose that’s one of the downfalls of trying to break new ground, but hey, most of my points still stand ;P

@ Cuchlann: I suppose it was mostly due to the fact that Maria Holic hasn’t exactly been predetermined as a “deep” show, and partially due to the fact that I’m still new to editorial blogging. Just as some people instinctively rush into things head first, others – like me – instinctively pull back, possibly even to the point that it becomes harmful. Anyway, I think most of us realize the importance of analysis, and just as the blogosphere converted me, I’m sure it will convert many more hapless fans in the future :P

@ Dop: Nice one, I hadn’t noticed that before. This is why communication is important in blogging :P

@ digitalboy: Thanks, I like it too. I think most of the sidebars I’ve seen have been on the right side, so maybe you really are weird after all XD

@ Omo, animekritik, TheBigN: I think you guys might really be on to something here. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see to be sure, but the more I think about it, the more evident that point seems to become. It all makes sense within context, of course, but it never truly struck me until now just how meaningful this all might be out of context. Perhaps I should have opted to read The Handmaid’s Tale after all.


Shin February 1, 2009 at 8:29 am

Catchy tune aside, the lyrics gives me an erection each time I listen to the song. Who knew the pleas of one masochistic lesbian can turn me on so much?


Will of the Wisp February 7, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I could not but recall that Love and Peace was also prominent in the 1st episode of Hidamari Sketch (the 1st season). Is Shaft merely referencing it, as it is probably doing with the H and Sketch? (Well… it was Love and Piece, but similar idea.)


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