Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight - LETITIA MONT­GOMERY-RODGERS

Mi­nari En­dou, One Peace Books, Soft­cover $11.95 (160pp), 978-1-944937-12-6 The off­beat world of prom­ises that there’s much more to be re­vealed.

Maria Holic, Vol­ume 9, by Mi­nari En­dou, is the lat­est English-lan­guage re­lease of the pop­u­lar Ja­panese manga. Maria Holic‘s soapy teen drama takes place at an all-girls Catholic board­ing school. The se­ries’s beat­ing heart is gan­gling, awk­ward Kanako Miya­mae. Her at­tempts to find her ideal lady love amidst the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of her room­mate’s ire and the mess she makes of board­ing school life drive this manga’s episodic ac­tion.

Kanako is flaky, dra­matic, and highly in­flu­enced by her peers. In other words, she’s a typ­i­cal teenager. Mostly, her days are por­trayed as light­hearted romps where triv­ial, ev­ery­day is­sues snow­ball into avalanches of dra­matic in­com­pe­tence. Like that of any teenager, Kanako’s life of­ten takes place within the con­fines of her room, but her sit­u­a­tion is com­pli­cated by the pres­ence of her room­mate, Mariya Shido, and Mariya’s live-in maid, Mat­surika Shi­noji. Kanako seems to idol­ize—and per­haps fan­ta­size about—mariya be­cause of Mariya’s hy­per-femme ap­pear­ance. How­ever, Mariya and Mat­surika rou­tinely de­mean Kanako, us­ing the term “les­bian” as an ep­i­thet. Although Mariya’s iden­tity is veiled from the other stu­dents, Kanako is forced to keep his se­cret, in­creas­ing the ten­sion be­tween them.

Kanako seems clos­eted, and her quest for same-sex ro­mance plays for tit­il­la­tion. Ac­tual re­la­tion­ships and ro­man­tic con­nec­tion don’t come into Kanako’s plans, but rag­ing hor­mones and hy­per­sex­u­al­iza­tion do. Her ob­jects of af­fec­tion are pre­sented as just that—ob­jects—and the male gaze is ev­i­dent in Kanako’s fan­tasies, where women are largely de­picted as bod­ies to be groped. Kanako’s de­sire is also pre­sented hand in hand with phys­i­cal ail­ments, such as nose­bleeds and black­outs, manga short­hand for sex­ual per­ver­sion and de­viance.

Maria Holic, Vol­ume 9 con­tin­ues rather than con­cludes Kanako’s story, re­veal­ing many of her foibles and play­ing her per­sonal grow­ing pains for laughs. Some­thing may be lost in trans­la­tion in the treat­ment of Kanako’s sex­ual iden­tity, but the off­beat world of Maria Holic prom­ises that there’s much more to be re­vealed.

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