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Maria Holic: Volume 1    by Minari Endou order for
Maria Holic
by Minari Endou
Order:  USA  Can
TOKYOPOP, 2009 (2009)
*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

The premise of Minari Endou's Maria Holic is interesting, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Cross-dressing is a common theme in high school comedy manga, and while Maria Holic tries to put a new spin on it, something seems missing.

Whenever a boy touches her, Kanako breaks out in hives. For this reason, she has sworn off guys. As a second year high school student (the equivalent of our 11th grade), Kanako has transferred to Ame no Kisaki, an all-girls mission (Catholic) junior/senior high school and is determined to find her soul mate. It is rare for a student to transfer in so late in their school career, so Kanako immediately comes under the scrutiny of the rest of the students, especially Mariya, a former headmistress's granddaughter and the most popular student at Ame no Kisaki. However, shortly after Kanako tells Mariya her reason for transferring to Ame no Kisaki and Mariya realizes that Kanako likes girls, Kanako discovers Mariya's secret she is actually a he. Kanako threatens to expose Mariya, but he uses Kanako's own secret to bully her into keeping quiet. The rest of the story is about how Kanako is under Mariya's thumb, but is also trying to make friends in her new school.

Endou's artwork is perfect for a high school comedy shojo manga, so that is not the problem with Maria Holic. It is the characters themselves and the lack of conflict that brings the story down. Kanako and Mariya find out each other's secrets almost immediately, which makes most of the story one of reaction in the leads' relationship. And this, frankly, takes the fun out of the story. Also, aside from the incident in the first chapter, we only see Mariya once as a boy, and this makes it easy to forget as the book wears on that he is, indeed, a boy although Kanako tells us at the beginning of each chapter. The other characters and their quirky personalities redeem Maria Holic, but not enough to make Minari Endou's series stand out.

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