Maria the Virgin Witch (Volume 1)
Maria the witch uses her magical powers to stop war from brewing in France between various rulers. She calls on monsters, uses succubi to seduce soldiers, and whatever else she needs to stop the pointless bloodshed. Unfortunately, the archangel Michael is not amused with her efforts and tries to put an end to her meddling, so that no outside forces interfere with humanity's progress. And so Michael puts a curse on Maria. Maria, who, while obsessed with erotic literature, is still a virgin, can not lose her virginity, or she will lose her magical powers with it.
It actually takes the whole first volume to set up the entire premise of the book, which is kind of nice. I like that it doesn't feel rushed, and that the story slowly unfolds around Maria and her friends, building toward her confrontation with Michael. Ishikawa is not just a great storyteller, but illustrator as well. There is a masterful blend of realistic and cartoony art at work here that does the sort of story told here justice. I like the owls that Maria has created, servants in her quest to rid France of war, and her steely determination to protect the innocent from death at the hands of soldiers and criminals alike. I also really enjoyed the differing views between Maria and Michael. There's obviously a bias toward Maria's way of thinking, as we are seeing this story through her eyes, but it's not so simple as Maria is good and Michael is bad. It reminds me of Star Trek, and the Prime Directive, where they weren't allowed to interfere with developing cultures, or potentially doom them to destroy themselves by developing too soon. According to Michael, men must war and make mistakes to learn from them, while Maria only sees blood and violence and wants it to end. Both are right, but Maria is shortsighted, while Michael has a broader scope that looks beyond the current death surrounding Maria.
All in all, this was a fun book, with fun characters, and t will be interesting to see what sort of temptations come along to test Maria's will to keep her powers.