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Witch Craft Works – Review

by Anthony Sulwer

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For a show seemingly based on the subconscious mind of every fourteen-year-old boy to ever pick up a manga or watch an anime, the television adaptation of Witch Craft Works is surprisingly entertaining and executed with a sophisticated, well-practiced hand. Written and directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (Girls und Panzer, Blood-C), Witch Craft Works is (so far) a highly underrated achievement. Addictively engaging with a complex story arc, displaying some of the most astonishing animated action sequences seen in recent anime, and introducing a host of antagonists as likable and charming as the primary heroes.

Set in a Tokyo-esque, every-city of Japan, Witch Craft Works follows the odd, eccentric relationship of Takamiya Honoka and Ayaka Kagari. Takamiya – who tells us at the start of each early episode he is, “A completely ordinary high school student” – blends into the scenery while struggling with basic schoolwork and a life of going unnoticed by his peers. His existence is overshadowed by the over-the-top popularity of the school’s idol, “Princess” Ayaka Kagari. Every student follows around their Princess in the hopes of gaining a single word or acknowledgment from the best, most sought after girl in school. When the Princess throws Takamiya a few small instances of interaction, her fan club proceeds to beat him after each encounter, letting him know he is not of any kind of stature to be speaking to her.

Takamiya notices he and Kagari have most of their classes together and also work the same cleaning duty; he even questions the many coincidences of their daily life, but puts no real stock in the possible reasons. In the first episode, “Takamiya-kun and the Fire Witch,” as Takamiya is walking a bag of garbage across campus, he looks up to see an enormous chunk of the school’s roof hurtling at him. Takamiya, positive he is about to be killed, instead is saved by Ayaka Kagari. Forced to reveal her true nature, Kagari is dressed as a Workshop Witch, floating above the destruction on her broom, holding Takamiya like an infant. One of the main plots of the series is revealed here as the audience discovers the direct rivals to the Workshop Witches, the Tower Witches, have been making covert attempts on Takamiya’s life for months, and Kagari has been protecting him since he transferred to the school.

As the story progresses, we find out more about the hidden, mysterious motivations behind the Workshop Witches efforts to keep Takamiya safe. At the start of Episode Two, “Takamiya-kun and the Witches’ Agenda,” Takamiya opens the door to his first class to find Kagari torturing four Tower Witches – the KMM Gang – who recently transferred to their school. The group’s leader, Tanpopo Kuraishi, explains the Tower Witches are after Takamiya’s “white stuff.” Honoka’s reaction to this terminology is pretty much what you would expect from a young, high school boy frightened at the very thought of a girl giving him a hug, let alone after his “white stuff.”

The “white stuff” within Takamiya is actually an extremely powerful magical entity known as, “Evermillion,” or “The White Princess.” Evermillion can only be accessed if one of the seven magical seals within Takamiya is broken. This plotline culminates in Episode Five, “Takamiya-kun and the Witch of Stone Eyes and Stone Hands.” One of the best, stand-alone episodes of the season, the fifth installment brings Kagari and Takamiya up against the powerful, manipulative enemy Medusa; recently escaped from her prison.

The relationship between Takamiya and Kagari can – at times – be dry and a bit clichéd. Luckily, their antics are offset by the wide array of antagonists who make the backdrop of Witch Craft Works feel like the exploits of an old Benny Hill episode. Misunderstandings, overcrowded mealtimes, and cramped living arrangements make for awkward and, often, hilarious scenes to add a dose of comic relief when needed.

The balance between the absurd, fantastic world the show is based in, and a sprawling story with unexpected turns is makes Witch Craft Works succeed on a level where several other shows have failed. In not trying to be any one kind of show, or fit into any specific genre, Witch Craft Works instead focuses on clean, stylized, sensational animation with epic fight sequences to keep a viewer enthralled. The addition of well-timed jokes and occasional silliness compliments the sometimes over serious conjecture of the main character.

The criticisms of the show all revolve around the inability of Takamiya to realize his own worth and overcome the irrational fear he has of being in Kagari’s presence. While this attitude is understandable during their first few encounters, it becomes something of a laborious, forced contrivance, which grates on the nerves by the twelfth and final episode of the season. After several harrowing adventures in which Takamiya and Kagari fight, learn, lose, and laugh together, the idea of Takamiya unable to accept how much Kagari cares for him becomes flat-out frustrating.

This one small flaw can be easily forgiven when the first twelve episodes are looked at as a culmination of so many other wonderful aspects. Oddball interactions, a plethora of enigmatic, fascinating secondary characters, and a superb, twisting, unpredictable story arc, Witch Craft Works is an unexpected surprise for anyone looking to be pleasantly entertained.

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Author: Anthony Sulwer

A freelance writer living in Denver, Colorado, Anthony fell in love with anime while working part time jobs at video stores in the 90s. Nights off were spent watching Akira, Ninja Scroll, Fist of the North Star, and anything else to appear in the small "Specialty" section of the large chain stores.

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