OP: 「divine intervention」by fhána
「多華宮君と炎の魔女」 (Takamiya-kun to Honou no Majo)
“Takamiya-kun and the Witch of Fire”
Burn the witch! Burn her! Aside from the reference to Monty Python, Witch Craft Works will indeed focus around this singular topic–witches getting burned like no tomorrow. However, aside from that piece of knowledge, we actually don’t know much about the plot at all! From what we’ve gathered, an important “princess” named Takamiya Honoka (Kobayashi Yuusuke) is being heavily contested by two factions of witches. For one of these factions–school goddess Kagari Ayaka (Seto Asami) lays claim as one of its members. As a being who is literally made of fire, it is Kagari’s job to defend Honoka from the wrath of several angry witches, such as the commander of automaton bunnies, Kuraishi Tanpopo (Izawa Shiori). Why do they want Honoka? We don’t know. What’s Ayaka’s reasons for protecting her princess? We don’t know. All we know is that Honoka is going to have a hard time in high school, with the entire school envious of him and a whole squadron of enemy witches transferring into his class. The normal stuff at a normal high school. In anime at least.
My first impressions: cautious and conflicted. As I read the introductory manga chapters, there seemed to be a lot less…lightheartedness in the air than I had imagined. Witch Craft Works came off to me as a story where there’s comedic dislike towards the main character, but nothing too personal. I suppose my expectations were wrong, because man, Honoka’s life sucks. Even without knowing his backstory, the fact that he gets beat up by crazy fans (without any comedic air) for simply interacting with Ayaka just feels terrible. Any attempts at humor this episode were often accompanied with this dark situation that Honoka is in–everyone except for one character is out to get him. If I were to compare this to the last time I remembered J.C. Staff animated a show of action plus folk tale references–such as Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi—WCW feels more like a darker adaptation, sort of how Hans Christian Andersen’s original stories are much darker than their popular Disney counterparts.
Once one switches up the expectation that Witch Craft Works is a different type of show, then things start to get interesting. Perhaps the most important dynamic to observe is Honoka’s position as the damsel in distress, with Ayaka playing the brave knight in shining armor, willing to take any sort of injury for her master. It’ll have to take a lot of catching up to develop their dynamic properly, but this reversal should prove a refreshing mix-up that holds a ton of potential. Ayaka is pretty badass in the sacrifices she’s willing to make for Honoka, while Honoka himself also is showing his concern for Ayaka through his words (though at times this can seem no different than her waves of raging obsessive fans).
Of course we can’t forget about those fight scenes either. I am thoroughly impressed with J.C. Staff’s work on mixing in CG art with traditional drawing–the heated annihilation of all of those bunnies was fun to watch and the well-executed scene of Ayaka being stabbed by numerous weapons was artistically pleasing and befitting of the tone of the drama at that point. I do appreciate how Ayaka’s opponents aren’t necessarily pushovers with one wild card–those bunnies were a pain to keep down and I expect they’ll only get stronger as the story progresses. Next episode though, they’ll sure have to explain why it was acceptable to have five dangerous opponents transfer into Ayaka and Honoka’s classroom. Don’t Ayaka’s parents manage the school anyways? Where are they in times like these?
Aside from the above, the only other thing worth mentioning are the OP and ED. The OP being sung and arranged by the great band fhána is a major plus, but the real jewel comes with the ED, which I swear–to witchcraft–may become the catchiest ED this season. Give it a listen if you have the chance.
Overall, Witch Craft Works wins points on its excellent reversal of roles, good animation of its fight scenes, and tasteful OP and EDs, but sadly loses many points from its poor introduction of character development. I’ll cross my fingers that the story progression and character development will smooth out over the course of the next two episodes–if they can get that problem fixed, Witch Craft Works is straight on course for being a show on fire. Hue.
ED: 「ウィッチ☆アクティビティ」 (Witch☆Activity) by KMM Dan, Shiori Izawa, Momo Asakura, Shiina Natsukawa, Yuuko Iida, and Natsumi Hioka