「魔女見習いイレイナ」 (Majo minarai ireina)
“Eleina: The Apprentice Witch”

Premise

Eleina’s mother would read her the stories of Nike, a travelling witch. Though I have to say that her mother’s jagged chin really bothered me. She should be careful, those could probably induce accidental harm. But I digress. Consequently, Eleina has always yearned to grow up and become a magnificent witch who can travel around and see the world for her own eyes. One timeskip later, and we discover that she’s passed every exam with flying colours – qualifying as the youngest witch academy graduate in history.

But to become a fully fledged witch, she will need to become apprenticed to a proper witch – a proposition that every witch she asks turns down for unknown reasons. Presumably that they envy or fear her status as a prodigy. However, her parents talk about a mysterious witch from foreign lands who has moved into a nearby grove, known as the ‘Stardust Witch’. Eleina seeks her out and expecting to be turned down once again, becomes surprised when the Stardust Witch decides to take her as an apprentice. But things are not as they seem…

Initial Impressions

Halfway through, I must say that my impressions were really positive. I felt extremely indignant at how the Stardust Witch treated Eleina like a slave. Even more so once she randomly challenges Eleina to a spectacularly animated duel – which consisted of mocking Eleina’s capabilities as she ruthlessly beat her into the mud using magic. When Eleina broke down into heavy sobs, who could blame her?

The flow of the narrative was really smooth, because I could follow through and empathise with Eleina at every turn of her emotions – extremely keen to finally graduate and become one step closer to her dream, despair as no one would take her as an apprentice, elation when she finally finds a mentor in the Stardust Witch, only for it to become disappointment when she doesn’t teach Eleina magic and treats her like a slave, and unimaginable anguish when she was harshly beaten up out of nowhere with all her suffering seemingly being for naught. I was going to be really angry if we didn’t receive a decent explanation – because poor Eleina didn’t deserve this treatment!

Fortunately, the series really turned the situation it on its head by revealing Eleina’s parents had actually arranged for this entire ordeal. They believed their daughter had developed problems from never experiencing failure, and sought to expose her to such feelings soon rather than later. So they requested the Stardust Witch to break their daughter’s spirit before properly taking her on as an apprentice. While their method seems unorthodox and exceedingly cruel, their intentions weren’t malicious and the end result turned out to be positive. It becomes an extremely valuable learning experience, teaching Eleina she isn’t special but also that she doesn’t have to bottle up everything – humility and an emotional coping mechanism she can carry for the rest of her life.

After successfully taken on the teachings of the Stardust Witch, to the point where she could defeat her mentor in a duel, Eleina is finally recognised as a fully fledged witch – finally setting off on her journey. Her character progression was well constructed and undeniable. Despite being a mere viewer with no personal relation to this fictitious construct, I could feel the emotional connections of pride and joy at seeing this girl overcome her first failure and become a better person for it.

Concluding Thoughts

So far so good. I think my only complaint would be the mother’s jagged chin and the animation studio’s tendency to overanimate certain details to the point where it looked unnatural – an example of when less would have been more. Some of the in-between frames were exceedingly wonky. Though based on experience, these types of issues are almost never resolved until the Blu-ray rolls out, so I’m not optimistic that they will sort this out in due course. That aside, the premise of a young witch travelling the world visiting different countries and civilizations certainly reminds me of Kino’s Journey or Mushishi – timeless classics in the pantheon of anime’s hall of fame. As we can see, it’s a tried and tested formula that yielded some of the best in terms of what anime has offered. Now, I don’t want to raise my expectations unreasonably high – though I believe the subconscious comparisons will be inevitable. That said, I’ve really enjoyed what we’ve seen from the first episode and have relatively high hopes going forwards that even if Majo no Tabitabi doesn’t reach those heights, it can rise above the majority of anime series to provide a unique and wonderful experience all the same.

13 Comments

    1. I was also thinking that Elaina’s mother might be Nike. It could be an alternative explanation as to why the other witches avoided her, and why a distinguished witch like Fran would acquiesce to the parents request.

  1. That was indeed an important lesson. Everyone, no matter how smart or capable, has a limit. If you just rely on that that that limit will hit you like a brick wall and you won’t know how to get around it because you have zero experience with training/studying/&c.

    Or to put it another way: “Seen freedom and become captive of your desire; practice discipline and discover your liberty”.

    1. Those are words that hit the nail on the head better than I did. I definitely think that this was a less on in humility AND limitations. The expression escaped me so thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  2. A witch associated with butterflies… I could swear I already know someone like that

    Joking aside, when I saw Majo no Tabitabi‘s teaser trailer, the first thing that caught my attention was the visuals. Goddamn, I was immediately wowed by the vibrant colors, lighting and background details. Something about the combination of the three–and how they’re done so well–basically gives life and warmth to Majo no Tabitabi‘s world. And I’m glad to say this episode delivered on that front, from the details of Elaina’s home, to the city streets where she tries to find a witch that can take her in as an apprentice, to the lush forest where Elaina decides to train with the somewhat eccentric Fran, to Fran’s magic tree-house, and even the food! (*Proceeds to have clothes blown off to shreds* And f**k yes, that was a Food Wars reference.) Hope the next episodes keep up a similar level of quality (or better), though a small corner of my mind also hopes that the animators and background artists don’t overstretch themselves.

    The flow of the narrative was really smooth, because I could follow through and empathise with Eleina at every turn of her emotions – extremely keen to finally graduate and become one step closer to her dream, despair as no one would take her as an apprentice, elation when she finally finds a mentor in the Stardust Witch, only for it to become disappointment when she doesn’t teach Eleina magic and treats her like a slave, and unimaginable anguish when she was harshly beaten up out of nowhere with all her suffering seemingly being for naught. I was going to be really angry if we didn’t receive a decent explanation – because poor Eleina didn’t deserve this treatment!

    Sometimes, it’s the unanswered “Whys” that distract me from fully enjoying a story. (Case in point: “Why is KanoKari‘s Mami such a manipulative b***h?”) And it’s the unanswered (or even half-a**ed answered) “Whys” that often turn into plot holes, or worse, wasted plots that would have been perfectly good. So yeah, I’m glad that an explanation was given as to why Fran treated Elaina that way (also counts as a secret test of character from a trickster mentor, I suppose), and active viewers can also hypothesize/wild mass guess new theories with the information given. Building on the “Nikeh = Elaina’s mom” theory, my guess is that Fran also mentored Nikeh.

    Dark Souls III players might’ve gotten a chuckle out of Elaina’s nickname: Ashen Witch. Or had flashbacks of the Crystal Sage boss fight thanks to Fran’s resemblance to the former and how she spams those energy bolts.

    Well, what else is there to say? Kadokawa certainly pulled out all the stops to get the most appropriate seiyuu (Kaede Hondo, Kana Hanazawa[!], Yoko Hikasa[!]) for this show. Story-wise, I would definitely love to see how Elaina touches other people’s lives and vice-versa, as well as see the wider world beyond Robetta (Elaina’s homeland). Also, I’ve read hints that this could be a multi-generational story, but I’ll hold off on that speculation for now.

    Incognito
    1. Mami’s a psychopath. Just that Rental Kanojo doesn’t have a narrator like the one in East of Eden to really lay into the details of that psychopathy.

      I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Dark Souls boss was an inspiration. The game was inspired by Berserk, made by FromSoft and it’s practically a cultural phenomenon in Japan.

      And I would love to see a multi-generational story. From seeing 7 generations of Joestars to 7 generations of the Buendia family, they make for some of the most fascinating fictional pieces due to the depth and intrigue that can be woven across these generations. And how seemingly trivial decisions further up can have cascading ramifications upon later generations.

      Still not sold on the visuals. The Elaina/Fran fight was a light show eye candy. But I’m bothered by the over-animated excerpts and the jagged chin that Elaina’s mother had…

  3. Butterflies being associated with witches is a really old trope…
    Umineko no naku koro ni had one.
    Zetsuen no Tempest had one.
    The butterfly being symbol of chaos (butterfly effect) is probably ur-trope?

    ewok40k
  4. I got something a little bit different out of her experience:

    training her to empathize.

    It’s the most difficult thing to teach a child / person, and this is
    always done in some way in any good apprenticeship program.

    There’s a real reason why “spare the rod and spoil the child”
    is a real thing and social problem because without it, we
    witness adults without empathy (and there are many modern
    day real-life examples of such people, especially in positions
    of authority and power).

    I though the opening episode did a good job of portraying
    that so I’m interested to see if it’ll come up in this SoL’s
    future episodes…

    mac65
  5. I watched all 3 eps of this series in one go. Have to say my expectations were really high after the first ep. It carried through ep2 but come ep3 boy it was a huge debate conscious wise.

    Very interesting to see more of her travels and what sort of decisions she would make. I know I would have done something differently if I was Elaine in ep3 for sure but that’s up for debate.

    seancorr

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