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