What’s it about? Ever since she was young, Elaina has dreamed of being a travelling witch, just like her idol Nike in her favorite storybook. However, the path to witchdom isn’t easy. After becoming the youngest apprentice witch in Robetta’s history, she’s shunned by all for the witches in town, save for one: Miss Fran, a woman known as the Stardust Witch. Under Miss Fran tutelage, Elaina hopes to blossom and learn enough magic to be recognized as a full-fledged witch. But the flighty Stardust Witch seems to be doing everything but teaching Elaina what she needs. Will Elaina ever reach her goal, or forever be an apprentice?
Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina (hereafter Wandering Witch) is a C2C production. Anime fans might recognize C2C as the studio behind a lot of notable series, including Harukana Receive, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, and WorldEnd.
Staff for the series includes Toshiyuki Kobooka (Beserk: The Golden Age Arc I-III) as Director and Storyboarding, with Fudeyasu Kazayuki (Bleach, How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord) handling both the Series Composition and Script. Additionally, Gouroku Hiroshi (Den-noh Coil) is serving as the Art Director, with character design handled by Oda Takeshi (Harukana Receive). Music will be handled by AstroNoteS, a creator with few animation credits, but dynamic sound.
All of these elements –plus the efforts of numerous unnamed staff members and workers– make for a seriously beautiful start to a series that feels as cozy as a cup of tea.
But why is Wandering Witch so darn good? Well, let me answer that!
Wandering Witch begins with Elaina in her childhood, eagerly clutching her favorite book: The Adventures of Nike. Nike, in her world, was a famous traveling witch who recorded her stories in a journal. Elaina truly admires and looks up to Nike, and desires nothing more than to be just like her. Yet the road to being a full-fledged witch isn’t without its trials and tribulations.
Flash forward to years later: now fourteen, Elaina has made her mark on the country of Robetta as the youngest apprentice witch in their history. Yet not everyone’s happy: the witches of her country aren’t pleased by her accomplishment at all. Instead of taking her in as an apprentice, they shun her, leaving Elaina bereft…until she comes across one final witch who might take her on.
At first sight, Fran the Stardust Witch seems quite flighty: she’s not the mentor Elaina envisioned having. However, she’s Elaina’s last hope, and with a sigh as deep as the sea, Elaina approaches her, and finally gets accepted as an apprentice.
Elaina is eager to dive into learning new magic and gaining proficiency as a witch-in-training. Yet Fran seems almost opposed to teaching her: rather than showing her how to be a witch, Fran uses Elaina as an errand girl. For their first month together, Elaina bites her tongue and does as told: mixes potions, makes meals, prepares the bath, and even catches lizards. It’s a far cry from magic, but hey: Miss Fran–as Elaina always calls her–is the teacher, and Elaina is willing to be patient.
Then one day, Miss Fran asks one more task of her: make a meal other than the stew Elaina’s already prepared. Elaina, once more, bites her tongue and agrees to make a brand new meal. Fran notices, pauses, and without hesitation, makes a declaration: she’s going to test Elaina’s progress with a magic duel.
The scene cuts to Miss Fran and Elaina standing in a field, wands at the ready. Without hesitation, Fran launches a volley of magical attacks, instantly forcing Elaina to defend. She doesn’t let up either: Fran calls down lightning, shatters the earth and sends rocks flying, and launches powerful magic bolts at her apprentice.Thankfully, Elaina is able to hold on: she launches a shield and weather each attack, all the while trying to inch closer o Fran for at least one chance at a counterattack.
Despite Elaina’s enthusiasm and determination to send Fran flying, she’s unable to push her mentor back, and is quickly overwhelmed by a series of elemental attacks that separate her from her wand. Unable to continue fighting, Elaina is faced with utter defeat at the hands of her mentor who, thus far, has seemed to be quite uncaring and rather brutal.
It’s a no-hold beat down that hurts for both the viewer and Elaina. However, it’s not without purpose.
As her last attack, Fran claims that Elaina doesn’t really match up to her “star pupil” status. It’s insulting, and worse: deeply hurtful to Elaina, a girl who’s lived in the shadow of her success. And that’s it: Elaina’s done. She falls to her knees and breaks down, sobbing and bereft.
One trait the viewers will notice instantly is Elaina’s difficulty with saying “no”. She’ll do anything and everything–even grudgingly–without considering her own endurance and her own thoughts and feelings. Fran even goes so far to call Elaina out on this, noting that it’s her greatest weakness as a witch: she’ll go to the ends of the earth and push her limits, which is dangerous when it comes to magic.
What follows is a deeply touching scene in which Fran apologizes for her method and for not being serious with Elaina. Further, she recognizes her mistakes and comforts Elaina with a hug that the viewer can feel through the screen.
It’s the exact kind of apology you like to see: Fran acknowledges, wholly, her role in hurting Elaina and promises to never do that again, even if her parents meddle and try to teach her a lesson about personal limits. Elaina accepts the apology and, with a hug and a promise, their true apprenticeship begins.
The foundation for Wandering Witch is good on its own: the story is engaging, the magic mystical and interesting, and the characters completely likable. However, the animation for this series is downright beautiful and took my breath away.
Beautiful art can come in a lot of forms, and much like video games, good art doesn’t equal a good story, and vice versa. Thankfully, Wandering Witch’s story matches the animation style beat for beat, providing a gorgeous canvas to tell this really earnest story on. Words really can’t express how lovely Wandering Witch is to just simply look at. Everything feels like it should be in a nice artbook collection.
Whether Elaina’s just in the city or at Fran’s treehouse home, the art is always on point. During action sequences –or even when Elaina takes off on her broom– the animation gets sharp, blending the base art style with slick magic effects that have genuine impact.
However, Elaina’s animation isn’t the only beautiful thing in the series: the music is just as lovely, with cues handled expertly, especially in highly emotional scenes. As stated before, music is handled by AstroNoteS, who’s previous anime-related credits include High School DxD Hero’s theme song “Switch.” AstroNoteS shines here with lilting music choices that immerse the viewers in a fantastical world. I hope that’s a name we’ll see more of in the near future.
However, I feel a good deal of credit should also go to Sound Director Fujita Akiko (Kakegurui, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt) who blends zingy, satisfying magic sounds into Fran and Elaina’s duel. Everything fits the world quite well: even small, simple sounds tucked into the background flavor the world and really make Wandering Witch a sonically delightful watch.
What more can be said about such a powerful premier? Every element of Wandering Witch is enjoyable, from the stunning animation to the beautiful music and the genuinely likable characters. With a strong premier that definitely promises a powerful series, Wandering Witch is the easiest recommendation ever.
Fans of Kino’s Journey –both the original series and the recent new animation- will find that same coziness as Elaina takes to the skies and catalogues her travels as the Ashen Witch. Additionally, light novel readers will be happy to find that the world has –thus far– translated quite well, and feels just as lush as it can in the books.
Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina is already a strong contender for Show of the Season. Safe to say I’ll be induldging in Elaina’s magical world every single week: I can barely wait for episode 2 to drop!