When I was growing up, everyone knew that boys get to be the knights and girls the princesses. But Witch Craft Works has a lot of fun turning this idea on its head.
As an anime series, Witch Craft Works is a fantasy/fairy tale story built around an inversion of gender roles. Takamiya is a normal high school boy who happens to sit next to Kagari, the most beautiful and popular girl in school—though it's not like they are friends as he has never even so much as had a conversation with her. One day Takamiya is suddenly attacked by a witch and thus discovers that Kagari is a powerful witch as well—and one whose sole mission is to protect him.
Kagari is an archetypical knight character. She is strong, silent, and completely devoted to her mission. This makes Takamiya—despite his gender—the “princess” character in the anime. He is weak, innocent, earnest—and is constantly getting kidnapped.
But their personalities are merely the start of the gender role inversion. In Witch Craft Works, Takamiya's dialogue tends to be line for line what the typical princess character would say in that same situation. On the surface it sounds like normal dialogue, but if you replace Takamiya with a stereotypical female princess in your mind when he is talking, it is always worth a bit of a chuckle with how perfectly it fits.
While a modern fantasy adventure is one half of Witch Craft Works, the other half is pure comedy. The series enjoys breaking the mold and bringing the unexpected into the fantasy setting. Of course, much of this humor comes from the inversion of the gender roles, but that's not the end-all-be-all of the humor.
Witch Craft Works loves to go over-the-top without any kind of prior warning, often to ridiculous extremes. Simply put, this anime includes a pro-wrestling match between a giant teddy bear and a giant robotic rabbit held in the middle of a city, complete with Godzilla-style damage. That should give you an idea of what you are in for.
Medusa's squad of teenage witches fills the “team rocket” role of Witch Craft Works—i.e., the job of being easily defeated with staggering regularity. They are never a real threat but rather serve as comic relief. But what makes them so fun is that they aren’t incompetent, just supremely outmatched. They are also lazy and would rather hang out in a coffee shop or go to karaoke than do anything overtly evil. And to top it off, every episode ends with their torture as they sing a happy song that will put a smile on your face all day long.
As Kagari’s powers are fire-based, there are more than a few fire effects in the series—and they look amazing. The lighting and heat effects add a rare beauty to the animation, making the fire and explosions in Witch Craft Works become some of the best-looking I have ever seen in anime.
But the fire isn’t the only visual high point, the broomstick-flying sequences are great as well. And while it’s obvious (from the complexity of the shots) that the backgrounds of these scenes are rendered CG, the art matches well and feels simply awesome with its dynamic camera movement.
Artistically, there is a lot to love in Witch Craft Works.
So often in fiction, there are two sides: the good guys and the bad guys. At first look, the world of Witch Craft Works appears to be just that—a battle between the “tower witches” who care not if their actions kill normal humans and the “workshop witches” who strive to protect and live alongside normal humans. However, the tower witches are not at all unified in their goals and thus war against each other as much as against the workshop witches.
And while you'd assume that Takamiya and Kagari are on the side of the angels, this is most certainly not true. Kagari is very much on her own side with her own goal where “good” and “evil” are not even part of the equation. As a yandere character, her only goal is to protect the one she loves at all costs—up to and including betrayal and murder.
When faced with the possibility of her mother, the head workshop witch of the town, coming to hunt down Takamiya, Kagari has no qualms about making a pact with the most powerful evil witch she can find to better protect him. If it weren't for Takamiya constantly worrying about normal people and making his wishes known, Kagari would likely do nothing except watch over him.
Early in the series, Takamiya asks why he is special—why everyone is after him. Kagari gives him a non-answer as she doesn’t seem to know the whole story herself. By the end of the series’ 12 episodes, it’s still a question we don’t really know the answer to. Oh, we know he has a great power sealed within him, but how he got the power and how the evil witches plan to take it/use it is never explained—even as we see them begin to put their plans into action.
Also, while we are given many teases, we also never discover the origin of Takamiya and Kagari’s relationship and thus don’t know why she is the way she is—i.e., what caused her to become yandere in the first place. In fact, it's not just her. We learn almost nothing about the backgrounds and motivations of the entire cast—hero and villain alike. And while mystery is an important part of any adventure, the lack of any major personal reveal to help with the development of the main characters hurts the series greatly.
In the end, Witch Craft Works is a lot of fun. It’s filled with beautiful art and quirky humor—not to mention that listening to the dialogue with the gender role inversion in mind is never not entertaining. If you like magical school stories like Harry Potter and don’t mind that very little will be explained beyond the surface layer of the plot, Witch Craft Works is very much worth a watch.
Witch Craft Works aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be watched for free with English subtitles in the US on Crunchyroll.
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