Franklin has had a ridiculous schedule these days, so while he had first dibs on Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, he passed it to me. Lucky me! Yamada-kun is a fast-paced, nice-looking, tightly-constructed supernatural comedy backed by some truly inspired voice performances, and a helpful dose of always-welcome heart.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches’ first episode interestingly has no witches in it, at least not any who identify themselves. But I didn’t miss them. Instead we have your typical unmotivated n’er-do-well Yamada Ryou who falls down some steps with perfect honor student Shiraishi Urara…and they switch bodies.
While Yamada does the obligatory pat-down of his new female body, resulting in the classic bloody nose, he also learns that Shiraishi is the unresistant victim of persistent bullying, as well as the victim of hassling by a trio of smitten geeks.
Yamada may be a delinquent, he still has a sense of honor and justice, but when he offers to help Shiraishi with her problems, she outright refuses, even coming between a punch from Yamada (in her body) which was meant to stop just short of hitting the bully, but hits Shiraishi (in Yamada’s body) instead.
The two try to return to their own bodies by falling down the stairs again—several times (don’t try this at home…or at school, kids!) to no avail—Shiraishi suggests they kiss, since they inadvertantly kissed on the first fall. Lo and behold, it works. I liked how straightforward Shiraishi was about kissing Yamada…after all, they’ve already shared each other’s bodies; and from her POV she’s essentially kissing herself. Tough-guy Yamada’s a lot more bashful.
I can’t go on in this review without first giving serious props to Osaka Ryota and Hayami Saori, who have to pull double duty and absolutely nail it. When Shiraishi is in Yamada’s body, and Yamada in Shiraishi’s, Osaka and Hayami do a superb job inhabiting the other’s unique vocal patterns.
Kudos to the animation team as well, which gives Yamada a much more serene look when Shiraishi’s in him, while Shiraishi’s facial expressions and limbs are all over the place when Yamada’s in her.
On the flip side, both the seiyus and animators also understand that two people who suddenly switched bodies still wouldn’t be able to impersonate one another that well, thus the actual person within the body shines through loud and clear, even when they’re trying to hide it.
This means anyone looking for something fishy about the couple is going to catch on pretty quickly, and that’s just what happens with StuCo VP Miyamura Toranosuke (Masuda Toshiki), who sets up a nifty trap that confirms his suspicions, getting beaten up by the geeks (a hilarious bit of classic comic turnabout) so “Shiraishi” has to defend herself, using an unmistakably Yamada roundhouse kick (Yamada also isn’t used to fighting in a skirt, hence the pantyshot).
Their secret is out, but while Miyamura has intentions, they’re more opportunistic than sinister: he wants Yamada and Shiraishi to join the dormant Supernatural Club so he can start it back up. He also wants to see how far the body-swapping-by-kiss goes, and quickly determines Yamada can swap with anyone by kissing them.
Thus the two-person body-swapping act is expanded to three, and then four when an eavesdropping classmate (Uchida Maaya) enters the club with the intention to join. I really like where this first episode went, even before we’ve even seen any titular witches. I just hope where it’s going is as good, and with a lot more seiyu star power behind it, I doesn’t seem likely to disappoint.