Witch Craft Works – 12 (Fin)

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Witch Craft Works follows Noragami with a similarly tepid ending; wrapping up the Weekend arc with a load of miscellaneous magical mumbo-jumbo, while frantically jumping from one place to another tying up loose ends. We got way more tell and not enough show, but in the end, the show had kinda backed itself into a corner where technicalities had to be employed to explain why both Honoka and Kagari survive and save the day.

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We will say we liked the effect of the city and its people being restored all in one fell swoop after Honoka agrees to sacrifice his life in exchange for Evermillion’s power. Turns out she merely transferred the power Ayaka had been using back to Honoka by annulling their contract. But it’s hastily restored and Ayaka is revived. It’s a reiteration of a problem this show had for its entire run: a lack of palpable danger and risk.

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Meanwhile, Weekend is out of mana and defeated, and gets captured by Chronoire on her way out. Then Chronoire and Kazane (who healed up much faster than Weekend predicted) fight it out, because they have a past, or something, and everything returns to normal, including Tanpopo’s gang challenging Ayaka to fights that they then lose badly. Presumably it also means more of Kasumi fighting Ayaka for bro-time.

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This was a case where the buildup of the last couple weeks was better than the payoff, but we were kinda expecting that, so we don’t feel particularly ripped off. The lush, whimsical visual style and guy-as-the-damsel dynamic sustained us till the end, but Witch Craft Works never really got better than its first couple episodes, due to ultimately lame villains and way too many extraneous side characters.

Rating: 6 (Good)
Average Rating: 7.167
MyAnimeList Score: 7.43

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Witch Craft Works – 11

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Ah, the Penultimate Final Battle Buildup Episode…we know them well. If there’s still a fair amount of information to convey to the audience, a PFBBE is the time to do it, so that there’s time for both the resolution of said final battle and a proper cool-down period that checks in on everyone one last time. Cram too much into the end, and the end can feel rushed and unsatisfying. We still consider the second episode to be the best of this series, and we’ve been legging it out in hope of a strong ending.

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After this week, we’d have to say there’s still a good chance of WCW pulling it off, since this PFBBE packs a lot of setup and exposition, identifying the final threat—Weekend will blow up all the people in the city if she doesn’t get Honoka—and fielding the force that aims to thwart her: Ayaka, drawing from Honoka’s power. Honoka’s little dreamworld excursion is suitably trippy, and Mikage-sensei provides enough info for us to get the jist.

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While there’s a lot of talking, there’s also a lot of fighting, first between Kasumi and one of Weekend’s underlings in another giant teddy battle, and we will state for the record we have officially seen enough giant teddy-fighting. We’re also a bit astounded at how ineffective Tanpopo’s crew is this week; they literally just stand around. Fortunately for them their master Medusa managed to escape from her captors and takes the enemy out with some badass petrification.

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As Honoka convalesces, Ayaka leaves him in Atori’s care (she talks through a puppet…HOW KOOKY.) and tries to take her “prey” Weekend on alone, but Weekend has been planning this op for more than a year, and has more than enough magic stowed away to repel her. It takes a feverish Honoka voluntarily going to Ayaka’s side (showing he’s been practicing his broomflying) to charge her back up. So the stage is set for the final battle. We wonder if the powerful Chronoire and/or Kazane will have anything to contribute to it, or if it’ll be strictly an Ayaka/Honoka-vs.-Weekend affair.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Witch Craft Works – 10

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We asked last week if Weekend could keep the good guys on their toes for more than an episode, something no other villain in the show has been able to do as of yet. After the events of this week, the answer seems to be yes. This is an episode bustling with activity in which pretty much everyone is out of their comfort zone and has to improvise in the midst of all the chaos Weekend has caused.

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You have Rinon and the workshop witches trying to pick up the pieces and negotiate with Weekend, who has wrecked the city, injured several witches, and strapped bombs to others that will go off in a half-hour if they don’t bring Honoka to her. Kasumi has enlisted the aid of the Tower witches living in her house (who can still use magic, since they’re not Workshop), while Chronoire is pissed that her house is wrecked but intrigued by Weekend’s power and gets ready to face her.

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Meanwhile, after witnessing Weekends handiwork (for which Honoka briefly freaks out but then composes himself) Ayaka leads Honoka further below the city to its very core, which kinda resembles the Forest of the Deer God. In order to restore the good guys’ ability to use magic, Honoka himself must form a new contract with the city. On the way to the core (a pretty epic journey in its own right), they meet the stone golem witch Gibraltar, but Ayaka deals with her, not with magic, but with muscle, showing her mother taught her well.

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Honoka gets the magic flowing again just in time for Rinon & Co. to save the hostages, punch Weekend in the face, and capture her, and it looks like another bad guy has been foiled. But then Weekend reveals that, like Ayaka, she doesn’t rely on magic alone, using conventional grenades to blast her way out of her cell. She lost this week’s battle, but the war is still on, with both Kazane and Chronoire likely to enter the fray in the near future. This show’s in good shape to have a strong finish.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Witch Craft Works – 09

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Ayaka finally heeds Honoka’s insistence she teach him how to fight properly, unsealed seals or no. She throws him into a regime of unsuccessfully taming fire demons and being dropped off of skyscrapers, certainly run-before-he-can-walk situations. For his part, Honoka does conjure a gigantic translucent Ayaka in a nurse-miniskirt to catch him before he falls to his death. Doing so saps all of his magic, and he passes out; something we’ll call “amagica” (rather than anemia).

We also get a strange and very beautiful dream Ayaka used to have when she was younger, in which Honoka tells her they’ll be together, providing further evidence they were destined to be together, even though Honoka never saw it coming. Most gratifying about this episode, though, is that it finally ends without an enemy being easily defeated or becoming another mouth to feed in the Takamiya household. That’s right: the real leader of the Tower witches, “Weekend” (Hirano Aya) finally reveals herself and executes the scheme she’d been carefully preparing.

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She does so by rather cleverly neutralizing the town’s most powerful Workshop witch—Kazane, whose status as a Crafting/Workshop Witch means she’ll always put the protection of the townspeople ahead of all other considerations. When Weekend sets off massive explosions all over town, Kazane’s magic is drained saving the innocent from harm. By the time she’s all recharged, Weekend plans to be very far away with Honoka, the vessel for the Princess whose power she seeks. In crisis mode, the other Crafting Witches (including Rinon, interestingly) meet with Ayaka and Honoka in a lavish secret bunker

Here, the couple is promptly taken captive and thrown in a dungeon, ostensibly to keep them out of Weekend’s clutches until Kazane can recover. Weekend still finds them, but Ayaka uses her message plushie to blow a hole in the wall, and off they go. But as we said, Weekend isn’t simply brushed aside like previous threats. The battle to protect Honoka is far from over, and Ayaka remarks it will have to be fought without magic, at least for a time; an enticing prospect. Weekend may so far be your typical smug, aloof villain, but at least she’s got the good guys’ backs against the wall. We’ll see how long she can keep them there.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

 

 

 

Witch Craft Works – 08

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Witch Craft Works pulls gracefully out of its nosedive with a solid episode in which we learn about Ayaka’s history and Honoka gets to stand on his own two feet, however briefly. The first part introduced Ayaka’s two middle school handlers, Hoodzuki Kanae (Taichi You) and Hio Touko (Asumi Kana) two decent sorts who, as Honoka will later, are persecuted for their closeness to the Princess. The present Ayaka may be an incredibly stoic individual, but she’s made a lot of progress since middle school, when she wouldn’t react to anyone or anything.

Kanae and Touko do what they can socialize her, and when the delinquents gang up on them, Ayaka raises their body temperatures, neutralizing the threat. We also enjoyed witnessing the genesis of her obsession with Honoka, staking out every middle school in the prefecture until she found him. The entire flashback is played off as Honoka’s dream as Ayaka lies in bed beside him; we return to a Takamiya residence in which Tanpopo and her four fellow Tower Witches are embraced as family. Considering how ineffectual they were at fighting Ayaka, it makes sense to go over to their side, though if they do end up stabbing her in the back, she’ll look as silly as she did standing like a statue on a tennis court as balls whizzed by.

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The present day situation, in which Honoka is student council president, deteriorates rapidly as n’er-do-well Otometachibana Rinon—a handful in name and in person—stages a revolution. Within minutes the school becomes a graffito-strewn den of chaos. But Honoka answers the challenge and faces Rinon one-on-one, successfully dodging her punch precisely when Ayaka tells him. Ayaka, hidden from the assembled students’ view by her cape, mops up. Student support for Honoka skyrockets after his “defeat” of Rinon. Rinon turns out to have been a mere pawn of the former president, who fed her lies to her about being assaulted and tossed aside by Honoka.

It was a plan she actually went over with Ayaka—whom she still adores—beforehand, in another flashback. The non-linear progression of the story, as well as the scale of chaos that went down and was just as quickly snuffed out, all contributed to what was a pleasantly rambunctious offbeat outing. More importantly, it successfully legitimized the notion that Honoka isn’t a useless wuss. After all, it takes strength to accept one’s weakness and dependence on stronger parties, while resisting the urge to wish for more power, which is readily available but will lead to the breaking of more seals.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Witch Craft Works – 07

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The elephant (or rather various assorted circus animals) in the room—Ayaka’s harboring of Medusa and her underlings—is dealt with this week…sort of. Because the six fugitives have knowledge about Honoka’s seals being broken, and her mother’s unhealthy passion for vigorous interrogations, Ayaka is certain moms’ll find out if she gets ahold of them, and so does everything in her power to stop that from happening.

To that end, she merges with Medusa through the sharing of an “Apple of Ignorance”, resulting in perhaps Ayaka’s coolest-looking battle mode getup yet (seriously, girl’s got more dresspheres than Yuna). But it doesn’t do any good, as Kazane breaks easily out of her petrification. Honoka draws upon his powers, but only succeeds in him and Ayaka switching bodies (and clothes, the full effect of which we don’t see). They’re both locked in a dungeon deep beneath the school, but soon escape when Ayaka does something intimate with Honoka again—specificially, clean out his ears with a Q-tip.

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While it’s nice to see the bond between the two so close, and we salute Honoka continuing to try to do what little part he can in protecting Ayaka as she protects him, this episode still had a couple problems. First of all, if Ayaka really didn’t want Medusa & Co. to be found, why the heck did she keep them in an unlocked room in Honoka’s house? When they got bored, they predictably broke out and got discovered by Kazane, who kept coming over (but brownie points for Mei and Kotetsu’s refreshing lack of modesty throughout the confrontation). Another problem: Kazane apparently releases Tanpopo and the others before interrogating Medusa, then has her snatched away by other witches.

So in the end, while she was in a perfect position to learn about Honoka’s secret (which Ayaka warned would mean the end of their normal high school life), but came up totally empty, which is kind of silly considering what a powerful badass she is (though apparently not enough of one to wrench the truth out of Chronoire. Then the episode started building up to this big epic duel between Ayaka and Kazane, only to fizzle out when Kazane refused to fight and sent her daughter home. That was kind of funny and unexpected, but in the end it was an annoyingly inconsequential episode in which no one looked particularly competent.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Witch Craft Works – 06

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To a casual observer it may appear that Honoka is indeed a burden to Ayaka, both as a result of the power sealed (and now unsealing) within him, and in the growing school unrest with his constant proximity to her. But neither he nor the student body get to decide who’s a burden to Ayaka or not; only Ayaka can—and we know she’s never going to do that. As far as she’s concerned, she exists to protect him, and derives quite a bit of pleasure in doing so.

When the student council’s factulty advisor, Mikage, uses magic to trap Honoka in a fantasy world at the president’s behest, after swiftly defeating him Ayaka realizes they need to try to make Honoka more palatable to the students. Her hastily-prepared plan involves flexing the authority given her by her title as school idol or “Princess”: she sacks the existing president and installs Honoka, then bribes the Vice President into giving up her job. While the coup doesn’t endear Honoka with his fellow classmates, he forgoes Ayaka’s threatening cue cards and simply asks them to bear with the situation and withhold judgement until they’ve given him a chance.

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Their new titles will make them provisionally acceptable to the school, but Kasumi is tired of Ayaka edging in on her precious brother time. This week she does a fair impression of a Tower Witch, acting with only her own interests at heart, with the guise of protecting Honoka. She pulls no punches taking Ayaka down with a burning car and tranq darts, but she doesn’t get far on her magical plane when a powered-up, pissed-off Ayaka appears to exact punishment in a fairly thrilling aerial battle.

With Medusa and her crew holed up in Honoka’s house, and no signs of Chronoire after Kazane captured her, the major threat facing Honoka isn’t external, but internal: the white princess gaining power within him. Honoka hasn’t told Ayaka about it, but it’s only a matter of time, and it’s likely Kazane already knows, as she’s coming to his house to talk to his mom/would-be wife. The time may come when Honoka looks with fondness upon such comparatively trivial matters like fostering amity at school or being kidnapped by Kasumi. We hope it happens soon, as we’re growing weary of the general lack of peril.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Witch Craft Works – 05

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Honoka decides to move to Ayaka’s house, and after meeting with his family (and his cliched “Loopy Mom”), they arrive at her manor, which is 41 stories tall and rivals the Unyuu residence in extravagance (though isn’t nearly as big or absurd). Just when we thought we’d be in store for more rom-com hijinx as he enters her room for the first time, the show throws something totally different at us: the escaped Medusa is in there waiting for them.

It’s a welcome surprise, and Medusa initially packs quite a whollop, requiring Ayaka to transform into a semi-beast-like state, a la Howl. She insists that Honoka flee while she fights her off, but Honoka, knowing his proximity will give her invincibility, stays right where he is. Then Ayaka gets petrified—which tends to happen when you’re up against Medusa—but Honoka stays by her side, his mind racing at what he can do, until he remembers that pill Chronoire gave him.

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He knows it’s probably not a good idea to take this forbidden fruit; he knows it’s most likely a trap; he knows there will be consequences down the road, and most importantly, he knows Ayaka doesn’t want him to take it. But with Ayaka a statue and Medusa staring him down, his options are limited, so he downs the pill. Doing so summons the demon White Princess Evermilion—perhaps the reason Ayaka calls him “Princess”?—who’s a bit of a character.

We like how Evermillion isn’t there to do all the work for Honoka, but rather to tell him where he screwed up (failing to believe in Ayaka’s strength actually diminishes her strength) and how to revive Ayaka (by kissing her like Sleeping Beauty.) She’s polite enough but sounds put out, warning Honoka not to summon her too often, perhaps for his own good. So while Medusa wasn’t the mortal threat we were expecting-yet, at least-her arrival required Honoka to take one more step closer to the deep end of the witches’ pool.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Honoka’s mom is a bit loopy, but she righteously calls her daughter out on her brother complex.
  • She also reveals she used to be Ayaka’s mom’s girlfriend. Because they couldn’t marry, they promised each other that their kids would instead.
  • Being from a family of means, Ayaka was able to have custom Honoka stress dolls made, which she hides too late for Honoka not to notice.
  • Ayaka’s kiss in the nurses office was pretty sweet, and there was a lovely surrealism to her pulling back the curtain to reveal Medusa and her five henchwomen just chillin’.
  • Another example this show has trouble fielding capable villains: Chronoire brainwashes all of the tower witches in town, only to be apprehended and imprisoned instantly by Ayaka’s mom. Where’s the challenge?

Witch Craft Works – 04

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Takamiya Honoka’s innate magical power is so great that when he’s in Kagari’s proximity, she’s virtually invincible. This begs the question: why hadn’t Honoka ever been attacked while Kagari wasn’t around? They’re close, but they’re hardly inseparable. This episode answers that question, both for us and the Tanpopo-led Tower Witches who make another ill-fated attempt to attack Honoka: someone else is protecting him. Namely, his little sister Kasumi (a very sharp, indignant performance by Kayano Ai).

In hindsight, we should’ve known Kasumi would step out of the shadows and margins of the frame and have a bigger presence, but we didn’t think it would be this fast or this big. Frankly, we liked the idea of keeping her in stealth-stalker mode for a few more episodes, but the whole reason she was doing that turns out to be because Kagari was stepping on her toes by hanging out with Honoka on a weekend. Kasumi is a jealous, possessive imouto who is resolved to protect her brother, who while slightly taller is far weaker in the magical tactics department.

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Faced with the intolerable prospect of more of her precious time with her beloved brother being sapped away by the Princess, Kasumi takes action, subjecting Honoka to a tense bathroom interrogation, then (successfully) guilt-tripping him by mentioning she’s being picked on by the masses at school upset with his closeness to said Princess. But when Tanpopo’s crew distract Kagari, it’s up to Kasumi to save Honoka, arriving atop a gargantuan stuffed bear. Tanpopo counters with a giant rabbit, and a huge, silly fight ensues, resulting in much destruction of property, but ultimately not as fun as last week’s broom ride.

Yet again, the baddies look like hapless fools, with two exceptions: Chronoire, low on mana after her first encounter with the “King and Queen”, smartly uses Tanpopo’s crew as pawns to keep the pressure on, and later collects all 30-odd Tower witches in town for a powwow. All the while, Tanpopo’s crew’s boss, Medusa, has escaped from SuperMax confinement, meaning we could soon see an “if you want something done right, do it yourself” scenario. Still, after their impressive displays of power and collective devotion to Honoka, we don’t expect Kagari or Kasumi to shrink in the face of whatever evil threats are converging.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Witch Craft Works – 03

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About those “larger and more organized attacks” we talked about? They don’t quite arrive this week, as an early-morning strike by Tanpopo and her girls is twarted in the blink of an eye by Kagari; almost too easily. But the focus here is the start of Takamiya’s magic training, and here the episode excels at evoking the awe and wonder inherent in such an exercise. While short-statured and not immensely strong, while wearing the magical garb Kagari personally selected for him, he can leap tremendous heights and even carry her with ease.

But we knew Chronoire Schwarz VI was planning to attack, and this week she finally does, luring Kagari and Takamiya onto a magic bus and quickly paralyzing Kagari. She then puts Takamiya in his first real spot, telling him to swallow something that will extract his mana, or watch his beautiful knight bleed out. But ends up not having to do much, as Kagari is able to overcome her paralysis and destroy Chronoire’s avatar (it’s assumed the body we see isn’t her only one). But he still has the mana-extracting candy, a symbol of the insidious threat Chronoire still poses.

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The threat of enemy witches aside, Takamiya is also finding himself particularly hated by everyone in his school, and we mean everyone. There hasn’t been so much as a bawdy male classmate to put Takamiya in a half-nelson for no reason; he’s literally friendless, except for Kagari, which is kind of sad. In this regard, the remainder of the student body is really just one uninteresting character that worships Kagari and curses the one she favors. Though it isn’t as if Takamiya was Mr. Popular before Kagari started doting on him.

The piece-de-resistance this week was the broom-flying lesson, a very majestically-presented scene that surely dulled the effect of the peer-hate for Takamiya. It’s also an opportunity for him to show initiative independent of Kagari, when he summons his own broom to save one of those peers from delinquents—despite not knowing how to fly yet. It proves to be another Tower witch trap that Kagari must swoop in and handle, but we like how Takamiya isn’t going to allow Kagari’s fear of him getting hurt stop him from doing what he feels is the right thing.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Witch Craft Works – 02

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It’s only been two weeks, but we have a good feeling about Witch Craft Works if it keeps up this level of quality. This was a complete episode: we got lots of tasty plot, colorful characters, explosive action, and even a little romance, as Kagari and Takamiya end up on what amounts to be a first date. We’re also consistently impressed with how funny this show is; since he’s “normal” like us, and a newcomer to the magical world, he can comment objectively on all the weird witchy stuff going on around him, with comical results.

And a lot goes on around him: turns out Takamiya isn’t as “normal” as he always thought: he’s a very “popular” young lad, and in the wrong hands he could start a war; a magical nuke, if you will. We see many of those wrong hands, the Witches of the Tower, as they descend upon Takamiya with talons spread. They’re vain, greedy, selfish, cool-looking witches who thirst for power, unlike Kagari, who’s a member of the Crafting (or Workshop) Witches, who build cities and maintain the natural balance and peace. It’s a neat little (actually, huge) conflict going on right under noses of the muggle multitudes, of whom Takamiya knows he’s no longer a member.

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Takamiya, meanwhile, continues to not be threatened by Kagari’s power, or opposed to being protected out of misplaced masculine pride. At the same time, he doesn’t want her to keep getting unnecessarily hurt for his sake (he quickly realizes her sudden scarf was hiding a wound). He wants to help her, and so asks to be her apprentice. Maybe once he learns a little magic, the Tower witches may think twice about spur-the-moment attacks, like the one Ai attempted at the mall. What’s great is that all of the Tower witches we’ve seen in action so far exude a dangerous malice despite their inability to lay a scratch on Takamiya.

They don’t come off as bumbling incompetents; it’s more that Kagari is such a badass that she makes dealing with them look easy. In fact, at this point they only seem to be poking around, assessing the prey along with its guardian. Kagari says straight up that she wishes she could protect Takamiya without him knowing anything, but that time has passed and there’s no going back. While teaching him magic is prudent, the witches are likely to keep hunting him with ever larger, more organized attacks, no doubt led by heavies like Chronoire Schwarz VI. Takamiya may find himself in a perilous new world with numerous targets painted on his body, but he can’t say he’s not enjoying the ride!

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Tanpopo mentions the Towers are only interested in Takamiya’s body; specifically, his…“white stuff.” Whatever that is, it’s apparently not the first thing one would think of.
  • Despite her always-serious face, Kagari does crack the occasional joke!
  • We love how sweet Ai acts when we first see her, then how coldly she tosses the child aside when she recognizes Takamiya. Bad witches hate kids; that’s science.
  • We techincally meet Takamiya’s little sister, who seems to be very interested in her brother’s goings-on. How do we know? Well, the episode smartly avoided any big “brother-complex” scenes, and instead kept her in the far corners of the frame or in the background, spying on his date with Kagari. Very subtly, cleverly done. I don’t think we ever saw her face.
  • The thing Kagari went shopping for? A smart warlock outfit for Takamiya. Awesome.
  • The ED, in which five witches are being tortured in various ways, strikes a fine balance between cute and macabre. The theme is quite catchy too.

Witch Craft Works – 01

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Witch Craft Works makes a strong, refreshing first impression by inverting the typical “guy saves girl” scenario. Here, the guy, Takamiya Honoka, is a pint-sized, defenseless weenie, while Kagari Ayaka the girl is the well-bred dashing hero who sweeps him off his feet. We like how Takamiya is derided by his peers simply for breathing the same air as their princess, and their daggers only sharpen when she suddenly takes him under her wing.

All the sudden attention from this lovely lass, and all the hate from the rest of the school, has Takamiya feeling self-conscious: why is Kagari associating herself with him, saving him from robotic bunny armies, and getting bloodied and burnt protecting him? All Kagari will say is that it’s her duty to protect her princess. She values him, so he should value himself, is the lesson learned. Not to mention Kagari is like the badass big sister of Kiki (of Delivery Service fame), dutiful, determined, and kind.

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In our opinion there aren’t enough anime where the guys are the ones who are weak and get rescued, so the fact that this is one of those anime is a large part (but only part) of its appeal for us. But Kagari is no coarse, “butch” caricature; she kicks ass and saves Takamiya while maintaining her grace and femininity. Her tone and posture are often stiff, but there’s an undeniable warmth and affection in her actions and words (the latter coming courtesy of seiyu Seto Asami, who’s a good fit for Kagari).

There’s also a great sense of inner peace about her; she’s worshiped as a goddess among her fellow students, but she neither condones nor discourages their obsessive behavior; she’s merely the calm island dispassionately dwelling within their storm. We also appreciate Takamiya’s ultimate decision to set what ego he has aside and trust Kagari’s strength. It’s a wise man who knows when he’s the one who needs to be saved.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)