Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 11 – Love is In the Air

Elaina arrives in Qunorts to find that the Curio Company from the Niké stories has been revived. Townsfolk say mages are once again at risk, so she dresses like an ordinary, non-magical traveler to avoid any hassle. However, it’s because she appears to be a random NPC that she is targeted by Curio.

Specifically, Curio’s aged leader shoots both Elaina and the newly-arrived Saya with balls of magical dust that cause them to swap bodies. Elaina opens the mystery box Saya was delivering on behalf of the Association, and a massive cloud of love potion spreads across the town, causing the complex situation of Saya’s little sister Mina falling madly in love with Saya while Elaina is in Saya’s body.

Much hilarity ensues, and both Hondo Kaede and Kurosawa Tomoyo demonstrate their talent by wonderfully mimicking the voice styles of Saya and Elaina while in opposite bodies. Having been caught in the love cloud while looking at the reflection of Elaina, Saya is even more in love with her senpai, while Elaina in Saya’s body is decidedly Not Amused.

Fortunately, the Curio Company’s grand plan was as sloppy as it was dependent on numerous suppositions to succeed, and because Elaina is a witch, she and Saya have no problem rounding up the company before they can cause too much damage. When the captured leader gloats about dozens of her cohorts still out there, Fran and Sheila finally make their appearance, having mopped up the remaining bandits.

The love potion is returned to the box, while Elaina, Saya, and Mina eventually return to normal. Sheila reveals she’s Mina’s teacher too, and the one who forced Mina and Saya apart lest they fall into a codependent spiral. Saya for one is glad Mina loves her so much, while an embarrassed Mina would prefer if the subject were changed.

One subject that doesn’t come up is whether Elaina is aware that Niké and her mother are one and the same. This latest adventure in Qunorts should have provided all the clues she’d need to make that determination, yet when the four witches part ways, she remains coy about the revelation. Elaina promises Fran that she’ll return home to see her parents at some point, but as Niké had five volumes of adventures, she remains committed to writing at least six of her own.

That means a lot more traveling and a lot more situations, both fun and trying. As to the latter kind, I was disappointed but not particularly surprised the show swept her time travel trauma under the rug. In its place  was another fun and hopeful outing. Her closing monologue and broom ride into the sunset felt like the end of this particular volume with one episode to go, while hinting at the possibility of a second cour—something to which I certainly wouldn’t be opposed!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 10 – Meeting in the Middle

Journey of Elaina takes a break from Elaina’s journey to tell the story of her teacher Fran and Saya’s teacher, Sheila. Both were apprentices of Niké, who no doubt decided each of them could benefit from each others’ unique qualities.

Fran is your typical quiet, dignified, by-the-book “teacher’s pet”, while Sheila is the mage equivalent of a delinquent, complete with blond hair and twisted scowl. She’s always smoking a cigarette, and her gaudy broom is souped-up like a Yankee bike, complete with fancy lights and a two-strok burble.

Hanazawa Kana and Hikasa Yoko demonstrate how adept they are at voicing younger versions of Fran and Sheila, and it’s a lot of fun watching them bounce off each other like oil and vinegar while Niké serenely smiles between them. I particularly like how Fran starts imitating Sheila’s combative “Huh?!” with a “Huh” of her own!

The trio arrives in Qunorts, Town of Freedom, for an Association job, and like Elaina, Niké is primarily concerned with what the job pays (like mother like daughter!). The job is to take care of the non-magical Curio Company, which has been tricking and embarrassing the town’s mages with “mysterious tools.”

Niké, who has tolerated her students’ bickering to this point, now calls upon them to work together to take Curio down. If either or both of them fail, she’ll expel them from her instruction. Naturally, Fran and Sheila try to use the job as an opportunity to sabotage one another so they’ll be rid of each other.

Because they start out working at cross purposes, the Curio Company problem only grows, and their leader calls Fran out in a cafe that turns out to be full of her loyal subordinates. Fran is captured, and finds that Sheila has also been captured. If they’re going to escape expulsion (and, incidentally, beheading) they know they’ll have to work together.

Either the mages of Qunorts must not have been much to write home about, or Fran and Sheila are particularly gifted mages, because they’re able to deal with Curio all at once without much difficulty, and with much style and flair. Turns out both of them let themselves get captured to spare them the effort of tracking their targets down one by one.

Once Curio is dealt with, the two have a rest and each explain why they wanted Niké to teach them. Sheila was a street urchin unaware of witches who one day stole from Niké, and saw an opportunity to right the wrong path of her life. Sheila sought to become the first witch in her country, thus securing a steady job and source of income.

Both realize that because self-interest was their motivator, they have a lot more in common than they thought. Shortly thereafter, Niké makes them official Witches and names them Stardust and Night, with the implication that they complement one another perfectly.

After a rough start to their relationship when they were constantly clashing, Fran and Sheila became friends, which they remain to this day such that they still go on annual vacations together. Only because the box Sheila instructed Saya to take to Qunorts was the same box the Curio Company had, Sheila decides to put their vacay on hold, and Fran follows.

At roughly the same time, Elaina, who is either completely over her crisis of confidence or doing a good job suppressing her trauma from the time traveling ordeal, is headed to Qunorts as well. That means next week could feature Elaina, Saya, Fran and Sheila in the same place at the same time. That’s something I can get on board with!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

For more on Wandering Witch episode 10, read Crow’s review here.

Zombieland Saga – 03 – More than Guts

The group’s next mission is neither death metal nor hip-hop, but your standard spontaneous “guerilla” idol performance in a public place. They only have one night to prepare. Lily suggests they make their group more official by naming a leader (Saki) and a permanent name (Franchouchou, inspired by Tae sneezing marker ink).

Practice is… a bit shaky, as one would expect of a group fielding five amateurs. Matters are made worst by the fact the other two members who are pro idols—Junko and Ai—are contributing nothing but sullen looks and pessimism. Sakura tries to rally the five, but Yuugiri steals her thunder, and ends up more effectively galvanizing the girls (minus the idols, that is).

The day of the performance arrives, everyone is in their human makeup…and Junko and Ai stay in the car. The remaining five have to make do…and they get a crowd to gather. But when Lily trips just like she did in practice and Sakura suddenly forgets the lyrics, that crowd becomes disinterested and starts to disperse fast. Franchouchou needs cavalry, and they get it in Junko and Ai, who do what they do best.

The animation of the actual performance is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s very colorful and stylish, smooth and precise. But the 3D CGI models of the girls are different enough from their 2D counterparts to be conspicuous and distracting, and their motions are so precise they look less like people and more like robots. Execution issues aside, the group ends up putting a smile on the face of the last spectator, a little girl who is soon dragged off by her jaded mom. They were able to reach one person, so there’s no reason to believe they can’t reach more if they get better.

And they will get better, if the change in attitudes of both Junko and Ai are any indication. Junko had never performed in a group and was weary of doing so, but once she got into the spirit of things she had a lot more fun than she imagined. Similarly, Ai could tell from their performance that the others were sincere in their desire to get better and become more legitimate, so she’s now more willing to lend her not inconsiderable talents to that effort.

Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu – 03

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Both Kuroda and this show’s title make reference to the “wasteland” / “wildlands”, but this show covers precisely zero new ground and blazes no new trails. Its premise and themes have already been thoroughly explored by other shows. There’s no uncharted territory here; only a retracing of steps.

KOYA also continues to paint its six main characters with the broadest of strokes in the dullest and least adventuresome of tones. This week features an interminable “training camp” that is supposedly intentionally aping the Hot Spring Inn cliché for comedic effect, but really only comes off as a Hot Spring Inn cliché, full stop.

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There are two main developments at play here: the constant philosophical clashing of Kuroda and Andou, and feelings for Bunta awakening in Yuuka, depsite her hard friendzone status in his eyes (as far as one can tell). I personally prefer the raw, spunky Yuuka to the more muddled raven-haired maiden that is Kuroda, but portraying Yuuka as suddenly so blushy and weak-kneed around Bunta – who is barely a character at all at this point – does her no favors.

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As for the conflict between Kuroda and Andou, well…Kuroda’s a hard one to figure out. Her character has a couple of distinctive ticks and qualities that don’t mesh into a cohesive whole. She’s more of a promising idea of a character not fully thought out. As for Andou, well…she is a character driven by one thing and one thing only: BL. And using the word “fangirl” as a verb; she really digs doing that.

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She loves BL so much, in fact, she’s willing to see the treatment of Kuroda’s game through BL eyes, labeling it a “Yuri-homo” rather than a straight-laced shoujo story. Her constant reminders to everyone that she’s obsessed with BL even seems to wear on the cipher Bunta.

No, the most impactful moment of this increasingly dreary episode was when Andou got fed up with sparring with Kuroda, said “I’m done”, and peace’d out. Bunta managed to very easily lure her back to the inn from Akiba (he spends a lot on rail travel this week!), but I fear no amount of convincing will bring me back to KOYA. There’s just not enough here to sink my teeth into. To borrow Andou’s phrase: “I’m done.”

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