Witch Craft Works Review

This is review number three hundred and thirty two. This anime is part of the Winter 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Witch Craft Works, and it’s a twelve episode anime about witches and magic. There’s also a chance for me to reference Shinji from Evangelion, so that’s something new. I should watch that, but anyways, let’s read on.

Oh, also, I created a facebook page so please give me a “like” while you’re at it. Thank you.

Story

This anime is about a guy named Honoka Takamiya, who is a normal high school boy that leads a normal high school life. He is seated next to the most popular girl in school, Ayaka Kagari, and her rabid fan club is always making his quiet life unbearable. One day, Takamiya finds a note in the school yard and then a school building suddenly appears above him to crush him to death. He is saved though, by none other than Ayaka herself. It turns out she’s a witch and it turns out there are other witches that want Takamiya. Ayaka is actually tasked to guard his life, but she is also infatuated with him. She soon becomes clingy, and her rabid fan base is livid that Takamiya is so close to their idol. His life is not so quiet anymore, and he actually holds something special inside him that makes other people want to do harm to him.

Taking the Pants Off

As someone who has closely reviewed anime by lineups, I can tell JC Staff hit its peak at 2010 and they flopped in mediocrity in 2012. So any shows between 2012 to 2014, before Selector Infected WIXOSS, are all inferior titles from a studio that cannot transition well with time. There are some good releases, but nothing quite like the hard hitting titles they once had, until they hit gold with WIXOSS. They got a second wind because they started playing with new genres, and they gifted us with shows like Food Wars and Prison School. Witch Craft Works is one of those really low anime from this studio back when they were flailing in mediocrity. It’s about a witch that can control fire with a main character that acts as damsel in distress, and it’s basically Shakugan no Shana but a lot harder to appreciate. The execution is horrible, and the characters are hard to like. I’ve sat through a lot of sh*t, and Witch Craft Works still made me struggle. The premise is quite good though, and there is enjoyment here and there, but the overall experience is just pretty sour. The problem is actually just a few minor tweaks to the plot, because it avoided exposition at the beginning then dumped it all out in the later episodes. Flashbacks were utilized at the very end, which are vital points to help humanize the characters and make them relatable, but the absences of it in the beginning just makes you want to cheer for the bad guys instead. The balance between the two major plot points is skewered, wherein the juicy action plot is second priority for the stupid romance angle. The major offense here can be summed up in one word though:

Mahouka.

I’m about to go into another Mahouka rant. Someone stop me.

Thank you GISS.

Basically, the main heroine is invincible and there’s no scientific jargon to confuse people too. Her powers are straight up invincibility, and it can kill the excitement for anyone who endured the first three episodes. As a basic rule, a good anime can be judged in the first three episodes but this anime squandered all potential in those precious times. I won’t blame you if you dropped the anime, and there’s very little to actually keep you from watching. The rest of the show is cliché heavy, utilized in the worst way possible, and the comedy is badly executed that it makes it harder to appreciate the anime. There are some good points to the show, and I have a lot of paragraphs to point it out, but the experience is really a bad one. This is how bad JC Staff is during their low moments, and it’s just as bad as Golden Time if not worst. And don’t argue, there’s not enough Kimi to Boku GIFs to convince me JC Staff created something decent in this time frame, Bakuman excluded of course but I can be wrong with that as well.

Anyways, this anime is about a witch that can control fire, and the boy she constantly saves. This right here is the major flaw of the anime. The very first sentence used to describing this show is the one thing that ultimately fails it. The first three episodes are so hard to watch mainly because the characters absolutely suck. It’s not that they’re bad, but they were utilized pretty poorly. First of all, the first three episodes are where you try to grasp the main point of the show. In any anime, the first three episodes will make you decide to watch more of it. For Witch Craft Works, it decides to have a guy that plays the role of the damsel and the badass fire witch is a kuudere. The pairing does not work. Takamiya himself is so hard to like, because he does absolutely nothing but be constantly saved. It might’ve worked if he is the type that would curse himself for being rescued, or someone who’d at least get a punch in before being taken by the enemy, but Takamiya is different. He is literally just someone that walks into danger, be saved by like f*cking princess, and then be in awe by it all. I get the joke, and I think it’s brilliant but the show badly executed it. Takamiya’s narrations in the first three episodes killed the momentum as well. “I’m just a normal kid” is often how he’d start it, and the narrations don’t say anything profound about him. The situations are clichéd so it doesn’t need his narration, and he does it with little effect on the storytelling. They just tacked in on there for some mild effect, or something. Unfortunately, Takamiya being saved by an emotionless character ruined the appeal of the premise. Imagine if Shinji from Evangelion is rescued by Rei, and the scene calls for this:

Shinji being cradled by Rei, while he gently wraps his frail arms around her, and she has no reaction to the damn thing is just bad. It’s especially bad for the first three episodes, because you’re looking for the plot but all you get is this. This is what the anime want the audience to enjoy right off the bat, and it’s pretty stupid. It’s not stupid good, but quite the contrary. It’s pretty gawd damn bad. If you replaced Shinji with a tsundere then I could see the potential. Having a guy just helplessly be cradled like this is a wish fulfillment I am not buying. Her emotionless face even screams “hell yeah, he’s the b*tch in this anime, deal with it”, and not even my impartial mind can accept it. It’s not a masculine thing either, since I loved Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka? having a guy magically transform. The concept for this anime is good, but the execution isn’t. I would’ve accepted this stupid concept as well though, if the show balanced it with some good storytelling. In episode two, five witches out to get Takamiya appears, and they fought Ayaka in a five to one advantage. The whole reversed damsel thing is still good if Ayaka works her ass saving Takamiya. I can picture Ayaka beaten up, but her expressionless face reminds me of a brave knight putting on a handsome save for his princess. You can feel her sacrifice for her princess, and the concept is doable to a degree. So the five to one advantage is set, but then this happened:

She wins, every gawd damn time. Nothing turns me off more than a perfect character, and Ayaka is all sorts of Tetsuya that I ultimately gave up on the series…then watched it after two days passed. The five witches are nothing more than meat puppets that Ayaka beats up. They’ll plan something that involves kidnapping Takamiya, but Ayaka would just blast her way through anything they come up with. They never even had a chance, despite being great witches themselves, because Ayaka just easily just beats them. So I ask you Mahouka lovers, and I know you’re reading this, what’s the fun in seeing no resistance from your enemies? This isn’t a random event where Ayaka unleashes a hidden power within. There is no f*cking exposition, the bad guys eventually acknowledges that she’s invincible and she cannot be beaten. She was assaulted by three witches and she just unleashed her flame magic then the witches ran away like little b*tches. She was ganged up by an army of robot rabbit familiar where she was stabbed in various places, but then she regenerates and comes out unscathed. She was trapped in a bus, stabbed and bleeding to death but then she just bounced back with little tension for the story. She’s never in a position to lose, and even those rare moments are reversed in mere minutes because she is perfect. It doesn’t end there, because she’s also worshipped by her school, she gets top grades and she’s apparently hot. I don’t see it, but she’s the entire package. A ten-out-of-ten of a person, and she even has an adorable princess to look up to her awesome existence. After Mahouka, I honestly don’t want to see more of this crap. Perfect characters shouldn’t exist, and seeing the concept used in this anime makes me sick. The villains are comic relief because they can’t beat Ayaka, and they even spent time just doing random sh*t for the sake of it. So the first three episodes are mainly about Takamiya worshipping Ayaka while the show slowly proves just how perfect she is. It’s hard to get through it, especially since you’re still trying to figure out the plot and Ayaka’s perfect-ness is in your face distracting you.

If you can power through the first three episodes, then you’ll realize that the anime does have a beautiful story to it. The plot is pretty good, but the execution of it is pretty horrible. First of all, there’s two plot points for this show. The first plot point is about Takamiya and the “white stuff” inside him. Seriously, the witches openly declare they want the white stuff inside him. The second plot point is about Mahouka, but let’s talks about that later. For now, let’s focus on the rich narrative this anime has. In this anime, there are two types of witches: the Workshop witches and the Tower witches. The Workshop witches are the good guys protecting the city, while the tower witches are bad ones that stir up trouble in a city. Workshop witches fight Tower witches, but one Workshop witch has a special role. Ayaka is given the task to just protect Takamiya from Tower witches that want to hurt him. Ayaka is special because she has signed a contract with Takamiya way before they ever met, and being close to him grants her immense power. Mainly the power to shoot flames out of everywhere and her powers to regenerate are given to her by Takamiya. She can even serve as his shield by transferring any damage he takes to her. Of course, the show will slowly explore the bond between them. Then again, the anime explicitly tells you in the first three episodes that the plot is secondary. This relationship between the two characters beautifully unfolds though. Ayaka’s infatuation with Takamiya, his “white stuff” giving him mysterious powers and the past they shared is slowly poured into the show. This is mainly the reason why I kept watching, because, amidst the moments that reminds me of Mahouka, the plot has something special to it. Sadly, it didn’t materialize later on. The show spends too much time on Ayaka and Takamiya doing stupid stuff than to actually develop the story.

The first plot point gets a lot more interesting when the villains started moving their chess pieces to commence the game within this city. This is divided into three acts, and it flows into one story but the pacing is too abrupt to appreciate the moments in the show. It’s bad storytelling, and that’s fine. Let me lay it out here. The first act is about the stuff in the first three episodes. The five witches appear, Ayaka is perfect, the two groups of witches are established and it climaxed into a wrestling match between a bear and a rabbit. Don’t ask, just don’t. The second act is about the appearance of Medusa. She comes into the town, wreaks havoc and the secret inside Takamiya is revealed. It’s a pretty big thing that it urges a bigger villain than Medusa to act. Medusa is barely defeated though, but the show starts letting characters scheme and plan complicated stuffs. The first act established that Workshop witches and Tower witches hate each other, but the second act reveals that these two factions can co-exist in the right circumstances. The big wigs running this city is revealed, and everyone started defying each other. It’s a beautiful thing to see enemies become allies, and allies become enemies simply because the character’s intended ends justifies the means. It got superbly complex, but the show ruined it in a massive way. It squandered potential, and ruined wonderful characters by not giving them a clear role in the first plot point. This flows into a confusing third act where a powerful witch attacks the city. Heavy exposition is unleashed out of nowhere to support the story of the third act, and things just happened. People are beaten up, new characters appear to fulfill certain roles that should’ve been filled in the first act, and the stakes got insanely high after various scenes of Ayaka just being perfect. There was no buildup, the climax felt dull and the ending is a slap to the face of every sane narrative ever conjured. In the end, nothing felt exciting and the payoff is dull.

The big problem of this show is the existence of the second plot point, or rather the way it overshadowed the first plot point. The second plot is about Takamiya and Ayaka being a weird couple. Since Takamiya assumes the role of a damsel, Ayaka assumes the role of the instigator. She leans in for the kiss, he reacts like a shy faggot, she initiates body contact, he blushes like a moron, and basically stupid stuff like that. I’d like to call it fanservice, but I’m not really sure what the hell it is. The entire foundation is iffy, since kuuderes are preyed upon and not the other way around. Should they ever instigate something, it’d be a rare moment that’ll topple anything Yuki can do to an unprepared Kyon (boom, Haruhi reference). The fanservice between the two ruins the initial story, and it consumes too much time to really establish the story. This shouldn’t be a problem though, since fan service always ruins sh*t and makes a story dull. The problem is that the heavy exposition appears later in the show, while the first half is dedicated to Ayaka and Takamiya doing stupid stuff. If the show established early on that there are dangerous witches roaming the city, good witches stopping them, and a bigger conspiracy is on the horizon then the fanservice would serve as a reward for all that heavy exposition. It boggles the mind that simple structuring is the main problem of an anime. The elements are good by themselves, but someone pieced the puzzle wrong so you get a picture of a pen*s instead of a picture of a swan in midflight. With the stupid structuring though, the fanservice now becomes a heavy burden for the show. Too much time is spent of Takamiya being cared for by Ayaka, their witch lessons turning into a fansevice heavy moment and even a tug of war with Takamiya’s little sister over who should take care of him.

For this show to truly be good, the first three episodes should be littered with heavy exposition to explain the rich narrative. The ways of the witches with their cool brooms and invisible robes should’ve been explained first, then the relationship of Ayaka and Takamiya is established. The fanservice ensues, but it gets downtime to introduce the past they supposedly have. It makes the characters likeable, because it explains a lot about them. Afterwards, the second act is introduced with Takamiya’s white stuff revealed as the climax. Ayaka’s perfect existence is then explained after the reveal of the white stuff, and then the villains move in for the kill. The third act ensues and the whole thing would’ve made a lot more sense. Someone should pay me to compose a series, because whoever did this one sucked. Due to the stupid structuring, the anime’s main appeal is also ruined. This show is lighthearted by nature. Despite the seriousness of the story, the characters always come off as cute and cuddly. Yes, even the tower witches because the show opts to explain how well rounded the characters are. There is a clever commentary here about the characters being so good that you’d even cheer for the villains. Ayaka’s perfect-ness is intended for this purpose. She is invincible to give the villains a chance to be likeable, and the show explains that there are always two sides of the same coin. Enemies can become friends, leaders can be lazy asshats, menacing people can turn out to be cuddly individuals and laidback characters can be the most serious people in the world. It’s an element of the show that makes the whole thing interesting, and this anime ruined it. I always praise how hard concepts are pulled off seamlessly, but here’s a rare chance where a difficult concept is botched pretty gawd damn hard. This double sided take on the characters are so hard to execute that it made them confusing. While some villains are intended to be comic relief, not all of them are. Some are just cute individuals that happen to join the dark side, and the anime completely missed the point. This makes you think that there is now a comedic element to the story, but there really isn’t. It’s still part of the serious story, but the double take means that the seriousness can be taken lightheartedly, despite still being so serious that it involves the lives of everyone in town. It’s like a biker would pistol whip a dude he’s been chasing for two months, but the flashback features him petting kittens and picking flowers from the dirt road, and it still ultimately leads to someone’s face being crushed by a weapon. It’s a genius concept but the anime botched it so bad that it now adds to the confusing pacing of the show. With how the characters are mishandled, the anime structure being wrong initially, and the ingenuous concept badly executed, this anime is just one flaming ball of disappointment. Add in the fact that Mahouka exists here, fanservice is badly presented, Shinji from Evangelion gets a new buddy and the potential of the story is crushed in the first three episodes, this anime is just not worth it.

[Soulreaperzone.com] Wtch Crft Wrks - 01 BD SD SallySubs.mkv_snapshot_09.22_[2015.10.01_01.14.27]

The characters are decent. They’re original, I guess, because these are two stereotypes rarely paired together. I’d give points for that, because it did serve the show well later down the road. Ayaka is perfect, and I hate her for that, but her personality served well for the story. There is an interesting past about her the show never properly explained, but it involves a young Ayaka meeting Takamiya in her dream. Takamiya in her dream tells her to attend the school where they’ll meet, she should become class president, she should become a perfect character in general and Ayaka has been infatuated ever since. All of her perfect-ness leads back to her dreams, and the show never expanded on it. Ayaka as a character reminds me of Shana though. She uses flames, and her powers are aggressive. A bit too aggressive, but that’s the point. She’s a unique character because of it, and it’s a tough sell the anime couldn’t do for its audience. I never grew to like her, because she always comes out on top and it’s no fun if one side keeps winning. It reminds me of Sekai de Ichiban where the main character got a hundred consecutive losses and the show still urged you to root for her. F*cking why? What’s the point? It’s the same for Ayaka, despite being in a pinch, why should I care? She’ll still win every time, so I don’t need to invest much on her. The same goes for Takamiya. Yeah, he’s kidnapped but so what? His knight is a perfect being, and he provides her more chances to be more perfect. Ayaka was once turned into stone, but she still managed to break from it. How? I didn’t really care, because it’s not worth it. The idea of a male damsel is interesting though, but the show took it too far He is too useless that even waking up in the morning requires assistance. He’s a f*cking parasite, and it’s hard to watch a character rely too much on others. In the ending, he did something of value but the buildup is skewered. The fact that he’s useless should’ve been a plot point, and it makes the ending a lot more interesting. Considering his “white stuff”, he still ends up being useless because Ayaka is the one that benefits from his powers. This is a load of bullsh*t, and I won’t stand for it. As a pair, they suck because Shinji should never be cradled by Rei. It’s too weird.

The rest of the cast is decent as well. The five witches at the start of the series are massively wasted by the anime. I love how they act as comic relief, but they could’ve been given more screen time since they did play a role in the second act. Instead, they were just lumped as a group with no one really standing out. The witch with the robot rabbits had a moment in the first episode, but she slowly faded in the background. I remember the Llama more than her. The main villains are interesting, but they should’ve put up a more impressive fight. Seeing them wasted by Ayaka easily just doesn’t make them threatening, and it’s hard to take them seriously after that. The workshop witches are the ones that are badly mishandled in this anime. They were introduced in episode nine, and they didn’t really do much aside from being caught by the enemy. They were also overshadowed by Ayaka, so there’s really no chance for them to stand out. I would’ve loved to know more about the unsung heroes of the city though, but it’s too bad they never had a chance in the spotlight. There are a lot of people in this anime, but they only serve as plot devices so it’s pointless to talk about them. If you pick up the series, don’t be surprised that new characters are introduced randomly, because the show operates like that.

This anime had a lot of potential, but it just sucked. This is JC Staff in a nutshell back then, they tried but they sucked at it. They bounced back, and that’s the important part. With how they’re gaining momentum, these stupid shows will just serve as a footnote in their rise to super power status. This anime is directed and written by Tsutomu Mizushima. To those that cared, he directed Shirobako, so yeah worship him. He has directed a lot of awesome shows, and his MAL page is just impressive. XXXholic, Blood C, Big Windup, and Genshiken are among the series he helmed. Boy, he screwed up badly with this one. It is heart breaking because he directed Prison School, and I always admired how well paced that series is. Witch Craft Works had horrible pacing, and something that doesn’t represent this great director. I think JC Staff had high hopes for him as well, since he often drove the ship on a lot of great series. He is a director, screenplay writer and series composition for a bunch of shows. I think this is his rare flop, and it’s a massive one. I think the manga sucks by default, but someone of his talent could’ve easily done something great out of it. JC Staff could not catch a break, because they also hired a trinity of talent for Golden Time, and the show also sucked as if an amateur created it. Oh boy, you learn something every day, don’t you?

Sight and Sound

Ryuu Mizunagi seems to have an agenda when she wrote the manga. I think it’s about feminism, since most of the cast are female characters but I don’t really care. It seems her works is also faithfully adapted by JC Staff, so her work truly sucked and even Tsutomu Mizushima couldn’t save it. Anyways, her style is pretty awesome. It’s a great mix of masculine and feminine qualities that makes every character standout. It’s like her drawings are Shoujo in style but her story is Shounen. I love the way she design Takamiya, because he’s a lot manlier in the manga. He has a gentle facial structure, but the eyes are fierce despite looking dead for some reason. This is then emphasized by his cool hair, and the way his body is drawn. I’m not sure why the anime took it out, but her designs actually give credibility to the bullsh*t story she created about Takamiya being the princess. He looks hot, and I bet anyone would like to save a hot guy like him. Despite looking hot, his gentle design still comes out to make her incredibly feminine. Basically, Takamiya is the perfect “uke” – term in yaoi, means bottom, means the one getting it in the a**- because he is the ideal guy to save and to admire from afar as well. It works in the manga as well, because Ayaka looks like this:

First words to come in mind: Knight. Look at how she is designed. It’s not as dreary as the one in the anime, because the details are amazing. The strong facial features stand out, while her curvy body gives off a really beautiful and respectable vibe. The design is so great that even her posture looks amazing, and the pairing now wonderfully works when they look like this. Why did JC Staff opt to not include the design in the anime? It’s basically the selling point of the whole manga. Every action these characters make represents their gender, but their attitude resembles the opposite. It’s a genius idea, and the anime ultimately crapped on it. The story is similar though, so I’d bet the manga still sucked, but I don’t mind reading an awful story with beautiful characters like these. The details are so delicate in Ryuu’s design that even the uniforms look sophisticated. It’s amazing.

The animation is pretty great. It had heavy CG scenes though, but they don’t look stiff. The animation is actually the greatest part of the anime, because every scene looks captivating. From the fight scenes to the simple broom riding scenes, the animation is stunning. Tsutomu really showed off his chops in this department. The fights are short, but they’re bad ass wherein every effect is smartly utilized. I loved this scene where Ayaka is trapped in a bus with fishes, and they were floating around while she unleashes her flames of fury. It’s a beautiful scene that went by quickly, but it captured the magical world the anime is establishing. The magic casts by the witches are also nicely animated, as well as the bombs and the buildings exploding. I especially love the crumbling buildings, because the anime looks complex despite being just a side note in the story. The broom scene in episode three is the best thing ever though, because it just had a lot of care given to it while the camera angle goes to different points, even a first person view of the characters spinning. It’s stunning animation. The fanservice is decent as well, but nothing worth mentioning. The only think JC Staff really screwed up is the character design, but that’s alright.

The anime’s OP is “divine intervention” by fhána. I hate this opening, because the rhyme measure is a mess and it sounds like fhana is just grasping the words forcing them to fit the rhythm of the song. The verse is dull, and the chorus jus honestly sounds like fhana is hitting high notes forcibly. The lyrics are about someone finding their love, and protecting them even though fate doesn’t let them. It’s about Ayaka’s devotion to Takamiya so that’s decent. The OP sequence is pretty great though. It features a small montage of the events of the anime, and it’s honestly better at storytelling than the series itself. The animation also looks top notch, so I quite like the OP sequence minus the song. I play it on mute when I watch the anime. The anime’s ED is “Witch☆Activity” by KMM Dan: Tanpopo Kuraishi (CV: Shiori Izawa), Tsurupeta (CV: Momo Asakura), Twintail (CV: Shiina Natsukawa), Gantai (CV: Yuuko Iida), and Deko (CV: Natsumi Hioka). This one is pretty decent, and a bit catchy. It’s sung by the five witches that served as comic relief. The lyrics are about trouble or something, but I don’t care. The song itself is infectious. I love listening to it, even though it’s just your generic cute ED, and the ED sequence is adorable. It features the five witches being tortured and then burned at the stake in the end. It’s in chibi though, so the whole thing is adorable. They sing the song while being tortured, and it’s adowable.

Overall Score

6/10 “It had potential, but the whole thing just doesn’t look good. From the characters to the execution of the story, the potential is just constantly trampled on.”

It had its moments, and the premise of the knight and princess reversed might look good for some people, but it’s not a good show. The decent score is for the animation, and the potential of the story. Personally, the story sucks with its perfect characters and mishandled ideas that I’d rate it a three. I guess everything else fills in that six, so good for this anime. If you ever thought Rei should princess cradle Shinji then watch this anime, and satisfy your stupid fantasy. If you like Mahouka, then enjoy his female version in this anime presented in the most blatant nonscientific way possible. The show has some wonderful plot points to it, but only if you dig deep. The stuff on the surface just doesn’t really do anything, and the overall experience is dull. It’s not worth it.

 

2 thoughts on “Witch Craft Works Review

  1. Truth be told, the genderswap is so lazy that it’s just a visual change. They still basically act like the guy is a typical anime girl, and the girl is a typical anime guy. Yet people gush praise on it just for having that simple idea, no matter how terribly-executed it really is. People’s standards are just that low for JC Staff.

Thoughts~

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