Witch Craft Works – 12 (End) and Series Review

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It might seem to be damning with faint praise to see that the best thing about a series was its ending theme, but this was a damn fine ED…

I just can’t muster the motivation to write a long series review post on Witch Craft Works, and judging by the comment traffic most of you aren’t too bothered one way or the other.  I liked WCW, though if I’m going to be honest I certainly hoped it would be something more than it turned out to be.  It really goes all the way back to the Winter Preview post – I said then that finding whatever it was that drew a big-time director like Mizushima Tsutomu to the material was what made WCW an interesting prospect for me.  Well – I sort of do, but in the end I don’t think it amounted to all that much.

This series was, in a word, fun.  It was colorful and eye-catching, even if the CGI was a bit over-the-top.  At its best it was really funny, and it always had an agreeably manic and zany edge to it, though that was subverted to the plot explosion in the final arc.  It had an internally consistent mythology that explained enough of the seemingly random elements to make it seem as if the show wasn’t completely winging it.  But it never quite passed the threshold for making me care about it very much.  Neither the plot or the characters were all that interesting to me, in the end – Team Rocket was the best of the bunch, and they were strictly comic relief.

Honoka gets a lot of flak as a main character, and indeed he got some from me.  He’s certainly not the only problem with WCW but he doesn’t help, though I think many critics of the critics miss the point here.  It’s not the fact that Honoka is weak and indecisive that annoys most of us (hell, we’re used to that in male protagonists by now), it’s that he’s such a bore.  There were individual moments where he was allowed to show a quirky side, but mostly he was as bland as oatmeal (and prepared with water instead of milk).  He was transparently a device, and it seems as if the writer never had intention to or interest in making him any more than that.

Kagari, for her part, was marginally better.  But the issue there is that her character is so one-track that once you get the hook with her personality, it just keeps looping over itself over and over.  And absent anyone really compelling at the heart of the story, the burden falls almost entirely on the side characters to generate buy-in.  There was definitely distinctive side characters here, but not the sort that really invite a lot of empathy – they succeed as entertaining distractions, certainly, but not as compelling personalities.  At least for me.

That pretty much sums up the Witch Craft Works experience for me.  It’s fine on a superficial level but that’s as far as it goes – there’s no deep connection whatsoever.  So what was it, in the end, that drew Mizushima-sensei?  Presumably it’s that manic energy and complicated set of rules, because he’s a guy that loves sight gags and elaborate set pieces.  But he’s also capable of succeeding with character-driven material, and in the end I don’t think WCW amounts to more than a blip on his resume.  Mizushima has done better works by far and also worse (this is the guy who made Blood-C after all, though he as much as said he was just following CLAMP’s orders with that debacle), but I don’t think he’s done anything more forgettable.  At least we have that great ED…

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8 comments

  1. B

    I like the show. It does stick extremely close to the source material, so whatever the problem with the pacing comes from the manga. In terms of characterization, once again, 100% from the manga. There is a reason for Kagari's one track mind, somewhat hinted in the anime, explained more in detail in the manga.

    There really isn't much material beyond what they've animated. They ended with Week End's failed plot and it's a good natural point to stop the anime.

    The got 2-3 more chapters beyond the anime, so this is it for now.

  2. J

    Like BigFire said, but I guess it's safe now to point out that the events brought about by Weekend pop Honoka's third seal and he starts to get more studly. And Atori and her little friend already liked what they saw when they got his shirt off.

  3. k

    Whaa..? Mizushima Tsutomu was the director? Now it suddenly feels underwhelming. He is such great director I'd expect much more from this series. Still, considering that the plot of the source is confusing, all over the place and has pacing issues, I'd say he still did stellar job. Also, music and visuals were fabulous.

  4. d

    I have to agree with you here GE that is anime is just fun to watch. I cared about Honoka and Kagari only because I'm curious about their situation. Especially Honoka because of his alleged "powers". It does make me wonder if him being virtually invisible as a character is because of that. Anyways, I gotta get a final vent on Honoka chickening out on the kiss. Gosh, for me, that would have made up for all the other times where he was just a decoration. Oh well, at the very least I got a lot of cool screen shots because the art in this show is just great.

  5. D

    While I completely agree with your assessment of Witch Craft Works, I have a question for you: why is it that you seemingly find Space Dandy so superior to it? Because I personally feel the same way about that show: it's visually appealing; occasionally has a nice gag or two; but is largely superficial in its treatment of just about everything, from characters to themes to continuity – to quote you, making it nothing more than a blip on the director's resume.

    Admittedly, Space Dandy isn't over yet, but why such praise for that when it hardly seems much more substantial than WCW???

  6. Because in my view it's leaps and bounds ahead of WCW in every way. The animation is better, the art is better, it's far more imaginative, the comedy is smarter and funnier, and it actually morphed into a fascinating recurring plot as it toyed with the flexible nature of reality. Obviously that's not how you see it, but you may have well asked me why I find Rochefort 10 to be a better beer than Budweiser. Taste is subjective, but that's about how much difference I see.

  7. Z

    I've had the Rochefort 10 and Space Dandy it is not. I wouldn't even put it at Hoegaarden level tbh. My opinion of course.

  8. t

    I agree with Dan. I'd say Space Dandy is better on paper but it sure ain't actually better and it's wildly inconsistent. Unless part 2 of Space Dandy knocks the ball out of the park, I'd put WCW and SD in the same bucket.

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