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…