Witch Craft Works

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, May 31, 2014

I’ve just started to make my way through the anime that aired over the Winter 2014 season, and I think I may have already found the one that will be my favorite series from that time period. Witch Craft Works is the type of show that on the surface appears to have all the elements of your average fantasy action/romance anime, but goes off in different directions than I initially expected. Like most shows that run for 12 episodes there is plenty of room left for the storyline to expand, but I found myself continually drawn to the flashy action sequences and sillier elements.

Witch Craft Works starts off in similar fashion to your typical high school based anime. Honoka Takamiya is your average, run of the mill high school boy who doesn’t have any distinguishable traits. He always finds himself near Ayaka Kagari, the school idol who doesn’t say a word and is unusually tall. Any type of interaction with her on his part draws the rage of the entire school, so Honoka considers himself to be in an unlucky situation. One day, as he is walking in the courtyard an entire building comes falling out of the sky directly at him and Honoka closes his eyes and braces himself for impact. When he re-opens his eyes, Ayaka is carrying him in her arms floating in the sky and dressed like a witch. The pair is attacked by another witch but Ayaka makes quick work of them.

As it turns out, there are two types of witches in the world: Workshop Witches and Tower Witches. Workshop Witches are the ones that protect normal humans and do their best to cover up the existence of magic, while Tower Witches are after chaos and destruction. Honoka has some sort of special power inside of him that the Tower Witches are after, and Ayaka has been secretly guarding him all of these years. The bulk of the story revolves around Honoka adapting to these new circumstances, including a newfound and sometimes uncomfortable closeness with a girl, and battling with different Tower Witch antagonists.

The above paragraph probably makes Witch Craft Works sound similar to your average fantasy action title, only with the girl playing the hero and the male playing the damsel in distress. But there’s a lot more happening throughout that made it one of my new favorites, and that was the unexpected and outlandish nature of the action. The initial Tower Witches that attack the two main characters are fairly weak and end up enrolling as students, but are shown a few episodes in tied up and about to be set on fire by Ayaka. Hell, there’s even an episode where Honoka’s sister (who it turns out is also a witch) fights one of the enemy witches and it turns into a gigantic teddy bear versus a gigantic bunny rabbit that level city blocks in the process. Each time you think that the action scenes have reached a new height, it seems like they get even crazier and that’s a definite plus. There’s also more of a connection between characters than viewers might initially expect, as some of the older witches have been fighting rivals for generations and are seen having tea together before battling it out episodes later. There’s a fine line drawn between enemy and friend, and another thing worth mentioning is that Honoka doesn’t simply become the wimpy main character as he becomes Ayaka’s apprentice and does try to learn some magic over the course of the series.

Witch Craft Works did have some flaws to its storyline though. For one, if you’re hoping the potential romantic side between Ayaka and Honoka gets developed throughout the 12 episodes prepare to be disappointed. Although they seem to have a bond that potentially extends into past lives or something like that, Ayaka remains the stoic silent character throughout and Honoka doesn’t change from the timid, inexperienced with woman character type that is established early on. Additionally, there’s not really that much finality to anything that happens in the series. Despite the fact that quite a few people get hurt pretty bad and the city and school Witch Craft Works is blown up pretty regularly, an episode later everything seems fine. This is all explained later in the series, but the fact that most things can simply be restored to normal afterwards takes away the impact from some of the action sequences.

What sold me the most on Witch Craft Works besides the action sequences were the characters. Admittedly the two leads are probably the least interesting, despite being likeable in their own way. The supporting cast of Workshop and Tower Witches are what caught my attention though, as not only are they all fairly quirky and have different powers that they utilize but also add a good deal of humor to the series. There’s a thin line between good/evil, and some of the Tower Witches that antagonize Honoka early on end up being quirky sidekicks who live at his house for various reasons later on. I also really liked Weekend, the final antagonist who was downright sadistic at times and used real grenades mixed in with magic attacks. Although there is plenty of room left to expand on different backstories for the large cast, I think anyone that gives this series a chance will find plenty to like about the cast.

J.C. Staff has always been fairly consistent when it came to animation, though certain anime they have produced have seemed higher budget than others. Witch Craft Works definitely comes in at the higher end of the scale, as it’s a visually eye catching series from one episode to the next. CG is integrated into the fight scenes, and unlike the majority of anime I’ve seen where the transition from animation to CG seems jarring it was integrated really well here and made the action sequences visually mesmerizing. As I said earlier, I also like that each of the cast had a different look and feel and utilized different magical powers that made them all distinguishable. Quite a few of the anime from the past couple of seasons I’ve been making my way through have had decent animation, where there was an occasional eye catching moment without any major frame skips or other issues, but Witch Craft Works was one of the few where every other scene seemed to have something to instantly grab my attention.

The voice cast has a lot of familiar names, although the best performances definitely came from the supporting cast rather than the main characters. That’s not to say that the actors and actresses didn’t fit their roles, but Ayaka’s stoic nature and Honoka’s plainness left the actors with a script that doesn’t necessarily help them stick out in my mind. What surprised me about this series was the kick the sound effects had to them, which isn’t an area that I would normally discuss in a review. But when Ayaka blows someone up with fire or the city gets destroyed the sound effects really make the viewer feel the impact, and that makes a big difference. I also want to say that the ending theme “Witch☆Activity,” which is sung by the voice actresses of the four main Tower Witches, is easily one of the catchiest J-pop songs I’ve heard all year and has been stuck in my head on a daily basis since I finished watching the series.

Over the past few years I’ve found myself not as interested in fantasy/action oriented anime as I used to be, as there haven’t been as many series that truly grabbed me and kept me interested in the events that were occurring. Despite initially seeming like more of the same, Witch Craft Works turned out to be a pleasant surprise and its quirky cast mixed with some completely over the top action sequences kept me wanting to find out what happened next. There are elements it doesn’t expand on enough, but this isn’t surprising considering that there are only 12 episodes and the manga is ongoing, so hopefully it manages to become popular enough to warrant a second season. But even if it doesn’t, I think this is one of my favorite anime of the last couple seasons and I think quite a few of you who give it a chance may end up feeling the same way.


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