The Appeal of a Journey is in the Unexpected!
- Episodes : 12
- Genre : Action, Adventure, Fantasy
- Airing Date : October 2020 – December 2020
- Producers : Lantis, Movic, AT-X, Kadokawa Media House, Kadokawa, SB Creative
From a young age, Elaina, inspired by the adventures of the traveling witch Nike, knew she wanted to become a witch herself. Her intelligence, confidence, and determination made her a remarkable magic-wielder at 14. After her eye-opening apprenticeship under an eccentric witch, Elaina becomes a fully recognized witch and sets out on her own journey, determined to be as great a witch as her inspiration Nike.
An unknowable adventure beginning to end, Majo no Tabitabi (Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina) takes multiple forms throughout the show. With a gentle and enchanting first episode followed by several increasingly depressing episodes only to be met with ridiculous whimsy later, we’re never sure where we’ll end up. Some episodes would seem suitable for young kids and yet others are so graphic and depressing that adults would need to collect themselves before progressing.
Seemingly Unrelated Yet Interconnected Events
In terms of new places each with its own ways of life, problems, and layout, each of the places that Elaina visits is unique. Some are more humble towns and yet others are gorgeous castles. Some are magical lands and others are devoid of or even hostile to magic. The people of these places have differing outlooks on life and even under that, many of them have hidden agendas that aren’t readily understood. With all of the constant changes, it’s easy to abandon any hope of a cohesive story and just accept it as unrelated tales of a wandering witch.
However, even though there are some people and places that never come up again, there are many that do serve a more prominent role in the overarching narrative. With more of these connections to events and people becoming more obvious nearing the end of the anime. More obvious connections like Saya and Elaina’s teacher but Mirarose’s castle was not an expected return. It seems Elaina did see in the scorned princess the possibility of what her own future could hold and thus manifests when Elaina enters the Country Where Dreams Come True. While Mirarose herself does not reappear, the effect she had on Elaina and her influence are visible.
Even without involving Elaina, the travels detailed in Nike’s book affect other characters as well. It seems at first to just be Elaina’s adventure but it is indeed a small world. To think Saya would be the one to behold the town-dividing wall mentioned in the book instead of Elaina. Even Elaina’s and Saya’s teachers share a connection to the great witch Nike.
Though Not Always Apparent, a Great Look at Choices and Consequences
Elaina tries to be very hands-off unless she’s getting paid for her work but sometimes, she finds herself moved to action. Even when she’s not doing much of anything but observing, there’s a concentrated focus on it. In episode 3, we see two distinct moments of avoidance with differing effects on Elaina’s conscience. While being the unwitting vessel of deadly flowers and realizing that a beautiful flower-field is a trap for humans, she decides it’s too much to deal with and does nothing, opting to move onto the next town. Once there, she alleviates a fraction of the suffering of a young slave girl only to leave her with her cruel master. At this parting, Elaina seems quite distraught, admitting she won’t return because she doesn’t want to know if the girl ends up committing suicide.
Episode 12 is completely about all the choices Elaina made and other choices she could have made. She says she hopes for money when entering the Country Where Dreams Come True but, in her heart, she longs to see what type of person she could have become. One of the reasons she wanted to go on a journey was to be molded by it so she knows how each of her choices played a role in who she is now. She meets 15 other versions of herself which is both comedic and revealing in that 3 versions have a darkness in their hearts and two are obsessed with money. Even the one with a boob complex can be traced back to when Elaina was belittled for her child-like body.
Charming Yet Unreliable Protagonist
Of course, the nature of a journey is that you are only a passer-by, taking a look into the lives of others before you leave them in search of your next great discovery. Elaina does this almost to a fault, inserting herself for easy fixes and leaving things unresolved to remain free and unhindered. Elaina is not at all about fixing people’s problems for them or righting the wrongs of the world. She wishes not to shape the world but instead, be molded by it by opening herself up to new experiences without the need to control the ending. This can be off-putting to viewers along with her penchant for complimenting herself and not sparing others’ feelings.
Yet Elaina has a great head on her shoulders, is wise beyond her years, does ultimately hope for good, and yes, is extremely pretty. Elaina has her moments where her anger controls her like when she tried to kill someone over cutting her hair. However, she also finds herself compelled to help people when she thinks they can survive on their own and she’s not just delaying the inevitable. She seems cold and aloof when we see her leave the slave-girl despite having the power to take her away yet she’s left broken and sobbing after the horrific confrontation between Estelle and Selena. Even though she seems totally fine by the next episode, episode 12 reveals she is still dealing with those awful feelings as much as she tries to avoid thinking about them.
If there’s one big flaw in Wandering Witch, it might also be what makes it so unique. Episodes range drastically from silly obsessive antics from Saya or people being hilariously self-righteous to the most brutal killing of a child so damaged from abuse that she feels no empathy and wants only to kill. While a lot of the deaths and abuse are more subtle and conveyed more through atmosphere, episode 9 was a harsh departure. However, as it is at its core, a story of a journey both physical and mental, it’s reminiscent of life. Sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it’s confusing, and sometimes it’s unpredictably awful… and yet, we carry on.
As Wandering Witch comes to the end of its first season we’re left with a slightly clearer picture of what we might expect in a season 2. The tease of a future traveling partner combined with the fact that we know alternate timelines and versions of Elaina exist means we could be going anywhere. However, it’s sure to have more self-reflecting, more close looks at completely different lifestyles, and of course, more magic!