Anime Review – Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina

A while ago, I did some coverage of the Fall 2020 Anime season, under the title My Five Picks. The beginning of the Winter 2021 season is upon us now, but I’d like to go back and give one of the season’s Picks a proper review. That anime is Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina, or as it’s known in Japan, Majo no Tabitabi.

This anime is set in a world of magic, one in which witches are regarded very highly. Elaina, a young woman with a strong aptitude for magic, is inspired to become a witch through the stories of her childhood idol Niké. Upon being bestowed the title of Ashen Witch (derived from her distinctive hair color), she decides to travel the world to gain new experiences, chronicling her experiences into a book.

In case it wasn’t apparent, this show was originally in book form, written by Jougi Shiraishi. This review will only cover what was presented in the anime adaptation. I will not be discussing the original source material, as I don’t currently know enough about it to compare the two. From what I can tell though, the transition into animation was handled pretty smoothly. The episodes are all mostly self-contained events, where nothing feels rushed or overly drawn out.

Each event, linked by loose continuity, is accompanied by its own set of messages. Some lead to good endings… others, not so much. A few episodes in particular really drive this home. I won’t be spoiling much in this review, but please take Episode 9’s content warning seriously, that one is horror-level dark. There’s a lot of cynicism blended into this anime, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. The world is beautiful at times, but it also has an ugly side to it, as we all saw first-hand throughout 2020.

Just look at the level of detail in this opening shot.

While we’re on the subject of beauty, let’s talk about this anime’s art. Everything about this, from the building and landscapes to the character designs, is so enchanting. Some shots wouldn’t look out of place if they were sitting in an art gallery. The movement animations are fluid, and the magic spells don’t look at all out-of-place. I gave Wandering Witch the Fall 2020 TyDe Award for Best Animation, and I still stand by that call. Studio C2C, you really nailed the landing in this regard.

One glaring issue I have to point out with Wandering Witch is in the characters. This is a common problem with works of an episodic format, but the characters aren’t super fleshed out. Almost everyone can have their entire personality summarized in fourteen words or less. Elaina has abundant self-confidence, but keeps to the sidelines unless entertained or provoked. Saya’s a spunky inexperienced witch who almost certainly has a crush on Elaina. I’d go on, but nobody else (in this season at least) is even relevant for more than three episodes. Besides, the characters aren’t the focus here, so I’ll let the matter slide.

While it’s told mostly from Elaina’s perspective, this series isn’t exactly about her, or anyone else really. If anything, it’s more a commentary on the world. Whether she’s there or not, the world will continue to move forward. New events will continue to happen, people will continue to live and die, memories will be made and forgotten. The only factors we can control are how much we get to see, and whether or not we leave behind records of our existence.

Elaina lo-fi beats to chill/study to.

With that, I think I’ve said most of what I wanted to say, so I’m going to start wrapping it up. Aside from the ending song Haiiro no Saga, the soundtrack doesn’t have anything that particularly stands out. It does its job just fine though, and sometimes, that’s all you really need. I think my favorite story was the one in the first half of Episode 7, though Episodes 1 and 4 were also strong contenders. Overall, though not my favorite of the season, Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina was still a fine watch.

Wear and Tear