The Spring 2022 Preview Guide
The Dawn of the Witch

How would you rate episode 1 of
The Dawn of the Witch ?
Community score: 3.6

What is this?

The world is now at peace after having endured a conflict between the church and witches for 500 years. However, embers of war still burn in some regions of the world. Cervil is a hopeless student at the Kingdom of Wenias' College of Magic. Cervil has somehow lost all memory of his time before attending the college. The school's headmaster Albus sends him for special training to the southern part of the continent, where persecution against witches runs strong.

The Dawn of the Witch is based on Kakeru Kobashiri's light novel series and streams on Crunchyroll on Thursdays.

How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore

Dawn of the Witch did not make the best first impression on me. We're deep into premiere season, it's late, I'm tired, etc, and I'm out of patience for shows that introduces its female characters either thighs/crotch first or tits first. I have zero familiarity with Grimoire of Zero, and while this is a standalone spinoff, I definitely got the nagging feeling I was supposed to be familiar with at least a few of these faces.

Once I was ready to forgive the show its trespasses, I did actually find a lot to draw me in. The story starts at a magic academy in a region where magic is accepted, thanks to the end of a war several centuries ago. However, since there are still places where mages are treated as other, the academy's best student, worst student, and a 300-year-old witch with the body of a ten-year-old and garter-clad thighs are going on what boils down to a humanitarian mission to build a safe home for them. Oh, and Saybil, the worst student, needs this mission to be successful, or else he'll lose what memories he's accumulated since developing amnesia three years ago.

It's a decent sentiment with a good heart, and I was surprised by a clunky-but-well-intentioned moment when Saybil called his travel companion out on her microaggressions against their beastfallen classmate. And yet, it just doesn't quite gel. Not because the fan service was particularly obtrusive—other than those crotch-first and boob-first intros, it was actually quite low-key—but because there's just no chemistry between the characters. There was a lot of walking and talking, camping and talking, and so on, and I just wasn't having fun watching them banter. There wasn't much sense of a connection and any playfulness felt forced.

Maybe someone who already knows and likes Grimoire of Zero will get more out of Dawn of the Witch. For me, it feels like wasted potential.

Richard Eisenbeis

While I've never felt the need to go back and rewatch the Grimoire of Zero, I do have fond memories of the little witch and her giant teddy bear of a mercenary. So returning to this world, with or without Zero in the drivers seat, is a lot of fun. There are a lot of familiar faces (it's great to see Albus all grown up) and it's interesting to see how everything has progressed since the last time we were here.

As fun as all the connections are, the basic story is perfectly understandable even if you've never seen Grimoire of Zero. Our viewpoint character, Saybil, is an amnesic magic student (though, in a twist on the trope, the memory loss happened three years previously). His personal conflict is simple: he's the school's worst mage and if he can't improve he'll be kicked out of the academy. If this happens, his knowledge of magic will be erased from his mind—basically reverting him right back to his post-amnesia state.

Then we have the titular Dawn Witch herself, a 300-year-old with the body of a little girl. While I could do without the constant panty shots, she is an intriguing character. Though egotistical and entitled, she seems to have the wisdom to match. Her connection to her staff is likewise interesting—as is everyone's reactions to how she uses a witch-killing weapon for everyday menial tasks.

The only issue I had with the show is that it really needs to lay out some of its proper nouns and a bit more of its history. While terms like “mage” and “witch” are thrown about, we don't get any clear answer on the difference between them (if any exists). And while we know there was a war between witches and the church, a bit more of the specifics would help us understand the trouble our heroes have already found themselves in with the Witch Hunters. But, all in all, this episode lays some solid ground work and makes me want to see not only what is to come for Sable and Loux but how Zero is connected to everything as well.

James Beckett

I feel a little embarrassed, because it wasn't more than a week ago that I suddenly found myself thinking, “Man, remember Grimoire of Zero?” I hadn't thought about the show in years, not since I reviewed it, but for some reason I found myself feeling ever so slightly nostalgic for the flawed but fun fantasy adventure. “I wonder whatever happened to that big ol' cat-man and his tiny witch girlfriend?” And yet, I was completely unaware going into Dawn of the Witch that this was actually a sequel to Grimoire of Zero, and it took me a minute to even realize it. I must have zoned out a little during the OP, since Zero and Mercenary make very clear and obvious appearances in it, but it was right around the part where a wolf-man named Holdem was yelling about a woman named Albus that I started to connect the dots.

Dawn of the Witch is a really direct sequel, as it turns out, despite jumping ahead a number of years in the timeline, not to mention the major shakeup in visual style on account of the new production team. I had to go back to watch the end of GoZ to refresh my memory, but that series does indeed end with young Albus starting up a brand-new magic academy in Wenias, and promising to build a world where witches and humans can live in peace. At the start of Dawn of the Witch, it seems like she's making headway on that goal, too, though there's still a long way to go. This is what gets our four main characters started on their journey, and it's also where my issues with Dawn of the Witch really take hold.

While it was surprisingly fun to catch up with this universe and see what's become of some of the characters since Grimoire ended, this premiere just doesn't do a great job of getting me to give a damn about its own story and cast. Saybil is a total nothing of a protagonist, and Loux is the grating and unlikable inverse of Zero. It doesn't help that the camera goes out of its way to zoom in on her crotch with absolutely no shame, or even a sense of proper framing. Holt and Kudo are barely developed outside of the fact that Holt is very busty and flirtatious with Saybil, which is odd considering that Saybil has no discernable personality whatsoever. Kudo is…a lizard. That's about it.

Nobody will ever mistake Grimoire of Zero for great television, and it says something that I went nearly five years before remembering that I spent a whole season watching and reviewing the show, but it was a decent fantasy anime all things considered. Dawn of the Witch hasn't elicited any reaction from me whatsoever, which is a very poor place for a series premiere to find itself in. Maybe the show will pick up once the new cast finds its footing, or if Zero and Mercenary return to liven up the proceedings. If that isn't the case, though, then Dawn of the Witch seems destined to be overshadowed by its older sibling, and it isn't like GoZ cast all that large of a shadow in the first place.

Rebecca Silverman

If you weren't aware, The Dawn of the Witch is set in the same world as Grimoire of Zero, although I don't think that's any impediment to just jumping in here. There are probably some world-building elements that work better if you're familiar with Grimoire of Zero, and that particular book does get a mention in this episode, but it's otherwise a pretty standard sword-and-sorcery setup, with beastpeople (known as beastfallen), magic users, witch hunters, and a vaguely Medieval sensibility. Well, and there's the headmaster of a magic school named Albus, but maybe we won't dwell on that.

This episode suffers most from two things: being very much about setting the stage for the more interesting things to come and Loux being kind of annoying. Loux could be Beatrice's cousin from Re: Zero in some ways, and I do think the choice to use the archaic informal second person (thee/thou/thy) largely works for her attitude of superiority. She's absolutely the kind of person who would deliberately speak informally to everyone just to show that she considers herself above them, something that Hort and Saybil notice when she leaves them behind to go chase witch hunters. But she's the sort of character who could wear with length of use, which could be an issue if she's got too much time in the spotlight.

The fact that Loux is also used for the bottom half of the fanservice may also rub some people the wrong way. We get plenty of shots of her crotch as she sits with her legs splayed, which is mostly noticeable because of how ridiculous her skirt's design is. Hort takes over the top half of the fanservice with her shirt that's patterned so that her breasts look like a wrapped present, and it is kind of amusing how obviously the art is trying to have it all by the way Hort is always shown boobs-first while Loux is shown thighs-first. Mostly the issue is that Loux, despite being 300 years old, looks pretty darn prepubescent, because really, she can sit however is most comfortable for her. Not that Saybil notices any of this, being about as blank a slate as you can get and having no discernable personality whatsoever. It's frankly the least believable part of the episode that Hort likes him so much.

Mostly this episode just sort of exists. There are some hints that the story could improve once the tedious set up is finished, so this probably isn't one to just write off immediately. But on the other hand, Goodreads assures me that I've read the first volume of the manga version and I can't remember a darn thing about it. Make of that what you will.

Nicholas Dupree

This show exists in a weird bit of adaptation limbo. It's based on a series of light novels that are themselves a sequel to the Grimoire of Zero novel series. I'm one of the 10 people who watched and still vaguely remember the 2017 Grimoire anime, but that show only covered the first couple volumes of a much longer story. So while I recognize some returning characters and understand the basic makeup of this particular fantasy world, I could not tell you how we got from the adventures of Tony the Tiger and his pint-sized witch gremlin to this new status quo. The good news is this is largely a new story, and anything immediately important is explained pretty quickly in this episode, so newcomers and non-LN readers alike should be able to follow along. The bad news is that doesn't make this episode any more interesting or entertaining.

The big issue with this new series is that it's centered on, by far, its least engaging character. Saybil's amnesia and mysterious past are supposed to entice you to learn more about him, but in practice he's a dead-eyed cipher who intakes exposition and outputs nothing of interest. Nearly any other character introduced here would be more engaging to follow as a protagonist, with the possible exception of the titular Witch of the Dawn, Loux. On top of being a 300-year-old little girl who can't stop flashing her panties to the camera, she's just an annoying presence who's only tolerable when she's acting her age instead of playing up her miniscule appearance. So the thought of watching her mentor our deadweight lead is deathly unappealing. That stands in stark contrast to Mercenary and Zero's dynamic in the first series, and it makes me question why these two are our leads when there's some perfectly engaging characters right next to them.

Maybe that's just because we barely get any time with Holt or Kudo so they don't have a chance to disappoint us, but just on the surface they both strike me as way more active, layered characters to build your story around. Holt is a star magic pupil who seemingly comes from a harsh background where she learned to put on a kind smile to avoid confrontation, which raises questions about her past that actually make her more interesting, unlike Saybil. Kudo, meanwhile, is a rough-mannered beast-man who nonetheless has a strong sense of justice and acts selflessly in his own way. Hell, just in this episode it's brought up that witches used to sacrifice beast-people, so the idea of one studying magic to become a witch is a rock-solid concept that all but begs for further exploration. Why, then, is his entire story this episode offscreen? Is has to be more interesting than watching our amnesiac sadboi hero vomit on a cart ride.

That's what really makes this premiere frustrating, on its own and as a follow-up to Grimoire of Zero. I know there's an interesting fantasy world behind all this, with a rich history just waiting to be explored, and presumably even more new things that have happened since the first anime wrapped up. If this were just some generic isekai world I could write it off as a dull waste of time and be done, but there's so much potential here that is just being left to rot. I might stick around for another episode or two, just to see if the elements I liked get some actual focus, but I can't give this much of a recommendation right now.

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