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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Wistoria: Wand and Sword

How would you rate episode 1 of
Wistoria: Wand and Sword ?
Community score: 3.9



What is this?

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Will Serfort dreams of keeping his promise to a childhood friend by becoming a Magia Vander, one of the mighty magicians who sit atop the Wizard's Tower. However, he is unable to cast even the simplest of spells, leaving him to fight dungeon monsters to earn credits at Regarden Magical Academy. As if that weren't enough, he finds himself putting his sword skills to the test against a bullying professor.

Wistoria: Wand and Sword is based on the manga series by Fujino Ōmori and Toshi Aoi. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Sundays.


How was the first episode?

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Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

When looking at this first episode as a whole, there's nothing we haven't seen before, and recently at that. We have a person with super strength who is unable to use magic attending a magic school (Mashle: Magic and Muscles) and he's trying to reunite with his supremely talented childhood friend (Kaiju No. 8) despite a seemingly impossible gap. However, don't let it be said that originality is the be-all, end-all of a good anime.

When you look at clichés, it's vital to remember why they became clichés in the first place—i.e., that they were story or character beats that struck a chord with audiences and were overused because of this. They aren't inherently bad—rather the opposite. It's just that their novelty has devolved into predictability.

What we have here with Wistoria: Wand and Sword is an anime that uses the tropes and clichés we're used to in their original forms. There is no half-assed twist on the formula—no attempt to lampshade what's going on with comedy. Rather, this anime plays everything 100% straight. And that is one reason why it works so well.

Will is a man born into the wrong kind of fantasy world, one where few would accept him even if they knew his true potential. After all, he is proof that the raining philosophy of magic and the order of society is flawed. He has little choice but to keep his head down and exploit loopholes in the school's system if he wants to achieve his goal.

Not only is the setup a solid one but so is Will's personality. Throughout the episode, people call him kind. And from the outside, he seems that way. But Will is as self-serving as anyone else: he'd like to do nothing more than stand back and let his bully die. However, the trick is that he wants to be the “kind person” that others believe him to be; he wants to live up to their expectations. If he doesn't, how could he stand alongside them? This is an incredibly human way of thinking and one that makes Will strikingly relatable.

In the end, we're left with a story that uses its tropes right and has a sympathetic main character that it's easy to root for, and there's the show-stopping animation in the episode's big climax. Simply put, this is a great first episode. The only question now is: can I wait till next week for it to continue or will I break down and binge the manga instead?


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Caitlin Moore
Rating:

If you loved Harry Potter but can't bear to engage with it anymore due to its creator's noxious politics and habit of throwing millions of pounds at politicians hoping to systematically strip human beings of their rights, have I got a series for you!

Almost every time a new character was introduced in Wistoria, I could immediately identify their corresponding Harry Potter character. Mean teacher with long black hair who humiliates the protagonist in front of the class? That's a Snape. Talented bully flanked by two silent lackeys? We got ourselves a Malfoy, boys. Outspoken honor student female friend who argues with aforementioned bully? Well, well, well, if it isn't a Hermione. That little black cat that follows Will everywhere serves basically the same narrative function as Ron.

I will say that, for all Will's character design is functionally identical to Harry—and his personality may well be similar as well—his position in the world is pretty different. No, that part is straight out of Mashle: Magic and M.U.S.C.L.E.. He can't do magic at all, but he's agile, good with a sword, and has a skill for recognizing enemy attack patterns on par with an Elden Ring speedrunner. Despite having no aptitude for magic at all, he's determined to prove himself so he can gain rank and reunite with his childhood friend at the top of a tower.

It's like you took Harry Potter and retrofitted it to be a battle shounen, which to be honest, I'm not here for. I've long since grown weary of the genre's formula, where an underdog protagonist has a vague goal that he must achieve using violence and the power of friendship. Unless I have some assurance that no, this one really is different, I'm not engaging. It's like how I refuse to spend my time on Marvel movies anymore.

I fully admit this is a me problem; if you like fantasy action and don't share my antipathy for this story structure, you'll probably like Wistoria a lot! It has some cool lore about wizards holding up the sky and it looks incredibly slick. Will's climactic fight scene is easily the best-looking action sequence of the season, brilliantly choreographed with lots of quick cuts and moving cameras that juuuuust barely avoid edging into being confusing or hard to follow (I'm looking at you, ufotable).

Maybe I'll be wrong about the story. Maybe it'll break formula and do something interesting, and I'll end up scrambling to catch up so as not to miss out on seeing something really cool. I'm open to being wrong here, but until I have that assurance, I'll be spending my time on something else.


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Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

More than any other show I've seen in a while, this one is being carried entirely by its production. This episode is, on all accounts, a fantastically polished piece of animation from start to finish. The characters move with impressive fluidity and expressiveness, whether they're fighting monsters or walking down a hallway. There's a strong directorial eye that, while a bit overactive at times, has a keen instinct for dynamic action and comedy. The designs aren't my cup of tea, but are rendered beautifully. The action scenes are filled to the brim with striking cuts that bring the danger and magic of the world to life beautifully.

It's just a shame that all that juice is in service of the most bare bones magic school setup you've ever seen. Stop me if you've heard this one before: a kid who isn't good at magic goes to magic school, where all the elite students and teachers treat him like literal dog shit, but it turns out he's got a secret special power that is way betterer than any of their dumb magic! With his incredible power that everyone underestimates, he'll become the greatest wizard ever, and prove all the haters wrong until they're shivering and pissing themselves in awe of his secret badassery. It's so played out and hollow that no amount of visual polish can make the story or characters interesting.

Take Will, for instance. He should be easy to root for – an eternal underdog who's belittled by his teachers and peers, but harbors an honest dream of overcoming his weaknesses. However, the sheer amount of unwarranted hatred every Bad Guy harbors for Will in particular only serves to make him less interesting. It reinforces the idea that all of this world's morality revolves around its protagonist: Good Guys are nice and supportive to Will, Bad Guys are mean jerks who knock his lunch tray out of his hands. When Will shows them up, the Bad Guys get so furious they bang on desks and yell and bleed from the mouth. It's so hollow and artificial that it cheapens whatever parts of this world might actually be interesting.

There's also not much to the world outside of Will, so far. There's some interesting ideas, like ancient space invaders being kept back with a magical, artificial sky, but most of our time is spent in the vaunted halls or dank dungeons of Anime Hogwarts. The characters who aren't total assholes to our protagonist are defined by how they either defend or support him, be it his female classmate, stern advisor, or the magical genius he made a childhood promise with. The most interesting relationship is between Will and his magic cat(?) because at least the cat can sass him a bit. Will himself is likable enough, but not a strong personality capable of carrying a show full of cardboard cutouts on his own.

I guess I can recommend this if you just want something cool to look at, so long as you're content with following a story where nothing interesting happens. If you're just really aching for magic school and action, this will give you both in excess. Otherwise this might be better experienced as out-of-context clips on social media.


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Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

This is one of the best-looking episodes to premier, and if it had the story to back that it, it would be incredible. Sadly, the plot is definitely lacking; it's at this point a bare bones magic school underdog story. Will Serfort is getting by at his prestigious magic academy by dint of book learning and sheer effort, which naturally gets him bullied by his peers and some of the faculty. He's remarkably skilled at what he can do, but people would rather focus on what he can't, and that sets the stage for a story we've seen at least a dozen times before.

The prejudice this time comes from Will's lack of innate magical talent. He has no ability to use magic whatsoever, and though he's well-versed in the academics of the issue, practical skills are much more valued. The story does make a solid attempt to explain why that is: humanity, in the distant past, was tormented by their gods, who cut off access to the sky under a thick blanket of sickly-looking clouds. When five mages fought the gods and broke through, creating what I suspect is an artificial sky barrier, keeping the gods out and giving the people light, it only makes sense that magic users would become objects of reverence, if not outright worship. Corollary to that, other skills lost respect, and thus Will's incredible fighting prowess isn't valued, even though in this episode he amply demonstrates that it's worth something.

The underlying theme, therefore, is likely to be about overcoming bias and learning to recognize that magic isn't the only worthwhile skill. That's right in the title: it's a tale of both wand and sword, and the implication is that Will's dream of reuniting with his childhood friend Elfie is going to facilitate that societal change. It's not a terrible premise, it just isn't one that seems to merit the incredible care and flair that went into animating its first episode. But it also feels ridiculous to complain that something looks better than it “deserves,” because really, all anime ought to look this good, plot notwithstanding. It's almost worth watching this simply for the visuals. Yes, the characters are stock and there's a familiar schlock quality to the villains – Will's ambition is balanced by his goodness while bad actors Sion and Professor Edward are painted as incapable of change and threatened by the mere thought of it. Colette is the standard cute classmate, and from what we know of Elfie, she's almost literally on a pedestal, placed there by the reverence her magic skill affords.

I suppose the message here is, don't watch this for the plot. But do check it out to see Will's fight against the monster towards the end.


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James Beckett
Rating:

In the end, execution really does trump everything. Wistoria: Wand and Sword is one of those shows with a basic premise and setting that we've seen done a million times before. It's a world of magic schools and fantastical powers where the only way to slay giant beasts and other horrible foes is to become the sorcerer supreme…except our hero, Will Serfort, has a different set of skills. In this case, while Will absolutely sucks at magic — to the point where he is a laughingstock of Rigarden Magical Academy and is in danger of flunking out entirely — he has a talent that the people of his world simply cannot appreciate until they see it for themselves: he can hit things ridiculously fucking hard with his giant sword.

There is no shortage of overpowered protagonists living in somewhat generic fantasy worlds for us to choose from these days, but what sets Wistoria apart from so much of its competition is the uncommon amount of effort and confidence that is dripping from every single frame of this production. It isn't just the fact that the sakuga goes all-out in the fantastic actions scenes, either; there are simple scenes of characters moving about a room or speaking to others that are framed and animated with a shocking amount of care and precision. As a result, this otherwise familiar story feels lively and new, because your eyes believe in the story that is transpiring on screen. It's one thing to get a couple of great shots of Will going absolutely H.A.M. on that Baskerville monster down in the dungeon. It was when we got an equally lush cut of Professor McNotSnape storming away from Professor McWe'veGotDumbledoreAtHome in a huff that I knew Wistoria was something special.

I have two reservations holding me back from being over-the-moon for this one. The more minor worry is that Studio Actas and Bandai Namco Pictures simply won't be able to commit to this level of gorgeous animation and direction consistently throughout the season. Even if the show does dress to impress week after week without fail, though, my bigger concern is that the show's characters won't be up to the task of making Wistoria a story truly worth remembering. As a hero, Will is perfectly fine; I appreciated that his literal weakness in magic was compounded by the moment of personal weakness he experienced when he was trying to decide whether it was worth saving Diet Malfoy down in the dungeon. His motivations are rooted in the same old vague childhood promises to mysterious girls who pop in for the occasional flashback, though, and every character around him is so far merely occupying the same old tropes we've been living with for decades. I'm more than happy to chow down on a short season's worth of beautiful junk food; don't get me wrong. I just like it when I can expect something with such classy packaging to contain equally classy substance underneath.



Disclosure: Bandai Namco Filmworks Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., is a non-controlling, minority shareholder in Anime News Network Inc.

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