Reviewby Theron Martin,
While hardly common, witches are still a known commodity in the world, making various contributions to society from divinations for the lovelorn, delivery services, or even research chemistry. Being a witch can bring great power but also sometimes unfortunate side effects, both physical and social. For Sansu, being ordinary next to her extraordinary witch elder sister might just be her fate in life. For Takuya, being a rare male witch causes him to stick out, so he hides his nature until an encounter with a female witch in high school changes everything. Okuno finds himself blessed to have a young witch in his family, though that blessing comes with a heavy price. Lastly, Saku has fallen in love with classmate Sonoda, who was once a famous witch, only to have Sonoda mysteriously break it off after a year and insist that he forget all about her. But how can he so easily let go of someone he loves?
Witches as commonly portrayed in anime and manga – flying around on a broomstick sporting a long pointy hat – are decidedly a Western phenomenon, but that hasn't prevented them from popping up in Japanese media on a regular basis over the years. Generation Witch is the latest such offering to make its way to the western market. It operates on the premise that tens of thousands of witches live in Japan alongside ordinary people and have been fully integrated into regular life. They're essentially regarded as a prominent minority, and no one thinks twice about seeking one out for a bit of divination or other services. Within this setting, manga-ka Uta Isaki offers up four vignettes that each focus on a different character and how that character's status as a witch or interactions with a witch have a significant effect on their life. One of these vignettes spans two chapters, while the other three are one chapter each.
Though each of the vignettes takes a very different angle on the business of being a witch, they all have one thing in common; the story all comes down to a major twist that's directly related to some consequences of being a witch, which promises to have a profound impact on the life of the featured character. In one case, this is as simple as two witches discovering that their powers are synergistic. Other cases are vastly more charged, such as the one about the witch who looks like she's a child but isn't or the ordinary sister who discovers what truly sets her apart from her hyper-gorgeous, hyper-talented sister. The last and perhaps most poignant case is a more melancholic tale about a lost love, and while the nature of its twist is both telegraphed and familiar, the way it's handled puts a more decidedly magical twist on things.
The quality of the storytelling in these vignettes varies, although it gets progressively better as the volume progresses. It's still peppered with typical manga conventions like side comments and common archetypes, so don't expect anything too fresh, stylistically speaking. There's not much for world-building, either. A couple of introduction pages set the stage, and occasional interesting tidbits are sprinkled throughout, but there's never much effort made to delve much into magical mechanics or elaborate further on the way that magic fits into the modern world. Magic rarely gets ostentatious displays, either; one of the few truly cool moments of magic use involves the Great High Witch remotely addressing the people of the city via a fireworks display. Granted, the focus is much more on the storytelling than the setting, but there is an awful lot of room left for world expansion. Hopefully, we'll see more of that in future volumes.
The artistic effort by Isaki is competent but unimpressive. Character designs have a lankiness typical of shojo romance style. Though the designs are sufficiently cute, they offer little to distinguish themselves from other manga out there beyond the common use of the traditional witch hats, and poses are sometimes awkward. Background detail doesn't get much attention, either. Easily the highlight of the artistry is the appealing color cover art.
Seven Seas Entertainment is releasing the first volume in a format that's physically smaller than a typical manga in both dimensions and page count. Each chapter ends with a humorous and informative page of side panels, and in an unusual move, the author's Afterword graces the inside of the back cover. It's worth reading, as it provides additional details on what Isaki is aiming for.
The next two volumes of the series have already been solicited, and there appear to be five in all, but whether this will continue to be an anthology series or whether the characters portrayed here will be revisited and expanded upon is unclear at this point. Only the story about the paired witches actually feels like it could use more elaboration though, as the others all feel like complete vignettes on their own. Still, while there's a lot of room for improvement here, the ideas presented in these vignettes justifies checking out more.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : C+
+ Interesting twists, some vignettes are even poignant
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