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by Rebecca Silverman,

If Witch, Then Which?

GN 1

If Witch, Then Which? GN 1
When they were in elementary school, Maruna saved Haruka's life by donating her blood to him after an accident. Haruka has felt indebted to his neighbor ever since, a feeling she rejects loudly and often. This is at least in part because Maruna comes from a long line of witches and she's concentrating on getting into the local magic school…and given that she can barely control her magic, she needs to concentrate! But when Haruka finds out her secret, he also realizes that he can help her properly use her skills. At last, a way to pay her back – even if it means cross-dressing and attending magic school with a girl who appears to hate him!

If Witch, Then Which? comes from the same creator as Today's Cerberus, and both series share one same strength: the artwork. Ato Sakurai's art is an appealing combination of cute and pretty, detailed but lacking the fussiness that sometimes comes with that. All of the characters are distinct, their school uniforms have attractive features (like the ribbon laced up one side) that aren't overwhelming, and the book is just a lot of fun to simply look at.

This is important not just because manga is a visual medium, but also because the plot of the book takes a while to get going and one of the two leads, Maruna, takes even longer to get to a point where you don't actively want to strangle her. Maruna, for some readers, will be the major barrier to enjoyment for a variety of reasons. The primary one is that she takes the tsundere trope way too far, almost to the point where you have to question when this was initially published in Japan because it feels like a callback to the days when that was the character trope for heroines. (It was published in 2019, so age is not a factor.) She's intensely abrasive, particularly where Haruka is concerned, clearly afraid to admit that she likes him while being all too happy to snub, bully, and put him down whenever the chance arises. Given that he's the sole reason that she's able to attend the magic high school of her witchy dreams, this definitely feels over the top; were that not a factor, his apparently desperate need to “pay her back” for saving his life years ago might make it easier to see how she could find him awkward to be around.

She does, of course, have a reason for her treatment of him, but to call it paper thin is perhaps an insult to paper: she was jealous when she saw nurses fawning over him in the hospital way back when the accident happened. It made some sense when they were ten or eleven and after she initially saved him by volunteering her blood for a transfusion, but to carry that particular grudge into high school without ever actually asking him about it definitely strains credulity. It's also not as if she saw him groping the nurses or kissing them; they were just helping him to eat while cooing a bit, so Maruna's rage feels badly misplaced. Her abrasive attitude really risks derailing the story before it really even gets started.

That's a shame, because the actual plot has potential, although it also comes with its own set of problems. Because of Maruna's low blood pressure, she's unable to properly wield the magic that is her birthright, and all of her training doesn't seem to help, possibly because she's training to raise her blood pressure, which doesn't sound possible. Haruka, however, can raise her blood pressure to the point where she can access and control her gravity-based powers very well – either by making her angry or excited or some combination thereof. While he says that this is all to pay her back for her blood, it's pretty clear that there's another motive behind his actions, especially when it turns out that hugging her does the trick very well. Of course, that does mean that Haruka's no prize of a character either, because his methods of “helping” rely primarily on making Maruna uncomfortable and touching her against her will. Even if we operate under the assumption that Maruna secretly has a crush on Haruka, this is still pretty shady ground, and while he doesn't do anything truly reprehensible, it does add an uncomfortable factor that perhaps didn't strictly need to be there.

In any event, Haruka's plan does get Maruna into magic school, and as an added bonus, it lands him there as well. Because he can't do any magic and she can only do magic with him, he cross-dresses and sells them as each being half a witch; only together can they actually evince witchy powers. Interestingly no one really questions this or whether Haruka is in fact a girl, although the entrance of a new character at the end of the volume certainly stands to change that. In fact, at this point the book is basic magic school fare, with school rivalries (primarily involving the blonde girl with storied heritage who by some strange twist of luck does not wear her hair in sausage curls), broom riding lessons, and of course the panic when Haruka has to have his school-mandated health check.

Despite these issues, If Witch, Then Which? does have some potential. The new character who may know too much could change things up, and there's also the question of whether or not Maruna's blood donation did make her and Haruka two halves of the same witch in reality, since her problems seem mostly to have arisen post-donation. If the meaner aspects can be toned down going forward, this could turn into an interesting entry into the magic school genre. But even if it doesn't, at least it's got that nice art to keep your eyes happy.

Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B+

+ Nice art, story has interesting potential.
Maruna's abrasive and Haruka's tactics are a bit mean, both of which drag the story down.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Ato Sakurai
Licensed by: Yen Press

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