Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina ?
There were a million possible ways I imagined Wandering Witch to end, but I gotta say, Elaina literally sleeping with herself was not one I expected. I mean, it makes sense: one of the only consistent personality traits of our heroine has been her astronomical self-esteem, and admittedly she does look pretty cute with the shorter hair, so I suppose I can understand where she's coming from. Still a very odd note to end this whole tale on, though.
Odd is actually the word to describe most of this finale, really. The opening moments show Elaina reflecting on her journeys so far, describing them as a series of meetings and partings defined by an infinite number of choices, and for a moment I wondered if we'd just be ending this show on a recap. But then Elaina flies into a foreboding place called “The Country Where Wishes Come True” and is immediately greeted with 15 different Elainas. That's right, it's a whole Danganronpa of Elainas, and I was instantly bracing for some kind of wholesale slaughter of self vs self infighting. Instead we got about 8 minutes of repetitive, tired jokes about how each of the many Elainas was a one-dimensional stereotype, some of them literally embodying the same stereotype because I guess coming up with 15 different jokes is really tough. Like last episode's body-swap gimmick there's room where this could be a funny or charming romp, but it's too half-baked to really leave an impression outside of the sheer amount of time it takes up.
Things at least pick up a little once Dark Elaina, complete with an angsty haircut, arrives to kick everyone but Elaina Prime's ass. What ensues is a mostly simple but beautifully animated magical fight that once again made me wish this series was better than it is. All of the pieces are here for a series that's fantastic in every sense of the word, but it only rarely reaches those highs for isolated sequences. The conflict with Evil Elaina (Evilaina?) is also something that could have been interesting if it wasn't forced to share time with the rote, one-off joke characters in the same episode. Like hey, one of the most recurring complaints about your heroine is that she's kind of an emotionless cipher who never seems effected by the often dark things that occur to/around her? And you just introduced a parallel universe version of her who is seriously disturbed by her adventures and violently lashes out at her relatively innocent counterparts? Surely there's something you can do with that to say something meaningful or reflective about who Elaina is as a person and what she might feel about all the things she's seen and done. Surely!
Well, ok, the show does try a little bit, but again it's undercut by the dearth of screentime, and our undercooked heroine. Elaina realizes she and Evilaina have both made the same wish as all the others – they each wanted to see what could have been if they'd made different choices in their own stories, to see what they might have become in another life. It's an interesting idea, and jokes aside the resolution is at least a little sweet. If the series had managed to more consistently execute its ambitions or land its morals I might even be tempted to call it a fitting final episode. But as is it largely feels like navel gazing that accidentally(?) ends on the hilarious implication that our narcissistic heroine literally fell in love with herself. Which honestly is probably the best ending you could hope for no matter how you feel about this series or its lead character. Of course Elaina's going to fall in love with herself. She's been doing that from the beginning!
Though that isn't technically the ending. Instead we get a sequel hook where Elaina runs into a mysterious girl named Amnesia, and the two end up accidentally swapping biographies. I can already tell how that story's likely to play out, based on everything else I've seen, and frankly if this production staff wants to work on anything else besides a season 2 I'm not going to complain. Wandering Witch was a series with a few notable highs, some frankly miserable lows, but my lasting impression of it will likely be defined by its mediocre middle entries and surprisingly lack of variety for an anthology show. There's just not as much to this show as there should have been, and that taste of disappointment is probably my biggest takeaway from this whole season.
Still, gotta respect that hat.
Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina is currently streaming on Funimation. Save on Anime Streaming Subscriptions with Funimation.
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