Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Honoka Takamiya is pretty sure that he's just an average, everyday student at Tougetsu Academy who happens to have the misfortune of sitting next to Ayaka Kagari, the school idol. Then she saves him when a crazy person with fox ears attacks him by dropping a building on him and setting her killer bunny knights against him. It turns out that Ayaka is more than just the school princess – she's a fire witch, and her mission is to protect Honoka from other witches. Now if only she'd tell him why they were after him in the first place...
It's easy not to believe series protagonist Honoka Takamiya when he tells us that he's just an average high school student. Admittedly this is mostly because he's the hero of a manga series, thus dramatically reducing his chances of being as normal as he thinks he is. But until almost the end of this first volume, it actually seems like that might be the case – that he's just some average joe who has somehow attracted the attention of school idol/princess Ayaka Kagari and is harassed as a result...even by witches. While this can be vaguely irritating, mostly because Kagari keeps heavily implying that there is, in fact, something special about Takamiya that she just doesn't want to tell him, it is also kind of a neat upending of the basic supernatural manga trope. Even though there does turn out to be more going on, that Ryū Mizunagi made the attempt to keep it from our view for most of volume one makes Witchcraft Works stand on its own from the very start.
Visually there's something quite different about the book that becomes immediately apparent: Ayaka, the beloved school darling, is Amazonian in her proportions. She stands at least a head above Takamiya, has a full, sturdy figure that is not used for fanservice purposes, and is ludicrously strong both physically and magically. She calls Takamiya her princess, and often ends up carrying him like one in her arms. She has the stoic personality of many a vaguely jerky shoujo lead, swooping in to save the day, telling off bullying fangirls, and never quite letting on whether or not she has romantic feelings for Takamiya. While this certainly isn't the first series to reverse gender roles, I'd still be hard put to refer to Kagari as “masculine” and Takamiya as “feminine.” Their actions may be differently defined, but there's still a clear sense that their sexes and genders line up. While Takamiya does not enjoy being called a princess or being rescued, there's a feeling that his frustration stems more from not really knowing what on earth is going on, and towards the end of the book when he expresses interest in not being so fully dependent upon Kagari, it's because he wants to be a participant rather than someone on the (dangerous) sidelines – not because he resents being rescued. It's an interesting dynamic, and it should make for a more involved story as the series goes on.
The plot about actual witchcraft and what it has to do with anything takes a bit too long to get going, although the book is an enjoyable read despite that. While we could interpret it as Mizunagi trying to pique our curiosity, it mostly feels as if he wasn't actually sure where he was going with the story. Luckily the action is generally good and fairly fascinating in terms of the different witches and their powers, with Kagari's being the most expected. Each witch has a unique look as well that shows in her cape and accessories (can we count Tanpopo Kuraishi's bunny knights as accessories?), with the capes being especially fun to look at – the moment a witch transforms into her sorceress form, her cape sort of sweeps out from her collar with a beautiful sense of movement. Kuraishi's cape is the most remarkable in this regard, looking like it is made entirely from fox tails.
As always Vertical's translation is smooth and easy to read, although some of the details of the art feel a bit small to see clearly. This is not the fault of the printing, however, which is crisp. The tone of the English adaptation is dry, which nicely captures Takamiya's voice and makes the jokes Mizunagi throws in quite funny. (Watch for the visual gags as well – what the hell is Takamiya's hobby?) All in all this book, although it takes its time with the plot, is a good start to a new series that appears fairly promising. It isn't the most comprehensive story, but it certainly has potential in its world and characters, making it worth checking out.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Nice dry tone, interesting roles for the male and female leads. Some gorgeous art and funny gags.
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