Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
Episode 1

by Paul Jensen,

Ah, the old body switch gimmick: take two characters with contrasting personalities, swap 'em around, and let chaos ensue. It's a common enough idea that it's been played for laughs, drama, and even suspense plenty of times before. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches leans heavily toward the comedy end of the spectrum, but there's a reasonably clever spark hiding behind all the dumb fun.

As the show's designated duo, Yamada and Shiraishi certainly fit the bill for being polar opposites. Yamada's a slacker and a tough guy who spends more time getting yelled at by his teachers than he does actually sitting in class. Shiraishi, on the other hand, is a straight-laced honor student who always has her head buried in a textbook. Just in case the contrast isn't obvious enough, the show goes out of its way to have a teacher point out the differences between them in this episode's first scene. After a conveniently timed tumble down the stairs, Yamada and Shiraishi wake up to find themselves in one another's bodies.

For better or worse, this series is in a big hurry to get things moving. In the space of twenty minutes, it switches its two lead characters, runs through the usual set of body swap jokes, puts them back in their original bodies, introduces a third character, explains how the body switching works, and has the characters form a supernatural studies club. For reference, it took the original manga somewhere in the neighborhood of six chapters to cover that much material. All that heavy lifting doesn't leave much time for nuance or character development, but there are still some promising signs here.

Most importantly, the show is funny. Most of the actual jokes in this episode are standard fare, but the natural humor of the body switch comes through very well. Watching “Shiraishi” go completely ballistic is a kick, as is seeing “Yamada” ask a serious question in math class. A good deal of credit goes to the voice actors for delivering credible imitations of one another's characters, but the animators also do a solid job of using body language to show us who's really who. As the cast expands and the characters are developed further, there should be plenty of room to keep things fresh and entertaining.

It helps that the series also seems capable of using its supernatural antics for more than just punchlines. A key component of most body swap stories is that in addition to looking down one another's pants, the characters get to take a peek into one another's lives. After spending an afternoon as Shiraishi, Yamada has a much harder time writing her off as a snobby overachiever. For all their arguing, the two of them end up with a sense of mutual understanding, and perhaps even affection. There's some good chemistry between Yamada and Shiraishi that should serve as a solid base for the series to build on.

On the technical front, the show is competently animated but not especially noteworthy. The bright color palette is a good fit for the light tone of the series, and the opening credits do a respectable job of setting the mood. The character designs play close to the standard school comedy archetypes, but it's still easy to tell everyone apart. Assuming the production values hold up, there shouldn't be too much to complain about here.

In some ways, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches resembles its main character: not especially smart or good-looking, but it knows how to have fun. As an adaptation, it's set to please fans of the manga while remaining accessible to everyone else. If it can just slow down a bit and give the cast some room to breathe, it should be a solid addition to the season.

Rating: B

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.

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