Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
by Paul Jensen,
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches follows a depressingly simple pattern. Whenever the series tries to cram two episodes' worth of material into one, it becomes a bland mess of plot points with no emotional impact. When it only tries to fit one and a half episodes' worth of content into one, as it does this week, it regains some of its charm and humor. If this show had only stuck with the saner pace we saw early in the season, we might have had a modest hit on our hands.
Yamada finally learns the identity of the seventh witch, but the information comes with a warning. Now that he knows who she is, Rika Saionji* will erase all of Yamada's memories concerning the witches and their powers. In a rare moment of brilliance, Yamada finds an obvious loophole: as long he doesn't share the information with the rest of the club, they can just bring him back up to speed once he gets his brain wiped. Unfortunately, Yamada isn't the one who comes down with a case of amnesia. Instead, everyone else loses all memory of who he is. The only person who remembers him is Tamaki, who shares Yamada's immunity to the witches' powers. It's up to this pair of unlikely allies to find a way to undo the spell and bring things back to normal.
I like the idea of switching things up with the memory wipe for two reasons. First of all, it sidesteps the issue of Yamada's copy power. Rater than kissing him and having nothing happen, Saionji just gets rid of anyone who'd believe his story. It's a feasible decision that fills in what could have been a gigantic plot hole. From a dramatic standpoint, this turn of events is much more devastating for Yamada. After several episodes of feeling at home in the supernatural studies club, he's right back to where he was at the start of the series. Now that he knows what it's like to have a group of friends, it's much harder for Yamada to simply shrug it off and play the lone wolf.
Miyamura's shut-in sister is introduced as a warning about what could happen to Yamada, but their conversation at the beginning of the episode doesn't quite work. With screen time at a premium, she's barely able to explain the seventh witch's power before the rest of the cast has to move on to the next scene. A ten second flashback montage isn't enough to make us feel much sympathy for the girl, nor does it give us much indication of what might be in store for Yamada. Instead of coming away from the scene filled with dread over what's going to happen, the audience just ends up with another load of information.
The other member of the Bland Characters Club is Tamaki, who makes for a lame temporary ally. I see the irony of having Yamada work with the guy he was previously competing with, but I'm not convinced that I care. The show never really built Tamaki up as an antagonist, so there's no sense of rubbing salt in the wound when Yamada is forced to work with him. At the same time, we don't know much about the guy, so there's little reason to care that he's also been forgotten by the rest of the school. The chemistry between Yamada and Tamaki is limited at best, and their little resistance movement needs some new members as soon as possible.
There are a handful of quiet moments in this episode, and each one goes a long way toward keeping the show afloat. Yamada's final conversation with Shiraishi before the memory wipe is refreshingly sweet, thanks in large part to the underused chemistry between the two of them. As Yamada sits down to wait for the seventh witch, we briefly share his sense of optimism in the face of danger. In stark contrast to that pleasant moment, the reality behind the memory wipe sinks in through a couple of poignant visuals. As Yamada stands in front of the closed door to the supernatural studies club and later sits alone on the roof, we see just how badly he needed the sense of belonging that the club provided. With a few more scenes like these, this could've been one heck of a story.
Are the issues that plagued the show last week still hanging around? Absolutely. Is the series at least starting to deal with them? Thankfully, yes. It may be faint and flickering, but there does appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel. A strong conclusion would go a long way towards salvaging this show.
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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