Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
by Paul Jensen,
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is far from the worst show I've ever reviewed, but it might just be the most frustrating. Each week seems to bring a fresh crop of good ideas to the table, and almost none of them are used to their full potential. Every time something catches my interest, the script rushes to upstage it with something less compelling. I'm almost certain there's a good series hiding in here somewhere, and I just want to pound on this shell of mediocrity with a hammer until I find it.
Yamada may have only been looking to copy the charm power when he kissed Odagiri in last week's episode, but that decision turns out to have a much broader range of consequences. He's able to copy the ability as usual, but Odagiri's memories are also restored in the process. She decides to help Yamada and Tamaki out, and the three of them get to work bringing the rest of the witches back into the loop. This doesn't go over well with the student council president, who tries to break up Yamada's ever-growing group of allies. A visit from Saionji sheds some light on why the council is so determined to get in Yamada's way: if all seven witches are gathered together in a certain room, they supposedly have the power to grant any wish. Just when it seems like Yamada and company have a clear solution to their problems, Shiraishi falls victim to her own power and ends up trapped in the student council secretary's body. With everyone's memories on the line, Yamada must find a way to outwit the president and perform the ceremony.
There's an awful lot going on in this episode, and some of it works fairly well. As the first witch to get her memories back, Odagiri faces some interesting choices. She can go on using her charm ability for her own benefit, but it's hard to justify keeping others under her spell now that she remembers how powerful its effects are. She has feelings for Yamada and wants to help him, but she knows she'll be the odd one out if Shiraishi ever gets her memories back. Odagiri ultimately takes the high road in both cases, which is a serious departure from how she acted early in the season. It's a decent bit of character development that helps make Odagiri into a more sympathetic character.
The rest of the cast is all over the map this week, although the memory wipe makes it hard to tell whether or not some folks' actions make sense. Shiraishi in particular is too much of a closed book at the moment. If she still has some lingering sense of how she feels about Yamada, then I'm willing to buy the idea that she'd put up with all these antics. If not, then I can't imagine her so much as giving him the time of day. After all, he's had to do and say some incredibly sketchy things in this quest to restore everyone's memories. If the show would just give us a brief glimpse into what's going through Shiraishi's head, this storyline would feel a lot more coherent.
Whether it holds together or not, this episode consistently fails to focus on its most compelling content. Most of the cast is going through serious and potentially compelling emotional turmoil, but too much of it is swept aside in favor of mediocre plot twists. At the end of the day, it's not terribly important how Yamada goes about getting everything back to normal. This series has always been at its best when it imagines how people would actually react to all this supernatural mayhem, and that strength is going to waste here. Forget all this cloak and dagger stuff and show me more of Shiraishi struggling with the feeling that she's forgotten about something important. Give me more of Yamada and Tamaki bonding over the shared experience of suddenly losing all connection to everyone else at school. A few plot holes are par for the course in this genre, but they're easy to forgive if a show has a strong emotional hook. At the moment, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is trying too hard to think when it needs to just feel.
This story is still staying more or less on the rails, but at this point it's more a case of what could have been. However things ultimately wrap up, it'll be hard not to wonder how much more I would've cared if the writing and direction had been more on the ball. This is one of those cases where “good enough” feels like a letdown.
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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