Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
by Paul Jensen,
I have to give Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches some credit: the show's title offers a concise summary of the premise. The main character is a guy named Yamada, and he spends most of the series interacting with seven witches. At a basic level, we all got exactly what we signed up for. Still, now that the final episode is over and done with, I can't help but feel like I've only watched half of a show.
As you might expect, it's all about the ceremony this week. Yamada needs the help of all seven witches to cancel the memory wipe, and step one involves getting Saionji on his side. With a tentative bargain struck, Yamada rescues Shiraishi and completes the ceremony pretty easily. Rather than just restoring everyone's memories, however, Yamada changes the plan at the last minute. He gets rid of the witch powers altogether, bringing his friends back to normal and freeing the witches from the inconvenient side effects of their abilities. Just about everyone gets the outcome they wanted, and the episode ends with Yamada and Shiraishi finally admitting that they like one another. Time to roll the credits and call it a day.
If you're hoping for a thrilling conclusion where the heroes snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, you might want to dial those expectations back. The show makes a cursory effort to keep things exciting, but everything falls neatly into place before any substantial tension can be built up. The cost of Saionji's loyalty is pretty low considering that Yamada's going to restore everyone's memories anyway. Outmaneuvering the student council and bringing Shiraishi back to school also turns out to be an easy feat. Rather than overcoming obstacles, Yamada and company simply work their way through a checklist of tasks before they performing the ceremony. Go here, talk to this person, save the day, and remember to pick up some eggs on your way home.
Saionji's connection to the student council gives her a bit more depth as a character, but the history behind the supernatural studies club is more of an outline than a story. It's clearly been cut down to fit into the show's dwindling supply of screen time, and the result is a chunk of backstory that lacks any real emotional impact. Rather than trying to condense the source material, I wonder if the series might have been better off going in its own direction here. As it stands, the audience is left to scratch their heads and mutter, “Oh, I think I get it now,” instead of actually sympathizing with the characters.
The good news is that the show manages to pull it together once the ceremony gets going. After everything that's happened, it's pretty reasonable for Yamada to wonder if Saionji thinks she benefitted from having her power. As soon as she gives her answer, it's clear that Yamada's going to use his wish to get rid of everyone's abilities. His decision plays nicely into the ongoing theme of supernatural powers being more of a treatment than a permanent cure for the characters' problems. Now that everyone's found somewhere to belong, Yamada realizes that their special abilities are no longer worth the trouble they cause. The show's painting in broad strokes here, but it's still a more human ending than you might expect from a series like this. Rather than letting the mayhem and hijinks continue on indefinitely, everyone gets a chance to move on with their lives. Given that everything started with Yamada and Shiraishi switching bodies with a kiss, it's fitting that the story ends with the two of them kissing and staying themselves.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches came into the season with plenty of good ideas, but it never quite overcame the challenge of fitting twenty-four episodes worth of plot into twelve. It's a pleasant little diversion, but it falls too short to merit a wholehearted recommendation. Anyone intrigued by the premise would be better off seeking out the original manga instead of watching this bare-bones adaptation.
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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