Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
by Paul Jensen,
What the heck happened this season? So many of the shows that looked like fun diversions a few weeks ago seem to be running on empty, desperately trying to coast through their last few episodes. While I don't think Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is the worst offender of the bunch, there's still cause for concern here. Most of the show's initial potential remains intact, but it's lost in a sea of mediocre direction.
This episode starts off with a relatively simple request from Sarushima: she's growing tired of her power and wants Yamada to help her find a way to get rid of it. A bit of detective work leads Yamada to Tamaki, another contender in the race to succeed the current student council president. Like Yamada, Tamaki doesn't have a power of his own, but he can obtain one by kissing a witch. The difference is that while Yamada copies the girls' powers, Tamaki steals them permanently. He's willing to take Sarushima's ability off her hands, but only if Yamada helps him secure the presidency by tracking down the seventh (and presumably final) witch. It seems like a good deal until Sarushima's power gives Yamada an ominous vision of what will happen if Tamaki takes over the student council. With Shiraishi's future at stake, it's an all-out race to find the seventh witch.
Things get complicated in a hurry this week, but there's an interesting idea behind it all. Having the witch powers work through a kiss has been a convenient source of comedy throughout the series, but this is the first time the show has acknowledged how annoying it must be for the witches. Having a love life in high school is tough enough without having magical hijinks ensue every time you kiss someone. Sarushima's power is hardly the most obnoxious ability out there, and she's still ready to ditch it as soon as possible. It's an unexpected twist that continues this show's pattern of using the witches' abilities as a useful tool for character development.
This episode's biggest problem is the amount of time it spends running in circles before the plot finally starts to take shape. Yamada and company spend an awful lot of screen time running back and forth between Sarushima, Tamaki, and the student council, but not much actually gets done. The main characters are effectively reduced to middlemen, trapped in an ever-expanding web of bargains, favors, and requests. That might work as the premise of a white-collar office sitcom, but it's just a tedious distraction from the meat of the story here. Most of the dialogue consists of updates on what's happening and what everyone plans to do next, and the characters' individual charms quickly get lost in all the exposition. It's occasionally fun to watch Yamada gripe and grumble about how everything is a pain in the butt, but it's hardly worth the lost screen time.
The soundtrack does its best to make things feel tense and dramatic, but it overplays its hand for the second week in a row. The contrast between the score and the relatively low stakes is almost laughable at times, and these moments of poor direction rob several scenes of their intended impact. If Yamada's fighting tooth and nail to defend his friends, then there's nothing wrong with breaking out the dramatic music. If he's deciding to complete an errand in order to keep Shiraishi from getting stuck with a crappy job, then it's time to dial it back a notch or two.
Good ideas and sloppy storytelling more or less cancel one another out here, leaving this episode in the nebulous middle ground between clever and dull. The good news is that there's a clear path forward for the rest of this story arc as Yamada races to find the last witch. If the series can take that premise and run with it, then all of this setup will have been worthwhile. If not, I'll be itching to send the production staff an invoice for the time I wasted watching this episode.
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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