Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
The Complete Series BD/DVD
Ryu Yamada thought that high school would be a good chance to shed his punk reputation and make some friends, but that isn't precisely working out for him. His life is pretty miserable until the day when a chance tumble down the stairs with honor student Urara Shiraishi ends with them kissing and switching bodies. It turns out that Shiraishi is one of the school's seven witches, and Ryu has a unique power similar to theirs. Together they and student council member Miyamura restart the school's supernatural studies club in order to research the witches – but someone high up in the school hierarchy would really prefer that they leave well enough alone.
For fans of Miki Yoshikawa's source manga, twelve episodes may feel like not quite enough to do even the first major story arc of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches justice. It is clear that a fair amount is left out even if you aren't familiar with the original story, because there's a lot of jumping from scene to scene without quite enough information or set up. But this anime adaptation of the comedy series still does a good job at mostly only cutting out parts that served little actual plot purpose, making this a surprisingly fun series.
The plot of the story is at its heart simple: Suzaku High School has seven magical powers that are given to the incoming students who seem to need them the most. The girls (because although there are a couple of boys with powers, they aren't considered witches, something never satisfactorily explained) keep those powers for all three years of high school, and they can be used by kissing someone. That's why Urara Shiraishi, the quiet honor student who is protagonist Yamada's first witchy encounter, has no idea that she's a witch into her second year – she has no one to kiss until she and Yamada tumble down the stairs and accidentally brush lips. Suddenly they've switched bodies, something that can only be reversed when they kiss again. As they try to figure out what's going on, they encounter Miyamura, a second year on the student council. He fills them in, but he has a condition: he wants them to help him start the Supernatural Studies Club back up to find the other six witches, thus dramatically increasing his chances of being named the next student body president.
From this point on, the plot spirals out in a variety of bizarre directions, each dictated by a witch power. Mostly this is used for comedic effect, and it largely works. The charm power, which makes the kissee fall in love with the kisser, is particularly funny, especially when Miyamura is under its spell, largely because he turns out to be quite the aggressive romancer. This does raise an uncomfortable specter of consent issues, of course, and while Miyamura's used strictly as comedy and never really does anything, the story is based on the idea that Yamada has to kiss a variety of people who may or may not be willing to do so in order to progress the plot. It therefore becomes important to note that Yamada always tries to get consent before kissing someone, and if they say no, he generally tries to find another way to solve the problem. Other witches are less careful, and they're largely painted as less responsible than those who secure consent.
Most of what has been cut in order to fit the anime into the required number of episodes are gag bits, which is a shame, but largely doesn't cause the actual plot to suffer. It is around episode six that things start to feel rushed, but again, it isn't so bad as to make the story feel like it doesn't work. What's more interesting to notice is the way that the boys act during the initial episodes when body swapping is the only power accessible to the main cast. While both boys and girls are curious about each other's bodies (Shiraishi's look down Yamada's pants when Miyamura's checking out his junk is a nice touch), the girls don't seem concerned about acting “masculine” while in a boy body. The boys, on the other hand, attempt to act “feminine” (although “girly” might be a better word here) – waggling their hips and pitching their voices higher and batting their eyelashes like they're trying to put out a fire. This suggests that they've either rarely interacted with girls or paid them any real attention, although it could also be read as them feeling more social pressure to act properly in female form. Interestingly enough, they also don't like being touched while in girl bodies; while it's probably meant to represent that they're guys on the inside, it still makes a very interesting statement.
There's a bit of a fun bonus for fans of Fairy Tail who watch this show in that not only was Miki Yoshikawa Hiro Mashima's assistant (which explains the similarities in their art styles), but the English dub features the voices of Gray and Natsu as Yamada and Miyamura. If you've ever wanted to hear Natsu say lines to Gray like, “This is for you. It's a wiener,” now is your moment. On the whole the dub is very strong, with only one character standing out as particularly irritating. In all fairness to Rachel Glass, Maaya Uchida's version of the character is also annoying, we're just more willing to accept a high squeaky voice in Japanese than English. The only strong sub-over-dub preference is Jun Fukuyama's Yamazaki, which, while not his most impressive role, is still a tough act to follow.
The animation is decent here, with most of the problems stemming from walk cycles; episode ten is the worst offender on this front. The colors are almost shockingly bright, making it very clear to the audience who really is a witch based on hair color, which perhaps wasn't the best plan. There are some nice details in the art, like Yamada's yakisoba bread body pillow, which no one ever comments on, and the decorations in a given club room, making the show look good overall.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is an entertaining adaptation of a good manga. Delivery in both language tracks ensures that the comedy comes across well, and the show balances its humor with the romance between Yamada and Shiraishi fairly well. The late-breaking tragic elements don't come across quite as well as the show is officially pressed for time, but as far as a fun supernatural comedy goes, this is a nice example.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Story works even with major edits from the source material, genuinely funny as a comedy
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