Anime, Shows

A Flawed Character Worth Rooting For: Wandering Witch Season 1

Anime Review:

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Season 1

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Entertaining, flawed main character
  • Good storytelling
  • Some strong, impactful episodes
  • Beautiful animation and art style

Cons

  • A little hard to get into at first
  • The episodic feel made it seem a bit plotless and like it was going nowhere

Observations

  • Almost all of the character development focused on one character

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Review

This anime is about a young traveling witch who visits various countries, cities, and towns.

When I started watching this anime, one of my first impressions was that I didn’t like the main character. I simply hadn’t considered her value to the show as someone with obvious flaws yet capable of change and development. It was a simplistic way of approaching the anime and I wish I had thought more carefully about it, because that attitude left me dissatisfied with the first few episodes.

As a writer, I should have realized the reason that Elaina grated on my nerves was not because she was a bad character, but because she was well-written and had a set of flaws composed of ones that annoyed me more than most other flaws would. It’s okay to have a character that is not likable as the main character, as long as she is well-written and has strong narrative purpose. And it took a reminder from my sister and a friend to help me see it that way.

The main reason Elaina bugged me at first was because she is so full of herself, especially as an adult. At the beginning and/or the end of most episodes, she describes herself as beautiful or amazing. For example, at one point she says she is so brilliant, the sun squints involuntarily upon seeing her. At another time, when asked about her specific talents, she says “I’m good at pretty much everything.” Sure, she’s right. She is a prodigy who became a witch in record time. But man, that gets annoying pretty fast.

She was apprenticed to a witch named Fran, who tried to teach her the power of failure by overwhelming her. That was a lesson she wouldn’t really internalize and learn until later, however, when she failed in more significant ways than just being defeated in a duel by a powerful witch.

Her parents have her make three promises when she leaves them to travel the world.

First, to run away from danger. She doesn’t do that very well. Even though she is apathetic most of the time and tries not to get involved in the conflicts and problems of everyday people, she gets in danger plenty of times without running away.

The second promise is not to think of herself as anyone special. I laughed upon thinking back at that one. She failed that promise with style.

The third promise is that she will come back someday and tell her parents about her adventures. She doesn’t do that, either, at least in the first season. She writes and publishes a book about her adventures, if that counts for anything. Perhaps her parents will read it.

She basically fails at all three promises.

It takes a botched mission to make her realize that she is not perfect, and what she experienced during that mission traumatized her. In episode 9, A Deep Sorrow From the Past, Elaina is the Clock Village of Rostolf. She is low on money and must take on a job.

The Lavender Witch Estelle offers her a job. Estelle had a close childhood friend, Selena, whose parents were murdered by a burglar. After their murder, Selena is sent to live with her uncle, who was abusive. Eventually she turned on her uncle and killed him, afterwards becoming a serial killer. She kind of reminded me of Toga from My Hero Academia. Estelle was eventually order to kill Selena, and she did it by beheading her. This traumatic event left Estelle obsessed with finding a way to go back in time and change her friend’s terrible destiny.

When Estelle tells Elaina this story, Elaina appears to be completely apathetic. She is truly only in it for the money.

Estelle reveals that she has found a way to time travel. She has been sacrificing her own blood to get enough magic to prep the spell. She wants Elaina to come with her since she will be drained of magic after the spell. Estelle gives Elaina a ring that allows them to share magic power.

When they go back in time, Estelle convinces Selena’s parents to leave the house so they will not be murdered. Meanwhile, Elaina watches the house so she can catch the burglar. The burglar never shows. Eventually, Elaina notices from the ring that Estelle is using her magic power. She follows the source of magic to find that Estelle is bloodied and lying on the ground next to Selena’s murdered parents.

Selena is standing there with a knife. It turns out she was originally the one who killed her parents, not a burglar. Her father had been sexually abusive and her mother had gotten jealous and hit her repeatedly.

Estelle rises to her feet and starts to strangle Selena with magic. Elaina is horrified that a friend is killing a friend and tries to stop her by taking off the ring. Estelle sacrifices all her fond memories of Selena in order to get the remaining energy necessary to behead her.

Once they return to the present, Estelle has no memory of Selena. Elaina holds herself together until she gets outside, and then breaks down into tears. She recognizes her own failures and is devastated from having watched love turn to hate and from seeing a child brutally killed. She admits to herself that she is inexperienced and occasionally helpless to stop bad things from happening.

The extent to which this experience impacted her is revealed in a later episode, when she enters an enchanted place in which there are multiple versions of herself. One of these versions is violent and exhausted, deeply hurt by what happened with Estelle and Selena. The true Elaina must come to terms with all the versions and aspects of herself before she is able to escape that place. This offers her a sense of closure and helps her move on.

Those were my two favorite episodes, although there were many other good ones. Those were one of the few that seemed strongly connected as well. Most of the season felt somewhat plotless, with Elaina wandering aimlessly to various destinations. Each episode was like a vignette, a piece mostly independent of the others. The episodic feel was interesting, though not always satisfying.

In conclusion, I would recommend this anime to anyone who appreciates somewhat dark anime with an interesting lead character.

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