Friday, January 3, 2014

First Impressions - Witch Craft Works

Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -6 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -19 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -22

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

To be honest, I'm pretty much of the opinion that if I never see another "He was a normal high school boy living a normal life until she showed up..." anime it'll be too soon for me.  It's probably not much of an exaggeration to say it's nearly impossible to find any new ground here, and that the anime landscape is cluttered with dozens (or hundreds) of these shows from recent years which range from mediocre to putrid.  But Mizushima Tsutomu is the director here, and he's a good one, especially with comedy - Shinryaku Ika Musume, Jungle wa Itsumo Haru nochu Guu, Oofuri, among others.  Of course there's also the last two episodes of Another and all of Blood-C - though Mizushima effectively said he was forced to do what CLAMP told him to do there.

In any event, Mizushima is the reason I'm giving this show a chance, and at least it's a manga and not a LN adaptation.  I think the premiere is pretty indicative of what happens when you take a tired premise and put it in the hands of a stylish director - it's somewhat more entertaining than you expect it to be.  But if there's anything in the source material to allow Witch Craft Works to escape its prison of a plot, it's not too apparent in the premiere.

The aforementioned normal high school boy is Takamiya Honoka (Kobayashi Yuusuke, in his first major anime role) and the girl is Kagari Ayaka (Seto Asami, playing against type).   If there's anything remotely original in the setup it's the degree to which the trope is stretched - Takamiya is a complete schlub, utterly bland and unexceptional, and Takamiya is a badass witch.  Not only that she towers over Takamiya, calls him her "Princess" (which is what the rest of the school calls her), carries him in her arms like a baby and ties his necktie like the bow on the girls' uniform.  We may be in parody territory here, though whether it'll be effective comedically in the long term it's too soon to say.  The norm is so absurd in these types of shows that parody seems almost pointless - like hentai doujins of To Love-ru.

The premiere is pretty fun, in a throwaway fashion.  The parts that aren't bad CGI are pretty nicely animated, the character designs don't look too cookie cutter and Mizushima keeps things moving along pretty briskly with falling buildings and armies of arcane robot bunnies with axes and sledgehammers.  The comic timing, as you'd expect, is very good - the rhythm of the dialogue is better than the words themselves.  As for the plot, it involves Kagari being the "Witch of Flames" and the fact that she must eternally protect Takamiya (naturally) - initially from a rather bumbling rival witch named Kuriashi Tanpopo (Izawa Shiori) who ends up transferring into Takamiya's school with a bunch of her allies after her attempt on his life is foiled by Kagari.

Apart from the extreme gender roles most of the humor in the first ep is derived from the reactions of the students in Kagari's fan club to her association with Takamiya, which follows 100% predictable lines. In fact there's way too much that's predictable here, on the whole.  As much as Mizushima-sensei's impact on the show itself, the draw here for me is curiosity as to what drew him to the material in the first place.  So far, I don't see it - but this was certainly not a bad premiere, so I'll give it another week or two and see where it goes.  On the plus side, the ED is quite catchy and the animation is probably the funniest thing in the episode - though given that it depicts Tanpopo and her cohorts being tortured Salem fashion, it's certainly tasteless.

Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -7 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -8 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -9
Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -10 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -11 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -12
Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -13 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -14 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -15
Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -16 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -17 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -18
Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -20 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -21 Witch Craft Worrks - 01 -23


ED:
Witch Craft Works - ED -1 Witch Craft Works - ED -2 Witch Craft Works - ED -3


19 comments:

  1. While the 'Maria-sama ga Miteru' collar straightening and ribbon tying scene has been parodied so often, it's never quite been parodied as well as it was here.

    I pretty much enjoyed the first episode, but do share the reservation on where it goes from here.

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  2. My thoughts on WCW is the same as the way on the Buddy Complex comments. Any story that has the line, "I'm a normal highschool student-"
    Is given the cut right there and I'm even more pissed with WCW because it's from JC.
    That they can make animes from Ano Natsu to Bakuman to Hatsukoi Limited to SnS and then H&C but chose to make this instead when they only have one other airing show is a insult to what they are truly capable of and as I have always like JC the most of studios, it's really pissing off. I really want to know why JC haven't aired a show on Noitamina for so long considering my two favorite animes on that block were JC ones.

    Instead we get just Silver Spoon (no complaints about it airing) and nothing else for winter and PP2 for some reason in spring with an LN adaptation.

    With HxH likely to end sometime this year too, I see a foreboding trend for 2014; good thing the EPL is so hot this year, there's a WC too, F1 is going through its biggest change in decades and Federer is playing beautiful again.

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    1. Samurai Flamenco is in the other NoitaminA slot.

      I don't disagree with your feelings generally on the premise, but I thought WCW at least had a bit of spark and style than BC lacked. It's the presence of a top director. But that can only take you so far.

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    2. If you ask me, I'd say noitaminA has lost quite a bit of their pedigree as an anime block. Jyu-Oh-Sei is a slight of their beginnings, so I won't count it here; but [C], Un-Go, Psycho-Pass and Galilei Donna aren't exactly top-tier programming in my humble opinion (and I'm not a fan of Samurai Flamenco, either). And those are the lesser slights, because Fractale and Guilty Crown are bad enough to make any noitaminA show deserve bein given a 3-episode probation before considering picking it up.

      At least there's still the silver lining of Silver Spoon.

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    3. I love Un-Go and I actually think it's a good example of the original NoitaminA charter, more or less. But I don't think there's any question that Yamamoto has long since given up on the notion that it can survive in this marketplace doing what it originally set out to do. It's just another anime on the schedule now - or two, or none, depending on the season.

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    4. Un-GO was a great anime, and was my favorite anime of that season when it aired (if memory serves me right). I thought it was the good example of the philosophy noitamina stood for in those days

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  3. well...not a bad premiere but not that good(or even good) either. which is also true for buddy complex.
    and it's OK, even if the season didn't start this good with those 2 series, I never expected them to be something. I have my expectation of this winter to other series.

    as for the premiere itself. well pretty generic and average in terms of plot and characters. I wasn't moved by it or something, nor the characters are intriguing for now. and everything was pretty much expected from the synopsis. nothing in particular I have to say...
    I do must say a word about the action and animation - it didn't look good enough especially the fire stuff. well, it was only pre-air(even if normal 720p) so I am not jumping to conclusions, but I'll examine this in particular when the regular episode will go out.

    as for now I'll follow, but I don't expect this to draw out something so amazing. we'll see how it'll move on.

    p.s
    TBH, I was sure that this series isn't suit your taste (and TBH again, that first paragraph kinda verify my suspicion LOL). and I am still in that opinion...but that's depend on what this series has to offer...

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  4. Maybe I’m in a happy mood, but I had some good fun with this new series despite the abundance of clichés. It had great fast pacing, fun humor and a nice gimmick with the “girl in shining armor” and the “dude in distress”.
    Whether I’ll continue with it depends on where the emphasis lies, since I’m not sure if it’s going to be a harem or a battle magic shonen. In the first case it’s an immediate drop, in the second it might still hold some promise.

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  5. Is it worth it to reverse the "damsel in distress" trope into a "lad in distress" if the focus of the show is still gonna be the lad? Just because you switch roles around doesn't mean you changed the formula one bit.

    Not to mention that the "dame in shining armor" scenario isn't female empowering at all, anyway (servitude of women!). So when you compound this all, we have yet another "super-passive boy meets subservient girl" show. So the formula isn't avoided at all.

    And the other witches? They're the harem. Even if they don't vie for the attention of the male protagonist, enmity is still considered a valid way to portray sexual tension in a work of fiction. So even if they're a "hate harem", they're still a harem. And a harem setting that works in two different directions, to boot - because the apparent sexual tension would be perceived as going towards either the dude or the girl.

    This is the same dish served in a different plate.

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    1. Yeah, actually your way off base on this one. The beginning's a deliberate red herring, the story's definitely not harem, the MC's actually manly, and there's more than school kid jealousy behind the anger.

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    2. Sorry, but playing with tropes is still using tropes. And as I said, the story doesn't need to be exactly the same as the standard harem show for it to have the same effect as a harem show - enmity is still a proper vehicle for UST, even if just "apparent" UST. I bet you can go into Pixiv and look for fanart of this show, and you'll see the same kind of fanart you'd see for any standard harem show - the effect is the same, because the writer of the source and the producers of the show are aiming to attract and please the same audience.

      I never contended that the MC isn't manly (even though I called him super-passive). I just contended that he's still in the spotlight and that his dynamic with the heroine is the same as other fantasy romance shows.

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    3. -But there's no harem whatsoever, zero, nada, zilch, none. In fact you could say it's almost opposite-harem.
      -There's nothing wrong with playing tropes (although WCW subverts them).
      -Fanart has nothing to do with a shows content. If it did One Piece would be filled with romance, the K-On's would be very loose ladies, and tentacles would father millions.

      Just from reading what you wrote you think WCW is a completely different show from what it actually is. That's somewhat justifiable due to how it starts, the first episode does this purposefully, but things are definitely not all that they seem. In a few more weeks you'll realize this is not at all what you thought it was. Give it a chance and even if you don't like it, you'll agree it's unique.

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  6. To be honest the ED just felt odd to me. Almost as if you woke up one morning to discover that someone had put a 18 carved statues of ghila monsters in various dramatic poses all throughout your house. :\

    And the rest of the ep felt... umm... extremely recycled, I guess? I will also give it a try, but atm I amnot expecting Shakespeare. [cough cough]

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  7. This is a battle manga, constructed from standard elements. The art is nice, and when the witches power up they have a bit of a Ueshiba Riichi vibe. There's some humor and romance. But not much harem, even though most of the characters are female. So people who don't care for this sort of thing can stop watching now and congratulate themselves for having such good taste.

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  9. Just a bit of clarification:

    Seto Asami is NOT playing against type here. People who says that obviously don't watch enough of her projects. I think, given that her career started just more than 2 years ago, the characters she played are already very diverse. She acted as Haruna Rin, the tough cold arrogant girl in C3 Bu, tsundere bitchy Asagi in Strike the Blood & later Kurumi in Magical Warfare, shy/soft girl Kagetsu in Rokyubu & Shion in Aikatsu. Sweet nice girl in Cuticle Inaba. Cold mature hard woman in Death Billiard, responsible adult in Symphogear. Young boys in AnoHana (young Yukiatsu), Li Koulan (Magi), Raichi (Aikatsu). Manly girl in Hourou Musuko. Expresionless kuudere girl in Lagrange (a bit similar to WCW but her voice-tone is still different for both).

    I dunno why some ppl associate her just with cheerful/spirited characters. She only done Chihaya, Konatsu, Shoko that fits those bill. But even then, she gave different tone with three of them.

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  10. "He was a normal high school boy living a normal life until she showed up..." - you make it sound like every show that starts with that basic premise can only aspire to mediocrity at best, but surely there are many counterexamples. The one that came to my mind when I was reading those lines was Ano Natsu de Matteru, which I personally didn't think was so great, but I seem to remember it making your top 10 a few years back..

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