This article is part of a series on Witchcraft Works Manga.
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There's a few ways to take a stock story and make it interesting again. One is to change up a single of the more predictable elements — make one half of the buddy cop team an alien, for instance. The other is to bring a radically new perspective to the material, to observe it through different eyes and thus see things that previously went unseen. Witchcraft Works makes its debut firmly in the first category, but there's nothing saying that in time it couldn't evolve into the second. For now, though, it's a lively story that moves at a decent clip, and it's not hard to see how it gained enough of a fanbase to garner an anime adaptation as well.

In fact, the basics of the story are high-concept enough that a live-action production might not be far behind either. Honoka, a high-school boy with no particular distinguishing characteristics, lives in the shadow (along with most of the rest of the class) of Ayaka, the school's most popular female student. Icy and removed to all and sundry, she shatters that mask good and proper when Honoka finds himself under attack by a coven of magic-slinging witches. Ayaka's a witch herself, you see — a fire-slinger who is a member of the guild of world-protecting "Workshop Witches", and whose mission is to protect Honoka at all costs from the likes of the "Tower Witches". The baffled Honoka doesn't like the idea of Ayaka sticking her neck out for little ol' him — no, not even when a cadre of Tower Witches are enrolled in their school and are operating in plain sight — and insists on becoming her disciple.

This is an amusing premise, and Works is well-constructed to take advantage of the humor in all of it. Some of that comes out of the story's role reversal: a hapless male protected by a powerful if emotionally distant female, instead of vice versa. According to the notes at the end of the manga, this was in fact a last-minute change, with both characters originally being female — although having Honoka be male still works, in big part because his character is dictated less directly by his sex than by his attitudes towards life. That said, a female character in the same situation would express her own haplessness differently, and so I'm hoping out of that kind of difference the story will eventually find more to say about its characters.

I never like to find fault with the art in any manga, but Witchcraft Works has one demerit that deserves talking about if only because I see it so rarely. It's not that the art is bad; in fact, the designs and the level of detail in every frame are both remarkable. The downside is Mizunagi's sense of staging and blocking during action scenes. Sometimes the level of detail is so high it actually obscures what's going on instead of allowing it to come through naturally, and a few panels are laid out so bafflingly that I found myself re-reading the pages before them several times to try and figure out what precisely was going on. (Yasushi Suzuki's Purgatory Kabuki suffered from the same problem.) It's nothing that can't be fixed in future volumes, though, and I hope that turns out to be the case. A good art style shouldn't be a victim of its own best qualities.



About the Author

Serdar Yegulalp (@genjipress) () is Editor-in-Chief of Ganriki.org. He has written about anime professionally as the Anime Guide for Anime.About.com, and as a contributor to Advanced Media Network, but has also been exploring the subject on his own since 1998.
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