The Magic of Witch Craft Works

ayaka kagari carrying honoka takamiya, honoka takamiya, ayaka kagari, witch craft works, witchcraft works

“With this magic I have, I can show you what’s possible.”

-“Sweet Witches,” f(x)

The basic premise of Witch Craft Works is similar to that of a shounen harem comedy, where the generic male lead, Honoka Takamiya, is surrounded by females all wanting him for reasons we cannot possibly fathom because he is so bland in character. Naturally, his fan club includes the most popular, beautiful, and intelligent girl in school – Ayaka Kagari, called “Princess” by her classmates – along with a group of new female transfer students. All of the females in question are witches, making them even more special than self-described “ordinary high school student” Takamiya.

That being said, it’s hardly a harem, and my own experience with Witch Craft Works has been more similar to watching a shoujo romance with the genders of the lead characters reversed than a shounen comedy. It is through this lens that the true magic of the series blossoms.

witch craft works, ayaka kagari, kagari, shoujo sparkles and roses

The most obvious clue that Takemiya is our would-be heroine lies in the fact that Kagari calls him her princess, swearing to protect him from harm. However, the series drops a few hints prior to this event, including the visual cue of flowers and sparkles that surround Kagari above. Traditionally, this type of visual direction is used in shoujo romance. More specifically, it is implemented when the heroine of the series is looking at her male love interest. For an example, another recent series, Engaged to the Unidentified, applies the same visual cue for comedic purposes, with the heroine yelling that such trappings make her preferences too obvious.

witch craft works, witchcraft works, princess carry, ayaka kagari, honoka takamiya, kagari carries takamiya bridal style

Additionally, Witch Craft Works positions its two leads similarly, with Kagari taking what is typically the male position, while the blushing Takamiya is shown to be under her protection, cradled in her arms. Standing a full head taller than him, Kagari carts Takamiya around bridal-style at least once per episode, much like a storybook prince would carry a princess. Takamiya is also bullied in the same way that a shoujo heroine would when they dare to get close to the school idol. Much like the girls surrounding Kazehaya in Kimi ni Todoke agree that he is so perfect that he belongs to everyone, Kagari is “everyone’s Kagari,” deemed too perfect to be in a relationship with any one person. Kagari arrives at school with a cooing entourage of females, rivaling the fanfare in an episode of Hanazakari no Kimitachi e. Each of these choices further cement Kagari’s role as a pretty boy school idol.

witch craft works, witchcraft works, ayaka kagari, honoka takamiya, kagari teaches takamiya how to hold a racket, tennis

Most importantly, all of these visual or dialogue cues are not played up for fanservice or laughs as much as they set a standard for Kagari and Takamiya’s relationship. As shown above, Takamiya is firmly in awe of Kagari, often blushing in her arms like a shoujo heroine in the arms of her designated prince. Yes, Takamiya is “special” in that everyone wants a piece of him for his suddenly-relevant hidden power, but he gains none of the control that a shounen harem lead does, with girls throwing themselves at him for whatever reason. He is dependent on Kagari, his protector and knight, while the other female characters in the series take no romantic interest in him – save for, unfortunately, his sister – and would rather him dead than in their beds. In fact, they express more romantic interest in Kagari than Takamiya, which makes sense due to how powerful she is.

Returning to the character of Takamiya, it’s interesting to note how one could change a few details and suddenly the series becomes a harem romance. Add a bit more fanservice, make the Tower Witches more interested in sleeping with him than killing him, and Witch Craft Works is Infinite Stratos with witches instead of robot pilots. In this scenario, one barely has to change Takamiya’s character. He could have the same exact characterization with slightly different positioning – falling into Kagari’s breasts instead of her arms – in relation to the female characters within the series. In both cases, as a would-be shoujo heroine or harem protagonist, his character would remain the same. Presumably, both archetypes are designed to be relatable audience insert, making it easier for the reader to immerse themselves in the narrative. However, as that article notes, Takamiya asks the more self-deprecating questions rather than more pertinent ones, framing his relationship with Kagari with his awe that one such as her would be drawn to an average guy like himself.

It’s frustrating because so many shoujo heroines are like this. Similarly, albeit spiced up with a dash of perversion, harem protagonists are like this as well. In swapping the genders but keeping the same roles, Witch Craft Works highlights just how obnoxious this thought process can be.

witch craft works, witch craft works episode 3, ayaka kagari, kagari, fire witch, honoka takamiya

Witch Craft Works was initially meant to be a yuri manga, with Takamiya as a female along with Kagari. Additionally, it is hinted that Kagari and Takamiya’s mothers had a romantic relationship with each other and, as they could not marry, decided to marry their respective daughter and son to each other. Witch Craft Works is hardly revolutionary in its swapping of gender roles; however, it does invite discussion, especially with its many shoujo trappings. My hope is that, along with being a fun and colorful ride, Witch Craft Works will show us the magic of what is possible when one plays with established tropes.

11 comments

  1. Great post as always😀

    Ahhh yes J.C. Staff handles their magical side of anime really well! I mean SURE there are some bad ones in their backlog like Familiar of Zero, Shakugan no Shana and of course Index even though I love me some Idex, but I hope they treat Witch Craft works like a Toradora in terms or romances! That said I would love for this to have epic battles mixed in with all the romance to show everyone it is possible to have shounen fights with a touch of romance thrown in.

    You are correct AJ! This series is easily one or two steps away from being a typical shounen ecchi like High School DxD or a To-Love-Ru like series with magic and of course making the girls want to do extra things with the main character besides kidnapping him…

    I do love the five fail witch girls who have been dubbed Team Rocket on our blog because they can never get their plans to work and I think that is really hilarious.

    1. Thanks! I enjoyed writing it. ^ ^

      J.C. Staff, maligned as it often is, was a great choice for this specific work, and they’re doing a really good job with it thus far. As you said, they flush out modern magical settings really well, although nothing beats Academy City in that regard. Another interesting setting comparison is that Witch Craft Works often treats the city like a stage, where larger and larger explosions can go off and no “normal person” will realize what’s actually going on.

      I like that it’s obvious from the get-go that Takamiya and Kagari are into each other, and not everyone is after Takamiya. If anything, as I said in the post, they’re after Kagari. ^ ^

      The five original Tower Witches are hilarious. I also love the random cuts to various other things that different Tower Witch groups are doing too, like that entire scene with the llama. These scenes are also present in the manga, and I like their inclusion, even if they are a bit random.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. The Witchcraft Works manga is published in a seinen manga magazine, so I think this gives mangaka Mizunagi Ryu more freedom to play with tropes compared to the stricter guidelines set out by editors of shonen/shoujo magazines.

    PS. Didn’t know you watched Infinite Stratos, aj! I’ve heard comments on how lousy its Season 2 was, despite love for it among the Japanese fandom. Its Vol 3 DVD sales are 4th highest in Japan(Kuroko’s Basketball is still #1, unsurprisingly.)

    PPS. Kyoani’s Free! Season 2 is confirmed,although no airdates are set yet.

    1. That’s entirely possible, especially as it was originally meant to be a yuri manga (I have yet to find out why Takamiya’s gender was changed in pre-production).

      As for Infinite Stratos have not watched more than four episodes or so of the first season, and sadly that was all I could make it through. I have, however, been spoiled for nearly every single development thanks to Twitter. As an aside, I did somehow make it through all of Ladies vs. Butlers. *shrug*

      I’m excited, although I still have to finish Free! season one…maybe this weekend, or something.

      Thanks for the comment, as always. ^ ^

  3. That’s a great observation. It really is like a genderswapped shoujo romance. Which completely explains why I hate it.

    I’d like to say it would have been better as yuri, but if Kagari’s character didn’t change I highly doubt it.

    1. Hehehe. A lot of people take issue with Kagari’s character, and I know you dislike her for a lot of the same reasons one would dislike the typical hero of a shoujo series. For me personally, I like how Kagari’s existence calls to mind a lot of these shoujo stereotypes. I too, would like to see something different, especially in terms of manga/anime that markets itself towards a female audience. Someone on Twitter made the comment (and I’m paraphrasing) “Yeah, you’re sick of these bland leads? Well SO ARE WE!” in regards to the negative response to Kagari’s bland nature and ability to do everything/anything.

      I don’t think the series will go as far as to make an incisive commentary, but I appreciate it for bringing these thoughts to mind.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. I’ve also found this gender-swapping pretty interesting, though as you say, outside of that the show has a pretty tried-and-true shell. I’m enjoying the show well enough for its solid direction and comedic timing, but it’d be great if they actually went somewhere with this reversal.

    1. With the manga still ongoing and the anime only slated for 12 episodes, I don’t have especially high hopes but we shall see. Regardless, much like you, I’m enjoying the series for what it is. I do think that said “tried-and-true shell” is an important framework to view the series through if it does do anything interesting with the gender swap. Currently, I simply appreciate what I does bring to mind in terms of just how close a stereotypical shoujo heroine is to a current shounen harem one (and how, while I’m meant to identify with the former, I don’t at all).

      Although there’s one thing that irks me beyond belief and does not belong to the typical shoujo love story: that blasted imouto character. Yuck.

      Thank you for commenting. ^ ^

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