The Essence of Journey Anime and Why I Dropped Wandering Witch

Maybe this is a surprise to people, though I hope it isn’t, but I love adventure and journey sorts of anime. Anime that are somewhat episodic in nature, but are able to teach you or explore something about a fictional setting or a world. It lays in the essence of a lot of where my tastes lie. Not just because Kino’s Journey (2003) is one of my favorite anime series of all time, but because adventure lies in the essence of a lot of series that I like. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex spends a lot of time exploring its world and it’s a better show for it. Many iterations of Gundam involve people in a space ship traveling from one place to another while trying to fight for survival. Mostly recently, I could talk about One Piece and its large about of islands and countries in it. Lots to consider here.

Just by themselves, adventure anime are a rare sort of commodity and I always appreciate having another one show up. There are reasons for that other then it being my favorite anime. The biggest one is the sense of creativity in them. Each one features a character or a set of characters wandering from one place to a next and that could be it. Simple right? The locations in them could vary so widely from each other that it can make you wonder how they exist in the same show. That isn’t the truth for all of them, but giving writers and creators that since of freedom which can be trusted on adds a lot of intrigue to me and I can’t help but admire giving creators that edge.

In these sorts of stories, the delicate balance on how those shows work is putting the world or location first and then the character we are following second. I am not into these shows to solely learn about the main character unless that is the reason for the show to happen. I want to know where the character is staying, how that place works, or what was left behind in them. Having characters interact with those scenes, locations, scenarios, and such is how you get to know them. Each series, of course depends on what the inherent goals of a series. There are series where each episode takes place somewhere different and focuses on casts interactions too. Those are just as fun to me.

Alright, let’s look at some examples. Lupin the Third is an episodic show where each episode is featured around a heist of some kind and it’s fun to see how these character interact while doing said heist. This is also what Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy, and Samurai Champloo are like as well. Another type of series is like Black Jack (1993) where the point is Black Jack has a new patient everything episode and each episode focuses on the patient more than him. Black Jack is the mouth piece for these episodes to occur, so he naturally fits in the scenarios he is in. This is also like Mushishi with Ginko and the more episodic stories of Violet Evergarden with Violet Evergarden. No matter the case, there are types of shows that I enjoy.

Whatever the case is, knowing the main character, even in small part, is important. How does a character think, react, or what does the main character like doing? Did they pick up a new hobby or are they behaving like they usually do in a different environment. It doesn’t matter if they are the primary or secondary focus, having an actual human being behind the wheel of the show is very important. That character is the avatar of the journey. Not exactly a self-insert, but a familiar reference point and why it’s going on. If that wasn’t the case, then why are they there?

This is the start of my problems with Wandering Witch and why I dropped it after episode 5. I don’t know anything about her other than basic things like she is young, a talented witch, is going on a journey, possibly naïve, and stuff like that. Yes, I get that facial expressions or character animation are a parts of anime, but what is behind them? I honestly have no idea because I don’t understand her. What are her actual thoughts other than facial expressions? She has a journal that she is supposed to record her thoughts on, why isn’t at least narrating each episode like she is writing one? She doesn’t have to say everything, just enough to at least get to know her.

The weakness of Elaina’s character became the most apparent to me in that episode. I mean, is the book the only reason she wants to wander? She isn’t curious at all and just accepts everything at face value. Do you know how boring that is If you think about this a little bit, it’s easy to see Elaina as being a bit selfish and I don’t know if that is true. While episode 5 was the best episode since episode 2, it was lacking so many fundamental things. Yes, she did investigate the magic school because it was magic. That didn’t mean she learned anything about other people in the show. Fran, the witch who trained her, had to tell Elaina about what the fate of the students she is helping train. The hell, man. Haven’t you learned to know just assume yet? No?

Of course, this leads into other attributes of the show as well. What are Elaina’s normal routines like when visiting a place? What does she like to do, see, explore, and whatever else other than magic? We don’t know anything. This show was almost at its half way point. Shouldn’t we know something more about her by now besides the obvious things I mentioned earlier? Fran even asking Elaina about what she likes and Elaina only answering magic and traveling says so many things for me. Elaina is too much of a blank slate who is traveling just to travel. Very shallow, very uninteresting. I don’t care enough for follow her anymore.

I will go on to say that each episode could be so much interesting if Elaina’s thoughts were more heavily focused on in each episode. There is a lot of set up for some great intrigue, thought, sense of philosophy, or how these tales compare to the ones she read as a child. What is seeing them up close and personal like? Yeah. The problem is that we don’t know. To me, Wandering Witch is like two people trying to cut a log in half with those old fashioned two handed saws. One side is doing more work while the other is slacking off and taking a nap. The end result is it the wood is barely being cut, which in this analogy means that the show doesn’t work for me at all. I just didn’t see anything of value in the show, so I dropped it.

So yeah, I haven’t written one of these posts for a while and there are reasons for that. I don’t like writing posts just to ding on shows anymore. I did that a lot in 2018 and while those posts did great, I didn’t feel good about them at all. This is a special case because Wandering Witch is a genre of show that is very, very close to my heart. I just can’t leave this alone, so I am sorry that I bothered or offended any of you in anyway. I won’t be writing this type of dinging post for a long time. At least, that’s the plan. Thanks for indulging my angst and please leave a comment with your thoughts.


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16 thoughts on “The Essence of Journey Anime and Why I Dropped Wandering Witch

  1. I was actually really curious about why you dropped this show and I’m psyched you wrote this post. Great explanation and considering my own preferences, I now know I’m likely to have a similar experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think I’m a bit more sanguine for Elaina than you are. Eps. 2 and 3 have been the best so far and have a strong hint of Kino about them. I think the show is strongest when she gets introspective and that doesn’t happen when everything is sweetness and light. It is at its best when she steps into a drama in progress and isn’t herself the focus of the story. She’s the observer of human nature who will fight to protect herself but isn’t there to save everyone.

    If it had been sweetness and light from the start it would be different. The abrupt change is what I found discomfiting.

    Something frightened the studio away from that track and coaxed them back onto innocuous plots. I still keep watching it because she looks like what I’d expect Irina to look like if she were a wandering witch. And there is also that touch of yuri with the charcoal witch. I’m hoping they have a change of heart and put some darkness back into the show.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. For me, although adventure anime are cool and all, characters are where it’s at. I particularly like to look at how characters differ between adaptions and backstories (the longer but less clunky, the better).

    I currently haven’t watched Elaina’s journey past episode 2, but while watching, I saw Elaina as selfish and a bit smug. Maybe it’s because of the fact I think I have a selfish way of living (in some cases where I don’t know what to say, make it about me and I will start talking, for instance) and I see that in her.

    …Do you like ensemble casts that aren’t hugely developed, because they are trying to emphasise characterisation and/or “letting every character do a bit of something productive, because there’s a fan of basically every character in the fanbase”? I admit a lot of the anime I get behind but don’t generally share with people in AMQ, such as Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru and Idolish7, are like this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t mind ensemble casts that aren’t as well developed as long as they bounce off each other pretty well. Depends on the kind of series it’s going for though.

      Like

  4. I haven’t come back to this after episode two yet – other things just keep coming up, it seems, but I think I might not hurry back, perhaps. It sounds like not enough time spent on character overall.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I seem to be in the minority in that I am enjoying this show purely as something light for a Sunday morning. I hadn’t thought of the points you raised about Elaina not narrating her adventures for her journal but I do have to concur that is an interesting omission to her character.

    There was one thing that bothered me however – how Elaina managed to become a witch so quickly. This show posits the idea that with a bit of training you can be one too, like learning to drive, or playing a musical instrument. I get that for expedience sake in a single cour show they glossed over that bit so they could get to the traveling part but to get a better grip on Elaina’s character, this should have been the format of the first few episodes, then jump ahead in time to when she starts her travels.

    Ack – you’ve got me questioning if the show is any good now…. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hehe! no worries, just kidding! 😛

        Usually when I watch currently airing shows I do so purely for enjoyment and leave the critical thinking for my “official” reviews of UK home media releases. Only if there is something that really sticks out will I take issue, otherwise with a show like this one, I just sit back and let it take me away for 25 minutes. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m really glad you took the time to get this off your chest! It’s an interesting insight into your perspective. It’s also healthy, sometimes, to vent. I say this as someone who reviewed Taboo Tattoo.

    Shudder.

    The points you make are really interesting to me, because some of the things you brought up are precisely why I love the show — only, I’m interpreting them differently.

    I learned something reviewing the last couple of episodes. Namely, my preconceptions — and I have a _ton_ of them — obstruct me in ways I didn’t expect.

    I was having a hard time reconciling some of Elaina’s decisions — she decides not to intervene with the field of flowers on one day, she decides to intervene, reluctantly, on behalf of Mirarosé, on another, for example. I tried to map her motivations and actions, and I was having a bit of a hard time of it.

    Then it dawned on me.

    Elaina might just be the most realistic character I’ve come across in years.

    She’s vain. She’s temperamental. She’s inconsistent. She balled her eyes out in Frans arms in one episode and declared capital punishment was a good idea for a witch who stole her hair in another.

    I can’t get inside her head to predict how she’ll react. Yet, when I conduct a narrative/character intersect analysis (which sounds way more cool than me saying I’m making stuff up), her decisions are are consistent with the character and circumstance. But I can’t predict her. She’s does stuff I don’t understand.

    Just like real humans in my life.

    It also dawned on my why Saya might be my “favorite” character. It’s because I can anticipate what she’s going to do. I know that she’s going to fawn over Elaina no matter what. She’s easy to understand.

    Elaina, the powerful, vain, beautiful, stupidly talented, utterly confident witch? She’s completely beyond me.

    Just like a real person.

    I think the show doesn’t get the credit it deserves for the character of Elaina. But you know what? I might be completely wrong.

    And that’s why I really enjoyed reading your take.

    I’ll just make one plea on behalf of this series: It has inspired posts like ours that are diametrically opposed.

    That’s kind of cool, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

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