2020 has been a good year for anime. With many different shows that have tickled the fancies of several different genres. There has been some greats, some really greats, and some clunkers. However there wasn’t been a show much like the one we are discussing today. A show that in many ways people made out to be something it wasn’t, but is also something pretty damn special. After the cut, let’s take a dive into the 2020 Winter series: Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina
I think in many regards, most of the viewers who watched Wandering Witch were expecting a different show. Like most magical girl shows, they expect Elaina to fly around on her broom, gleefully solving other people’s problems. That she would be going to the downtrodden or woe begotten and cheering them up, telling them that everything is Daijobu, and then moving onto the next problem. It would be a kind and fluffy series in the veins of BOFURI and others, a sort of pick-me-up after what has been a rough year. In reality, Wandering Witch is not that at all. It is at a few times, but what this anime is, is a show about life.
And life can be cruel. It can be merciless, it can be joyful, it can be humorous, it can be terrifying, it can be uplifting, and it can be dismissive.
All of those aspects are shown, some better than others, in The Journey of Elaina, as it follows the titular witch on her world travels after becoming a witch (and getting a lesson in failure) For 12 mostly stand alone episodes, we see Elaina get into a variety of adventures that cover all the aspects of life. One week she can be gleefully stomping her feet on grapes to make wine, when in the other she can be helping a woman seek vengeance against a dragon, only then to watch her descend into complete insanity. Another episode has her going into the past to stop a deranged serial killer, and the next she’s trying to stop a love potion going out of control. The show is that varied, with Elaina jumping between events that either horrific, depressing, uplifting, or just plain funny. Yet through all of them Elaina stays true to herself, an outside observer, someone who is not getting involved, or too attached.
That type of character beat has been difficult for some to adjust to. Like I said before, many though, or perhaps wished that Elaina would help solve all of their problems. Yet like with the episode involving the Princess and the Dragon, Elaina quickly sees what results when she does tip the scales. Other times, like when she stays with a family who has as young woman enslaved, she sees that the damage is already done, and she can’t take responsibility. It is a bitter pill to swallow, because no matter how much you want Elaina to help, there is little that can be done, she’s just not that kind of person, and Wandering Witch is not that kind of show.
Yet, it also makes Elaina a character who feels completely unique in a genre that has pretty much covered the gambit of magical girls. Elaina is confident, perhaps even cocky at times. She’s egoistical, always talking about her beauty, she doesn’t back down from a challenge, and she is almost cruelly detached from the world. There is a degree of selfishness to her character shown throughout that not only makes her feel human, but also endears her to the audience. It’s not her job to try and change the world, she lives in a world of witches, there are other people to do that. She just wants to see the world and follow in the footsteps of her idol. It makes for a character that I haven’t really seen in anime before, who might be undeveloped to some, but to me represents a more realistic view of how teenager might act in this world. It’s a fascinating idea.
And that is really how I can sum up The Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina. It’s a fascinating and intriguing anime, taking you on a ride through life that mirrors so much of our own. The cruelty, the joy, the horror, the sadness, the comedic and sometimes the boring. Like with all our lives, there will be the good moments and bad moments, but Wandering Witch is able to touch them all with varying degrees of success. I will not say the show is anime of the year, it does feel a little too uneven at times. But it is has been one of the only real contenders (in my view) to the current frontrunner, that doesn’t have its second half coming out next year. This is a show that I knew would end up being 2020’s sleeper hit, and it didn’t disappoint. I do hope that this isn’t the last time we follow this wandering witch, because I am sure the journey is just getting started.
Just don’t expect to see any panties…