With how stale and homogenous fantasy anime is these days (isekai or not), I’ll take just about anything that looks different. Even so, I was drawn towards Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina for its premise – a young witch traveling around the world after coming of age. I’m a sucker for that type of stories.
Evidently, the actual journey promised in the show’s advertising will have to wait as the titular Elaina (Kaede Honod) doesn’t embark on it until the end of the first episode. What we are treated to instead is a sort of origin story for the character where, after becoming the youngest person in history to pass the magic exams, she becomes the apprentice of a master witch named Fran (Kana Hanazawa). Oddly enough though, Fran keeps assigning Elaina on various errands that seemingly have little to no relevance towards the study of magic.
Going in, I had two assumptions as to where this plot would be going. The first is that Fran is pulling a Mr. Miyagi and all the errands she’s making Elaina do would inevitably play some part in her real training or help her become more prepared for her travels. The second is that she has no intention to teach Elaina at all and the premiere did had me fooled as Elaina initially possesses a teensy bit of an ego and Fran does engage with her in a mock duel that bluntly comments on her inexperience. Surprisingly, neither is actually the case. It’s later revealed that Fran got hired by Elaina’s parents to help their daughter learn how to deal with failure and setbacks. The errands are meant to lead into that lesson and Fran only does the mock duel because, to her surprise, Elaina puts up with all the nonsense.
Honestly, that’s a far more interesting direction to take. I really like the idea that Elaina’s biggest strength – her earnestness and determination – is also her biggest weakness and that the lesson she needs to learn is not let that be taken advantage of and speak up for herself when need be. It’s also really interesting that Fran isn’t the perfect mentor and stumbles a bit with her instruction. In her defense, she couldn’t have anticipated Elaina’s tolerance and patience and she did need to do something to get things going but she definitely got carried away and recognize her own mistakes.
Once the two finally see eye to eye, you’re treated to a fun training montage where Elaina receives some actual training from her teacher while also bonding with her. It of course ends with Elaina becoming an official witch, complete with a formal title and no, it’s not “Wandering Witch” (I seriously was expecting a title drop there). The bond between Elaina and Fran ends up being so charming that I kind of wish it wasn’t over so soon. Thankfully, Fran mentions to Elaina to visit her during her journey so perhaps this isn’t the last we’ll see of this character.
I must say: this is a very gorgeous premiere. The art direction alone is superb but technical stuff such as the attention to detail in the environments and the fluidity of the animation shines just as much too. Studio C2C has delivered some pretty good looking shows before but damn, this sets a new standard for their A-game. I might need to keep a closer eye on this studio and I hope rest of the show is on par with this.
Since Elaina only embarks until the very end of the premiere, the real test for Wandering Witch is really at the second episode, not the first. That’ll give us the first real glimpse at the show’s narrative and its execution of it. To the premiere’s credit though, it does successfully get my attention and become invested in Elaina’s character. If the rest of the show is anything like this first episode, I think this is a very solid choice for this Fall season.
Thanks for reading!