This is a very curious episode of Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina. For starters, the A and B parts are self-contained stories tied more by its theme than its continuity. Second, the tone is a lot different from the past two episodes. The episode feels less cutesy and even a bit more cynical.
The first scenario involves a passerby in a flower field giving Elaina a bouquet. Later, Elaina learns that with the exception of mages, the flowers enchant anyone exposed to it for too long and compels them to travel to the field where the flowers assimilate them. The second scenario meanwhile has Elaina meeting a mage Emil who is collecting people’s happiness into a bottle as a gift for his family’s slave Nino. While making a pit stop at Emil’s place, Elaina witnesses the abusive situation Nino is.
In both scenarios, Elaina hardly does a thing to resolve them. The first scenario ends with her witnessing the passerby and her brother (a guard who goes searching for her) assimilate into the flowers and flying away, thereby allowing the field to draw more people. The second scenario, she almost attacks Emil’s father for mistreating Nino but restrains herself and leaves. She then suggests to Emil to open the bottle of happiness to cheer Nino up though she realizes too late and Emil is unaware that showing the poor girl other people’s happiness is only making her more depressed.
A question to ask here is if Elaina’s inaction makes her a bad person. There’s definitely an argument to be made that Elaina screwed up big time here. Surely, she’s more than capable to destroy the field of flowers and save the nearby town a lot of trouble. That she doesn’t zap Emil’s father is extremely frustrating. And yet, I get why Elaina makes those decisions. Maybe she could destroy the flowers but without knowing more about them, the plan is risky and it’s entirely possible she could get assimilated as well. Even though it would make for some immediate gratification for Elaina to punish Emil’s father but she can’t afford to make such a huge profile and it wouldn’t do Nino any good in the long term. More importantly, this all ties back to two of the promises Elaina made to her mother. She promised to run away if thing get too dangerous and to not view herself as anyone special. Sure enough, she makes true of those promises in this episode. She doesn’t take any risks here and she doesn’t set herself out as some hero. It’s not the most virtuous way to go but it’s not necessarily the worst either. At the very least, it’s understandable.
Another shared moment in the two scenarios is how Elaina recalls stories in her favorite book that are similar to what’s going on in real life. The first scenario reminds her of a plant that mutated and wrecked havoc. The second reminds her of a man who used magic to show his ill wife the outside world which drove said wife to commit suicide. That’s how Elaina realizes how the flowers might be dangerous and how little Emil does to make Nino happy. The latter is perhaps the the most frustrating as Elaina recalls how the respective chapter ends as she leaves. She could’ve easily used the story to warn Emil of how his plan will do more harm than good. Then again, Emil’s skull is probably too thick to get the message. The frustration does work to the episode’s benefit. Not knowing if Nino suffers the same fate as the wife in Elaina’s story makes for a more haunting and provoking note to end on.
My one question with this episode is how it’ll play into Wandering Witch‘s overarching narrative. Will any of Elaina’s actions come back to haunt her? Will make her strive to do better or will her scruples deteriorate from here on out. It’s hard to really tell given the episodic nature this show seems to be using. And while flawed protagonists can absolutely work, one has to keep in mind that you can’t make them too flawed.
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