So after two dispiriting episodes, Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina returns to more lighthearted side of its titular journey. The episode is bookended with Elaina visiting a country that seemingly worships Fran, all due to the popularity of a book she’s featured in. From there, the real plot kicks as Elaina recalls an earlier trip where she reunites with Fran, who is currently teaching at a prestigious academy in the country of Royal Celesteria.
It’s a fine enough episode. The best part is the build up to Fran’s return as she tasks her class to “capture” Elaina and bring her to the school. Elaina naturally doesn’t know this until after the chase scene but when you think about it, this is absolutely something Fran would do. Also, I’ve bought into Elaina’s skills so far but seeing her outsmart and outmaneuver trainees around the same age as her really hammers in how much of a prodigy she is and how deserving she is of her title.
I figured Fran would appear again but it’s nevertheless nice seeing her again. The chemistry between her and Elaina is noticeably a bit different this time around. Now that Elaina is a witch in her own right, she acts a bit more informal towards Fran. This is most evident when the two find out that they both love the “Adventures of Nike” and chat about the book and its influence on them. You also have Fran having Elaina serve as a guest instructor for a day, suggesting complete trust in her pupil’s abilities. The two treat each other less as student and teacher more just friends and colleagues.
Though certainly a welcomed change of pace, it almost feels necessary to have an episode like this. The past two episodes, we’ve had Elaina witness uglier aspects of people as well as her own powerlessness to do anything about it. By contrast, Royal Celesteria is seemingly a country that’s made it – peaceful, lively, stable. While none of the students Elaina meets are necessarily striving to become witches, they all have seem to have viable and enjoyable career paths to take. It’s an optimistic sight that Elaina needs to see in her journey and a nice message for the viewers, a reminder that the world can and does have its bright spots.
A question that sort of gets asked is whether or not Elaina will eventually settle down after her travels. The first indication comes when Elaina recollects on the ending of the “Adventures of Nike” where Nike retires and passes the torch to another witch. Later in the episode, Fran expresses her sadness to see her pupil heading off to her travels once more. That Fran doesn’t directly offer Elaina a permanent position at the academy is interesting though. She knows Elaina well enough that she knows she can’t really convince her into staying. Also curious is Elaina trying to leave without anyone noticing, suggesting that she’s afraid of growing attached to something during her travels (boy does that show in the past two episodes).
As much as I enjoy this episode, I can’t help but think there are some missed opportunities here. I get that Wandering Witch is an episodic story but there is a disconnect with how little said episodes correlate with each other. It would’ve been nice to have Elaina discuss her experiences with Fran, how they weight on her mind, and any regrets she has. Have Fran impart some of her wisdom while still reminding Elaina that she’s still learning and is only human. At the very least, the show could’ve made some amusing callbacks. Like, when Fran tries to decide on a parting gift for Elaina and asks her if she likes flowers, the show should’ve had Elaina recall the flowers from Episode 3. A missed opportunity right there.
Also confounding are the bookends. On one hand, it’s hilarious finding out that Fran’s lost fanfiction got discovered, published, and became a cultural phenomenon in some other country. On the other, I feel the episode could’ve leaned more into it. Have Elaina read aloud the text or talk to the locals about their Fran fandom and then compare and contrast with flashbacks of Elaina’s apprenticeship under Fran. That would’ve been hilarious. Even that aside, I kind of question what the point of the bookends even are. You could’ve easily started and ended the episode without them and nothing of value would be lost.
Thanks for reading!