There are a range of witches depicted in literature nowadays – good, bad, sexy, terrifying. But how about a witch wandering around with no particular goal in mind? This is the subject of Jougi Shiraishi’s light novel Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina. Read on for the review of Volume 1.
Back Cover Blurb
What’s your favorite story? Does it have a hero who slays a dragon and saves a princess? Or a child of prophecy destined for greatness? Well, my favorite story is a little different. It’s the tale of a witch who travels the world, seeking nothing in particular. With no quest of her own, she’s free to wander wherever the wind takes her, adding a few pages to the story of whomever she meets before setting off on her next adventure. At the end of her travels, the witch takes on an apprentice who will one day begin her own journey. And so the cycle continues, or so the story goes. Now, the witch who starts the story anew…who could she be?
Elaina may be a witch, but she’s not an ugly old hag. As a cute girl in her late teens, she’s definitely in the moe category. But despite being a genius at magic, she uses her powers mainly to fly herself via broomstick from place to place.
No, this isn’t a witch on a quest for magical items or seeking to improve her skills or any other concrete goal. For the vast majority of the story, Elaina’s magic merely shortens her travel time. She doesn’t even really use those powers to make a living, which strikes me as truly odd. Despite having the ability to fix broken items, transform herself into animals, manipulate tools, and fight off several mages at once, the way she earns money when she runs low on cash is bogus fortune-telling. As such, the magic aspect of this story is nominal, except for a couple of flashback chapters about Elaina’s witch apprenticeship. (Even then, her motivation for undergoing that training is because her mage parents require her to become a full-fledged witch before they will allow her to travel.)
The meat of the stories, then, is the places she visits. Elaina calls them “countries,” but they are more like medieval city-states. Each is ruled by a monarch, but they are enclosed by protective walls and can be fully explored in one to three days. Every chapter focuses on a different country or an in-between village. Because Elaina is a traveler, we get to explore these countries and villages alongside her, and each place is unique.
Actually, it’s more accurate to say each place has its own particular brand of weirdness. From the country that persecutes ugliness to the country awash in counterfeit currency to the country literally divided into two because its king and queen can’t compromise. Some episodes are humorous: others are mysterious or sad. However, these anecdotes tend to highlight the worst of humanity–stupidity, avarice, hate, deceit, indifference.
The opening chapter, “The Country of Mages,” left a particularly bad taste in my mouth. I believe the author’s intent was to make a story in which Elaina inspires a lonely mage. However, Saya’s behavior is definitely the stuff of creepy stalkers (I don’t care that it’s coming from a cute girl, psychopathic behavior is psychopathic behavior).
On top of that, Elaina’s commentary on the people and places she encounters is mostly snark. Because her snark isn’t particularly clever or insightful, it just makes everything seem that much more unpleasant. Given the disdain she expresses throughout most of her travels, I have to wonder why she bothered leaving home at all.
Extras include the first four pages printed in color, five black-and-white illustrations, and afterword.
The title of this book is accurate. Its chapters chronicle the journey of a wandering witch named Elaina. However, the actual content of those chapters don’t form a cohesive narrative, and the main character Elaina doesn’t have enough personality to make engaging commentary on these disjointed and often dark anecdotes.
First published at the Fandom Post.