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Witchcraft Works Vol. #05 Manga Review

6 min read
Witchcraft Works Volume 5
Witchcraft Works Volume 5

The latest attempt to take Honoka and steal the power within him begins as yet another group of Tower Witches come to Tougetsu and cause havoc and mayhem.

Creative Staff:
Story/Art: Ryu Mizunagi
Translation: Ko Ransom
Production: Risa Cho, Melissa DeJesus

What They Say:
When the Togetsu Academy’s chairwoman is captured by a power hungry Tower Witch, the school’s young witches go into defensive mode to keep their city safe. Meanwhile, Ayaka and Honoka have a different plan for how to best protect their unique town.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For a manga which had been keeping a jokey and light comedic touch so far, the new arc that starts in this volume is something of a dramatic departure. The ominous-looking sigil in the sewers turns out to be a magic bomb spell of some sort, one powerful enough to level the entire town. With the appearance of Weekend (a nickname—we’re not told her real name…as if it really matters), we have our first villain who doesn’t have much humor to offer.

That’s because overall there is a sea-change in how things operate. While Medusa and Chronoire were quite sincere about their attempts to gain control of Honoka and steal the “white stuff” within him, there was still plenty of comedy running about and both of them had foibles or shortcomings that made more for humor than drama. Weekend and the others in her group (we learn that she has assistants and partners) have nothing funny about them. They’re quite earnest, sincere and somewhat psychopathic in their plan to get control of the White Princess. They exploit a weakness in the magical defenses of Tougetsu: what has prevented regular (non-witch) citizens from being harmed by magic was a powerful barrier created from a contract Kazane, the strongest witch and head of the Workshop, has made with the town. The town’s collective consciousness, represented by a sacred tree (something all too familiar in Japanese culture), draws magic from the contracted witch, whose power is used by the tree to protect the citizens and rebuild the buildings when any magical damage is caused.

Normally, Kazane’s magical reserves are so great that even leveling a street would do no more than give her a slight itch. But the magic bomb planted by Weekend’s group destroys the entire city in one blow, draining all of Kazane’s vast magic supply in one shot. It will take a week for Kazane’s magic to recover and during that time, the barrier will be down. Unfortunately for Workshop Witches, without a barrier in place, they cannot use their magic in the town. This puts Weekend and her group in the driver’s seat.

But that doesn’t mean Ryu Mizunagi will have Honoka and Ayaka sit in hiding the entire time. While the remaining Workshop Witches, led by Natsume Mikage and Rinon Otometachibana, plan on just locking Honoka away until Kazane’s power returns, there was no way things would end like that. Honoka and Ayaka escape the holding cell—and they would have to anyway as Weekend discovered where the two were being held. This leads to Ayaka planning to have Takamiya form a temporary contract with the town, as he is perhaps the only “witch” in town with magical reserves large enough to sustain such an endeavor.

This is just the start of the Weekend Arc, however, though the author reveals in his liner notes at the end that he originally planned to complete the story in one volume’s worth of material. This dramatic event, however, seems to have gone overboard and he needed more space to fully work it out.

And here is where we may have a serious “mileage variance” issue. Considering the mostly light and comic tone of the series so far, this much more sincere and earnest dramatic storyline that is largely free of funny asides and humor (there are a few weak attempts to put in some humor, but they feel very much out of place with everything else that is going on) struck a sour note when I first saw it through the anime version (which, by the way, is a quite faithful adaptation overall). Reading it now in its original presentation has done nothing to make it “fit” any better. It still feels detached from the much more fun mood that most of the series had up to this point.

Others may well feel differently and like the more serious action and drama of the Weekend Arc since we get our first “serious” villain who is not undermined with humor. If you wanted things to take a darker or more serious turn, you’ll probably enjoy how things are proceeding.

Personally, though, this arc feels like the author is reaching a bit too far, trying for something which the foundation built up by the previous four volumes is not quite strong enough to hold up. It’s grafting an “end of the world fight” plot onto what had been for the most part a silly, quirky comedy. The author can’t stay away from that entirely as we even have another “Little Sister Theater” bonus chapter tacked on at the end. It’s nice and all for an author to be ambitious, but tonal shifts like this can be quite tricky to manage. A lot is going to depend on how everything plays out in the end. If the move to a more serious tone is matched by some serious revelations (about, say, Honoka and Ayaka’s past connection) that need a more dramatic frame of mind to make them click, then it might well enhance the overall experience. If, however, this “serious” sub-plot ends only for things to return fully to the light and jokey feeling of the opening volumes, it’s going to be a somewhat jarring inclusion. I still enjoy Witchcraft Works, but the reasons I liked it do not show up much in this volume.

Note: For this volume, the number of inside color pages was reduced from the usual 3 (6 if counting each side separately) down to 1 (2). They are still printed in very nice full color on good quality paper stock and the covers remain full-color wrap-around image covers.

In Summary:
After several volumes of lighthearted antics and setup, Witchcraft Works takes a turn for the serious with the introduction of a new villain, yet another Tower Witch who wants to get her hands on Honoka’s “white stuff.” The new schemer, Weekend, is far less humorous, however, than the previous two and this entire arc in general is more focused on action and dramatic tension and has less of the silly asides or quick gags that made this series fun to read so far. Somehow, the humor that is in here falls a bit flat when placed against the real harm and real danger that is introduced into the story. If you prefer your stories a bit darker and more earnest in its attempts to harm the protagonists, you might prefer this. If you were here for the gags and silliness, you might be wondering if this is permanent tonal change or just a digression, with an eventual return to the lighter, happier atmosphere of the opening volumes.

Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: B
Package Rating: B-
Text/Translation: B+

Age Rating: 14+
Released By:Vertical Comics
Release Date: June 30th, 2015
MSRP: $12.95

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