Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Manga Volume One Review

Tis the season for witchy stories about magic and far off lands. It also happens to be the beginning of the fall anime season, which just so happens to feature the anime adaptation of this manga, which in turn is an adaptation of a light novel. I haven’t had the chance to check out the anime yet, but I did pick up the manga adaptation a couple months ago. The series is right in my wheelhouse, featuring magic, witches, and some slice-of-life and mystery components. I’m always looking for new witch/magic-focused manga to check out, and just happened to see this one pop up on my Twitter feed earlier in the year. Luckily my comic shop had it in stock, and I had the chance to check it out before the anime premiered this month. I have to say, I do love the concept of a witch wondering the world, checking out the cities and people along the way, as it reminds me a bit of Kino’s Journey. However, I found myself not liking the main character for reasons I’ll discuss later. But if you’re looking for something to spice up this season of magic and spookiness, then I would still suggest checking this series out. 

The series follows the traveling witch Elaina, who from an early age, idolized the stories of another witch who traveled the world on her broom. She worked hard from an early age to pass all of her tests and study to become a witch, eventually earning the lofty title of “The Ashen Witch” because of her long ashen hair. With her new-found title, Elaina travels the world on her broom, stopping in city after city to learn about the world around her and interact with the people living in these areas. If that means occasionally solving the mystery of a poisonous flower field, or the treachery of a king’s advisors, then so be it. The manga’s story is based on the light novel by Jougi Shiraishi, with art by Istsuki Nanao, and character design by Azure. 

For a manga about traversing the world, I kind of expected the backgrounds and worlds to be paid a lot of detail. However, I think Shiraishi and Nanao have chosen to go a more character-driven route and have focused on the character designs and people who make up the worlds she visits. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. I think Nanao and Azure have done a great job in creating and designing the characters to fit into their world. I especially love the design of Elaina’s teacher, the Stardust Witch. She reminds me a bit of the characters in Little Witch Academia. Elaina’s design is also really nice. I think how Azure created her really well to show the readers that she is clearly a witch. Her large hat and clothing that looks like a magic school uniform paints a clear picture that she is a magical practitioner. 

I didn’t notice anything in the art or panel design that specifically stood out to me as especially eye-catching. However, I did like the tone/mood change from chapter one to chapter two. We move from a story centered around two characters coming to understand one another to a dangerous mystery, that leads to a poisonous field of flowers. In chapter two we see a great combination of story and art as Shiraishi and Nanao take on the task of telling a darker story. I like how the more carefree atmosphere gives way to a darker tone, especially with the character designs and expressions of the people she encounters. It really does emit an atmosphere of danger and mystery. The girl she meets in the field is especially well done as her expressions shift from pleasant to crazed from page to page. 

Like many world-traveling stories, Elaina meets and discovers many different places and people, all with their own problems and backgrounds. In an interview with Newtype, Shiraishi talked a bit about the feeling he wanted to express through the stories in the light novel. Particularly that the short story format was inspired by crime dramas and he likes writing stories where the guest characters don’t always get a happy ending. He mentioned that he intends to keep adding at least one story in each volume where the ending isn’t favorable for the characters. I really like this philosophy for the volumes. It’s great to have a variety of moods within a selection of shorts as it keeps everything interesting. We see this with the story in chapter two, where Elaina comes upon a town that used to be prosperous until a poisonous field of flowers started to lure people to it and trap them forever. She meets a woman in the field who refuses to leave but gives her some flowers to take to someone in town. The story progresses to an unhappy ending for her and the person who received the flowers. 

The story itself is kind of weird but it does add a nice break from the slice-of-life nature of the rest of the chapters. It centers around a brother and sister pair who settled in the city to sell flowers to tourists. But one day she got drawn to the cursed field and never came back. Elaina happens upon her on her way into the city, offering her a bouquet of the flowers to deliver to someone in town. The plot progresses as we learn more about the city, the flowers, and the brother and sister. It morphs into a kind-of jealousy-filly incestuous pairing, where the brother is revealed to be very possessive of his sister to the point of seeming to be in love with her. This whole dynamic was pretty awkward, but I did like the plot where the field of flowers pretty much acts like a Venus fly-trap for humans who don’t have magic. It turns into a pretty tragic tale, but in the end, it kind of feels like the brother got what he deserved. Though I feel bad for the sister. 

The other chapters are more slice-of-life in nature. The first has Elaina lose her symbol of witch-hood and has it stolen by a young mage who uses it to blackmail her into training her in magic. However, I think my favorite has to be the last chapter where we get into Elaina’s background and the training she had to endure from her master, the Stardust Witch. It’s a flash-back chapter, and I think this is probably the point where I started to see Elaina in a little bit more positive light. For most of the book, I felt kind of put-off by her attitude and feelings of elitism (in a sense) or arrogance. She expects to be treated differently as a witch and cons people into giving her money. There are points where we see her compassion to the people she comes across, but I could never really get fully behind her as a character. Chapter four I think is the point where we see more of the person that she is as we see her work herself to the bone to become a witch. I really love the Stardust Witch as well. I think she does a great job as her mentor and is pretty entertaining as a character. 

I think I’ll be returning to this manga for the next volume just to see where it takes me and if it improves over time. Let me know what you all thought in the comments below if you’ve read either the manga or the light novel. Perhaps I’ll even check out the anime this week. It’s certainly the time of year for a little magic. 

~~Thanks for Reading!~~

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One thought on “Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Manga Volume One Review

  1. I hadn’t seen that interview in Newtype, that’s interesting. I agree that having some stories where things don’t necessarily work out for the characters makes the series more compelling. It adds a bit of tension when you know things could potentially end badly.

    Liked by 1 person

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