Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Series Review

The diary, the witch, and the broomstick.

Here’s a 2020 anime I hadn’t heard of at all, having been out of the loop and it not being a sequel or connected to any franchise that had been out prior to my blog break. Yet when I asked what anime I should catch up on from last year Elaina came up more than once. I did about two seconds research (yes it was available on Anime Lab and it had a witch in it) and decided why not. Now having binge watched the entire series in the course of a day I’m really happy with that decision.

While I will probably point out some faults with the series throughout this review, the simple fact remains that I was engrossed enough that despite having many other things I could or should be doing with the last of my holidays I kept clicking for ‘just one more episode’. Well, if you do that enough and you only have a 12 episode series and eventually you realise its finished and the whole day just disappeared in a puff of cute witches hats and pink smoke.

Fran shows off her witch fashion - Wandering Witch
Really, really cute witches hats. Seriously, love Fran’s outfit.

Wandering Witch is very easy viewing. Episodic in nature, with some stories taking only half of their episode, there’s a similarity to the structure of Kino’s Journey. The comparison becomes even clearer when you realise that Elaina is travelling to different countries each with their own quirks and rules much as Kino was – though she has less stringent rules about how long she’ll stay and clearly has no issue getting involved when it suits her. Now, I only watched the remade series of Kino and to be honest after the initial positive impression, was somewhat less than impressed. However, Elaina somehow manages to avoid either boring me or feeling pointless, even in the somewhat more frivolous episodes. Partly I think this is because the series isn’t taking itself so seriously or trying to be a philosophical work but instead chooses simply to be about a wandering witch and the various things and people she encounters.

Even episodes that do set up more meaningful situations to contemplate, such as the kingdom where people could only speak the truth, are ultimately dealt with in a light manner. Sure there’s more depth to the concept and you could consider the moral implications, or you can just enjoy Saya and Elaina’s reunion and watch things unfold. Other situations are significantly more serious, such as the city that was being destroyed by a monster where a princess was left alone, however even these situations were ultimately resolved in some form and Elaina then moved on.

Elaina looks back over a city in the process of being destroyed - Wandering Witch
So many sights to see – Elaina takes in the world one city at a time.

Despite the light and cute visuals that permeate most of the series, there are a number of not so sweet factors at play in the world. Not every ending is happy and Elaina isn’t always directly involved in resolutions (though she certainly has her hand in many of them). Honestly, I kind of appreciated this as it stopped things from getting too saccharine. I felt a number of times while watching that this reminded me both visually and in tone to WorldEnd. Apparently they are both from C2C studios though I wasn’t seeing a lot of staff in common. Still, there was definitely just a enough of an edge underlying the otherwise fluffy tone to keep me interested and yet still enjoying the viewing.

He finally found his sister (shudder) - Wandering Witch
Not everything is sweetness and light in Wandering Witch.

I was definitely surprised when a content warning came up prior to episode 9. Given the generally easy going nature of the series I was wondering what kind of a dark turn they were about to take. Admittedly, the episode is a little more bloody than earlier ones, but overall it wasn’t a major departure from the tone of the show and it didn’t signify that the anime was about to derail itself and take on an entirely new tone for its finale. I’m still kind of looking at the MA15+ rating that AnimeLab has on the series and wondering just why. I could certainly understand an M and recommending it for mature audiences, but using the restricted for over 15’s rating seems a little excessive given the generally relaxed viewing experience. Of course I could say more on that but realistically the Australian ratings and warnings system and anime just don’t ever make sense and that’s about to launch me into a tirade that definitely needs its own post or three so I’m just going to move on.

Overall, I found the characters in this story to be interesting enough and their cute appearances made for easy watching. Elaina is a decent protagonist, though I feel the 12th episode pointing out her qualities as a main character was a little too much of a wink-wink moment to the audience. Fran as a mentor and recurring character is always welcome. Saya, and her fondness for Elaina, is a little excessive but fortunately her appearances are usually diluted by major happenings. Other characters appear for an episode and then Elaina moves on and each works within their setting. While none of these characters are likely to stick with me much beyond the watching, they were very enjoyable to spend a day with.

The reunion of Fran and Elaina - Wandering Witch
Elaina and Fran reunite.

Visually this show is actually pretty impressive. The magical fights, when they occur, are suitable full of flash and bang, characters move relatively fluidly, the broom flying sequences are usually superbly done, and the settings are picturesque. Other than a mild complaint that a lot of the extras from town to town feel recycled, there’s little to really criticise. Admittedly, this isn’t action packed and while there are some fights, there’s also a lot of sitting and drinking tea, reading books, or just kind of wandering around. Still, there’s some really lovely scenes and sequences to be found.

The music also complements the overall tone with the OP being a very relaxing number and definitely lulls you and prepares you really just to be open to the journey ahead. Background music was largely forgettable but seemed appropriate within the scenes. Elaina’s voice acting (Japanese only viewed) worked very well as the sometimes narrator and also for her character giving her a definite bit of pride and occasionally demonstrating that she could be shocked or sulky depending on the situation. Most of the other characters really only got to hit one note, but they hit it well.

Wandering Witch isn’t a perfect show by any means. It isn’t particularly deep or mind-blowing, and it certainly isn’t making any of the list topping anime shake in their boots. That said, it is a very enjoyable viewing experience and sometimes that is all you need.

Images used for review from: Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina. Dir. T Kubooka. C2C. 2020.

After finishing the show, and writing my review, Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) made a comment on twitter about dropping the show. When I asked why he pointed me to a post he wrote at the time Elaina was airing (that I would have read if I’d been around at the time). For those who want a more critical view of the show this review might be a nice place.


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14 thoughts on “Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Series Review

  1. I noted this anime’s appearance on MAL around the midway point of its airing. At this time I remember it being really liked, with its rating above 1,000 on MAL or something. Checking it now, it seems to have dropped some, and the comments on this post have led me to believe some portion of the fandom found it to be a “trainwreck” of sorts (in a “worse as it goes on” sort of way).

    I was mildly intrigued at the time, and this post does reinvigorate some of that interest. On the other hand, I remember not giving a damn about Flying Witch at all, which, based on my assumptions reading this, has a similar vibe, only with an adventure-esque lens.

    May be worth a look at some point. I appreciate being able to read reviews like this from you again.

    1. I didn’t finish flying witch because it was just too… I don’t want to say no a nd but it just felt like nothing was happening.
      While there are some tonal similarities the adventure aspect plus my liking the protagonist a bit more here (and just s sense that things were moving) is probably what made this one relaxing but enjoyable for me.

  2. I’m glad to see you enjoyed the show. I loved it. It was great to see such a strong, self-confident you woman in a lead role. She wasn’t embarrassed in the least about her beauty or her powers. So refreshing!

    Now that you mention it, the hat were great. Fran’s star field was cool, and so was how Elena and Saya’s hats matched. Each episode had a lot of little moments that stuck out, like Elena brushing aside the one male student’s attempts to be charming.

    Through the whole show, I didn’t see anything I could honestly call an artistic misstep. I saw things I didn’t expect, and I saw things that I would have done different. But really, seeing a show that did its own thing was itself a plus in the show’s favor.

    I’m also looking forward to what you have to say about Australian ratings. It sounds like there’s a lot to be said!

    1. If Elaina doesn’t work for you there wouldn’t be a lot of point in continuing. I enjoyed her and that made the journey fun, but definitely understand she won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

  3. To be honest, this show ended up as one of the season’s biggest disappointments to me. It started near the top and steadily slid to somewhere solidly in the middle, where it remained. Ultimately it’s forgettable fluff, and I personally think I’d have enjoyed it more without the dark episode, as they just come off as baby’s first dark writings to me. Also, Elaina felt more like the tourist who takes pictures of herself standing next ot sights, rather than a traveller who tries to get a feel for the place. That was disappointing, too.

    That said, the odd goof excepted, it was a really pretty sure, and if anyone ever asks you about the difference between art and animation, or what one does for the other, show them the screenshot of Fran’s hat, and then make them watch the show. A screenshot can’t do the hat justice. The hat is my favourite thing about the show.

    1. The hat was pretty awesome.
      I kind of liked that Elaina was playing the tourist as it kept her at arm’s length from things and most of her responses were pretty understandable.

  4. A lot of people heated this show but I enjoyed it, so much it made my year end top 10 for 2020. Like you said it was a charming, breezy watch with some fun characters and scenarios.

    Episode 9 with the graphic content really cemented it for me, showing the scope and versatility of the stories that could be told in the world Elania was traversing, by way of illustrating how life can throw up unexpected challenges at any time that change the mood at the blink of an eye.

    Part of me wondered what if the whole series was like this but the appeal of the show is Elania’s amiable persona and the levity she and the cast bring.

  5. I enjoyed Elaina for the light hearted fluff it was. I also enjoyed the bit of darkness, probably even more.

    It is just my humble opinion but you really must see the original Kino. Don’t miss out on the 3 OVAs. “Kino’s Journey: In Order to Do Something – Life Goes On” gets into the relationship between her and Master and why she started traveling. “The Tower Country” is about people’s need for a purpose. “Country of illness” is powerful and dark and sad. The OVAs are available on YouTube if nowhere else.

    I have heard about Australian government’s odd, Puritan attitude towards anime from other bloggers. One could use a VPN to view them from another country’s servers.

    1. The original Kino is another of those anime that just kind of sits on my to be watched list but never gets watched. The remake didn’t exactly move it up any. I guess I will get to it at some point.

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