Review: The Flawed Lead of Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina

Opinion Editorial Review on Wandering Witch

This year’s fall anime season included many intriguing and unique anime, but none as unique or as intriguing as Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina, an episodic adventure anime based on the Jougi Shiraishi light novel series of the same name.

The anime takes place in a fantasy world where witches are revered for their brilliance, elegance, and magical abilities. The story starts in the peaceful land of Robetta with our heroine Elaina, a charismatic and intelligent young girl, who has always dreamt of becoming a traveling witch, much like another heroine she read in books. To achieve this, she trains and studies hard to become the first person to pass the witch exams at age fourteen.

via Funimation

She then meets Fran the Stardust Witch, who agrees to take Elaina on as an apprentice and teaches her a lesson on being a humble witch, a trait Elaina is notably missing. A year later, Elaina finishes her apprenticeship and attains the title of “The Ashen Witch.” After becoming a full-fledged witch, she then leaves home to live out her dream of being a traveling witch.

She then meets Fran the Stardust Witch, who agrees to take Elaina on as an apprentice and teaches her a lesson on being a humble witch, a trait Elaina is notably missing. A year later, Elaina finishes her apprenticeship and attains the title of “The Ashen Witch.” After becoming a full-fledged witch, she then leaves home to live out her dream of being a traveling witch.

These later episodes give us the wandering witch in action and her surprising mix of grim and wholesome adventures. However, some of these adventures are noticeably inconsistent, with some episodes consisting of multiple stories of varying length and pacing. Though, I can’t fault the anime for this too much as it uses the same anthology format as the source material.

via Funimation

On her travels, Elaina encounters a variety of strange occurrences, as well as several peculiar individuals. From discovering a village with a toxic cursed plant to meeting a family with a slave girl, Elaina proves on many occasions not to mingle with the affairs of people’s lives whenever she can. Yet, she’s also one to help a lonely girl pass her witch exams, help a strange witch defeat a cursed dragon in a desolate kingdom, help teach a class of training mages, mingle in the affairs of a kingdom that cannot tell lies, help stop a creepy serial hairdresser, and get caught between the antics of two rival villages.

While Elaina runs away from things most brazen protagonists cannot overlook (such as avoiding the obvious red flag that is the aforementioned cursed plant), she has also helped several, admittedly mostly when she’s forced to. This proves Elaina has a sense of cautiousness, unlike most traditional heroes, despite being a capable witch. However, this also means she has almost no sense of righteousness, like when she literally ignores a slave girl in need of rescuing. She only helps those in need when she has no other choice or when it is convenient for her.

via Funimation

Though it’s not all her fault, as some viewers would recall from the first episode, before leaving home, one of the rules Elaina’s mom tells her is to run whenever she is in trouble. And that might be part of why she does just that. But as stated earlier, Elaina has, on numerous occasions, been forced to mingle in other people’s affairs. This is most noted in the infamous episode titled “Retroactive Grief,” where she voluntarily involves herself with a fellow witch’s dangerous plan for the sake of both profit and adventure. 

This episode notes another critical point in Elaina’s journey as she’s humbled by a traumatic experience. It also notes an even darker shift in the series, showing multiple gruesome deaths in a short amount of time, illustrating just how grim the anime can get. Luckily, not all of Elaina’s travels are filled with grim adventures. In fact, many of them are quite humorous and fun to watch, especially her interactions with many of the villagers /citizens she’s come across. Then there’s the final episode of the season, which was so close to being perfect.

via Funimation

The episode allowed Elaina to confront not only her past adventures throughout the anime, but also all her feelings, including her inner desires, fears, and trauma, as she is forced to face their personified versions. By doing this, the episode also finally confronts the blatant issues concerning our narcissistic protagonist.

Sadly, this doesn’t mean she changes or reflects on her ways. Instead, the episode shows her literally embracing and accepting herself for who she is, which gives the impression that while she acknowledges her nature and experiences, she still has no intention to change anything, which is unfortunate. The final episode also subtly makes way for another potential season, so hopefully, the effort to include this isn’t in vain.

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