New Anime

First Impressions – Majo to Yajuu

Today is “sleeper day” for Winter 2024.  That makes it a pretty important benchmark for how the season will go, since the performance of the top four shows is pretty much hard-wired and it’s unlikely (though certainly not impossible) I’ll find anything really excellent from the lower ranks of the preview. The first to hit the boards is Majo to Yajuu, which was a show I had pretty high expectations for despite having no direct experience with the source material – in part because the review of that source material are generally very good.

It’s always tempting to try and slot new series into a niche, and define them in part by what they resemble.  The obvious candidate with Majo to Yajuu is Undead Girl Murder Farce (which itself had an obvious candidate in Revenger).  This premiere was certainly not on a par with UGMF, but there is a sort of common vibe.  To be honest what really struck me was that the art was reminiscent of Matsumoto Leiji – especially the character design for Guideau (Taichi You), the “beast” of the title.  But tonally it stands as pretty distinct – I sense we’re in for more of a battle series here.

The premise finds the aforementioned Guideau traveling with a soft-spoken, chain smoking mage named Ashaf (Morikawa Toshiyuki).  His nature certainly stands in contrast to Guideau, who’s hotheaded and verbally abusive to a fault and frankly a lot to take.  They arrive in a vaguely steampunk city searching for a witch, her rather impatiently.  Ashaf preaches patience, Guideau goes in guns (and mouth) blazing, that’s clearly the dynamic.  In this city “Lady Witch” is considered a hero and a protector, but our titular duo are skeptical about her good nature to say the least.

The witch, Ione (Hikasa Youko) certainly does turn out to be evil – though not the witch Guideau is searching for, who cursed her.  In this mythology there are only two means of removing a witch’s curse, kissing a “Prince Charming” or getting the witch to remove it.  As it turns out kissing a witch works too even if it’s not the curse-r, but only temporarily (kind of the kissing your sister of curse removal).  Ione has been playing a long game of revenge after her grandmother was blamed for the fire she sealed and saved the city from 417 years earlier, and burned at the stake.  And the disciples she’s drawn into her circles are her means of doing so, acting as “keys” to unseal the fire on the anniversary of its sealing.

The gist of this seems to be that witches are usually evil, but seems to allow some wiggle room for exceptions (and acknowledges that witches were persecuted irrespective of that).  Ashaf does comment that he’d hoped to resolve things amicably, suggesting that it’s at least theoretically possible.   He and Guideau work for a the “Order of Magical Resonance”, which at first flush appears to be effectively a witch hunter general but may be more nuanced that that.  Her real motivation is that curse, though.  And a kiss with Ione after an interesting battle releases a beast from inside the coffin Ashaf always carries, which seems to be her true identity.  Whatever it is, it’s strong enough to take down Ione and get her apprehended.

All this is quite interesting, though not truly compelling yet.  The Witch and the Beast certainly looks good – Yokohama Animation Lab doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a top-tier production house but the animation is crisp (and mostly 2-D) and the backgrounds detailed and very pretty.  Director Hamana Takayuki is extremely experienced and consistently competent or better, if not the auteur that Hatakeyama Mamoru is (which may result in a gap between this show and Undead Girl Murder Farce more than the writing will).  I definitely see potential here and after the premiere I’m more encouraged than not, but there’s still work to be done and questions to be answered for me.

The post First Impressions – Majo to Yajuu appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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