Story by Jougi Shiraishi
Art by Itsuki Nanao
Character Design by Azure
Translated by Taylor Engel
Lettering by Bianca Pistillo
Logo Design by Wendy Chan
Cover Design by Abigail Blackman
Edited by Leyla Aker
One of the pleasures of fantasy stories is getting the opportunity to explore new and exciting places. It’s this fascination that lies at the core of Wandering Witch, a fantasy story that is based around exploration. Square Enix Manga released the first volume of the manga adaptation earlier this year, so let’s take a look at what this series has to offer!
Wandering Witch centers on the prodigy witch Elaina. Inspired by the stories of her childhood, Elaina spends her time traveling the world, and visiting the various lands that she comes across. Some may find this premise awfully familiar to that of Kino’s Journey, and there’s some truth to that. Elaina is rarely in a single place for very long, and over the course of this volume alone, she travels to 3 different countries. That said, Wandering Witch stands out because of Elaina herself. Elaina is incredibly expressive on her travels, and the manga uses her experiences to showcase the range of her character. Wandering Witch is framed from Elaina’s perspective, and it tries to convey her personal story to readers.
This volume starts off with “The Land of Magicians”, where Elaina travels to a central hub for magicians and helps a young girl prepare for her magic advancement exam. While it’s naturally fitting to start the series in magic themed land, it also allows for Elaina’s position as a witch to be immediately fleshed out. The story delves into the hierarchy of witches, as well as Elaina’s title as the Ashen Witch. This serves as a solid introduction to the series that effectively establishes the series’ world.
Wandering Witch isn’t without it’s surprises though, as “The Land of Flowers” provides a much darker story than you’d expect. Elaina comes across a field of flowers containing a strange young girl. The majority of this story centers around the context behind Elaina’s encounter, and what led to the girl’s circumstances. This leaves Elaina in a more observatory position. She can’t change the tragedies that have already taken place, and is left with only the results of those events. Elaina’s travels are filled with their ups and downs, and this journey is certainly a tragic one.
“Raising Funds” is a more amusing story, where Elaina tries to quickly earn money in a country with high inflation. Each story so far has shown a different side to Elaina’s character, and this one shows her scheming nature. For instance, Elaina sells fake fortunes to customers, and then manipulates events to make them come true. It ends up being an incredibly fun read, and it brings some further variety to the series.
The volume’s final story “Apprentice Witch Elaina” is a flashback about Elaina, detailing her training to become a witch. Elaina was prodigy even as a young girl, and while this made it easy for her to refine her skills, she was shunned by many of her peers and seniors. Despite this perception, she is able to study under the wing of the magician Fran, undergoing an intense training regiment. While the previous stories had provided a strong foundation for Elaina’s character, this one explores her deeper motivations and feelings. Learning about Elaina’s drive to improve, her relationship with Fran, and her desire for acknowledgment makes Elaina an even more compelling character. It’s a solid conclusion to this volume, leaving readers on a heartfelt and satisfying note.
Itsuki Nanao’s artwork for the manga is consistently great. The clothing and environments of each land have a distinct look, and they effectively convey the different societal dynamics of each location that Elaina explores. Elaina’s design tends to also stand out, demonstrating her distance from each land’s culture. Alongside this, Elaina has a broad range of expressions throughout the manga. Nanao manipulates the finer details of Elaina’s design, depending on whether a scene is more comedic or serious. These minor changes allow Elaina to fit into any situation, allowing her adventures to delve into any number areas.
Wandering Witch is an entertaining series that covers the wonders of exploration from its lead’s perspective. This series has a solid narrative variety that makes it accessible to a wide range of readers. I can’t wait to see what land Elaina travels to next.