Witchcraft Works is an ongoing manga series created by artist Ryu Mizunagi, which is being distributed in the West courtesy of publisher Vertical. Mizunagi’s first foray into the world of Japanese comics is one of those properties that give geeky readers the hope that someday they’ll be able to snag an unrealistically attractive girlfriend. Protagonist Honoka Takamiya is a bland husk of a character, as seen in many a harem show, that fans of the book can imprint themselves upon. Despite being a complete nobody Honoka is able to court the hottest girl in school… and I literally mean hottest girl because she happens to be a witch that specialises in combustible magic.
The book’s opening chapter introduces us to Honoka, an unassuming teenage student who happens to sit next to the beautiful Ayaka Kagari during class. Ayaka is the most popular girl in school and is constantly followed by a large group of fans (that puts the size of Paris Hilton’s entourage to shame.) One day, after his studies have concluded, Honoka heads home only to have his journey interrupted by the realisation that a portion of the nearby school building is toppling over and is about to squish him. Thankfully for Honoka a flying Ayaka, who is inexplicably dressed like a witch, swoops by and rescues him seconds before the collapsing masonry turns him into a pancake.
Ayaka reveals that her choice of attire stems from the fact that she is a bonafide witch, capable of casting an assortment of devastating flame spells. To be specific, Ayaka belongs to the Workshop group of witches that focus on bettering mankind via magical research. A group of rival spell casters, known as the Tower Witches, also exists and they have set their sights on kidnapping Honoka in order to enact some nefarious plan. What exactly is going on isn’t clear, as Ayaka would rather keep Honoka in the dark – even if disclosing such knowledge would undoubtedly make her job of protecting him much easier. I guess Mizunagi wants to keep his readers in suspense because, for now, all we know is that the Tower Witches seek Honoka’s “white stuff.” Fair enough. Why bother with clarifying the plot when sexual innuendo will do?
My rating for volume one of Witchcraft Works is a three out of five. Overall it was an entertaining read, but I can’t say that I had an irresistible urge to pick up the next book after I was done with the last chapter. I think Witchcraft Works’ biggest fault is that it’s so generic. The setup of a girl with supernatural powers protecting a dweeb makes the manga feel like a less funny Rosario Vampire. Later on in the story Honoka also expresses an interest in training to become Ayaka’s apprentice, so he can use his untapped powers to aid his fiery protector. That sounds a lot like Shakugan no Shana, although Ayaka is nowhere near as interesting as the titular Shana. For the most part Ayaka is your typical silent badass who has a habit of comically misinterpreting what Honoka says.
Although Mizunagi’s writing failed to wow me, I must say that I am impressed by the comic’s artwork. The predominately female cast ensures that there is plenty of eye candy, with the highlight being the Amazonian Ayaka. She towers above the male protagonist and even bridal carries him on occasion! Poor Honoka must feel so emasculated, especially when Ayaka calls him princess. The action scenes are also drawn well, although I can’t say the battles were too exciting as Ayaka is so overpowered. From what I have seen thus far she is able to survive being impaled with no ill effects and later in the book she is able to defeat four Tower Witches, off panel, without breaking a sweat. In the end I can only give this manga starring a fire witch a “lukewarm” recommendation. Perhaps I will enjoy the anime adaptation more as I’ll be able to see the pyro kinetic duels in motion onscreen.