there are seven witches

I must have started to write and rewrite this post a half dozen times in the past month. My first draft featured a comparison to Dota 2. My second try ended up being a rant on the goddess system of The World God Only Knows. My third attempt had a bit too much Ramsay Snow for anyone’s enjoyment. I’m going to give up and go with a boring premise: Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches is the best show of the season.

The story feels like a generic Kyoto Animation story: There’s an after school club populated by five outcasts. The club has seemingly no reason to exist except for a vague supernatural phenomenon. The setup is reminiscent of The World God Only Knows where the hero encounters an assortment of haremette tropes that he needs to debug. The hero and titular character himself behaves like a young Eikichi Onizuka. Yet, Yamada-kun is none of those things yet all of those things.

Let’s get the first point out of the way first (much like how the archer class uses archery): The animation for Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches is bad. It’s really bad. The animation is lackluster, the backgrounds are so damn boring, and the character designs are average at best. At least the characters don’t go off model too often. The fanservice scenes aren’t even that fanservicy. That’s a shame because other than the animation, the show is fantastic. Shame. Shame. Shame! SHAME! If the show had Kyoto’s prowess behind it, maybe something would dethrone the Blood Blockade Battlefront juggernaut in sales. (Which is unlikely as this series is a Kodansha property, and I can’t remember the last time Kyoto worked with Kodansha. Though if Kyoto animated this show, I would think the ceiling is Haruhi, and the floor is Amaburi.)


The writing of Yamada-kun is just really strong. I see too often in harem anime where every time a girl shows up, they have to pop up her name, her blood type, and her trait as if the haremettes were the #7 pick in the NBA draft. A lot of shows just goes about lazily explaining things rather than conveying through actions or story. The classic is always the male lead’s perverted friend telling him that the girl who just walked by is the hot student council president who is smart, beautiful, wealthy, and whose farts can restore the ozone layer. Yamada-kun doesn’t do that. Every haremette that Yamada encounters, he slowly gets to know them, with the audience. Sure, we might be told that a girl is wealthy or that she is the student council secretary, but at no point does it feel like a Powerpoint presentation. It feels like dialogue. It also feels like dialogue that people will say to each other, which I can’t say of something like, “When people are killed, they die.”

If Linden Films skimped on animation, they did not skimp on hiring writers. Michiko Yokuta is a coalition of writers who wrote some of my favorites, including Aa! Megami-sama‘s movie, Genshiken, and the vastly underrated Hare+Guu. Their most recent work is the last anime that I gushed about: Shirobako. They know how to write. Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches, while an ongoing manga, managed to fit an entire, complete story into 12 episodes that doesn’t feel rushed or dragged out. They could maybe have squeezed one more fanservice episode in, but overall the pacing is great. By the end of the series, if you knew nothing about the manga, you would assume that was the whole story, Bilbo went there and came back, the fucking end. Recently, the live action version of Yamada also aired, and while that adaptation is almost 50% longer, it feels like less is done and everything is rushed compared to the shorter anime version. Okay, maybe the backgrounds are bland and the movements aren’t crisp, but the story gets told properly.


The big draw though is Yamada himself. He reminds me a lot of Onizuka in that he is headstrong, he is not afraid to confront someone, and he does not back down from anything– love, bears, storms– he takes them all head on. He’s a bit charming in a naive kind of way. Yet, he has the same quality that Onizuka has in that he always wants to make things better for his friends. Sure, he may get some yakisoba bread out of it too, but he does dumb things because he feels that’s how he can make things better. In the first arc of Onizuka, the famous scene occurs when he goes to visit the house of one of his problem students. She complains that her parents stopped loving (each other, her, their puppy, etc.) when they moved from a small house to a large house where her parents have separate bedrooms. Onizuka, being the loveable oaf he is, doesn’t know how to make it better other than marching into her house, goes into the bedroom, and smashes down the wall with a sledgehammer. At the beginning of Yamada-kun, when Yamada learns that Shiraishi is being bullied, he does the only thing he knows how to do: He confronts the bullies and tries to beat them up. His heart is in the right place, but his method is totally wrong. Yet I could see Onizuka doing this. I could see Yamada breaking down the wall. They have a very similar character trait.

But the big difference is that Onizuka goes solo. Yamada has Shiraishi. Shiraishi stops him from confronting the bullies, and somehow the resultant mess that Shiraishi and Yamada recreates resolves the conflict. That’s what I like about this series. Every single time Yamada gets caught in a bad situation, he tries to fix it himself, only to realize he needs help. Most of the time it is from Shiraishi, but others also step up and help. An early antagonist, Odagiri, provides him with assistance when he needs it most later on. And none of it feels out of place– as the series progress, you can see the characters grow and change. I totally would not expect episode 1 Odagiri to help him, but episode 10? I see it. Actual character growth. Yamada himself goes from someone who hated going to school to one who wants others to go to school because he starts to like going so much. Shiraishi goes from Yuki Nagato to Hestia. Okay, maybe not that extreme.


The story itself grows as well. At the beginning, it seems like just about how Yamada and Shiraishi stumbled across a weird power where Yamada can switch bodies with whom he kisses. That eventually leads to the discovery that Shiraishi is a witch capable of switching bodies, and Yamada can copy her power. Then they find Odagiri, the second witch. Then it becomes the re-establishment of the supernatural club to see if there are more witches. Finally, after they find more witches, it becomes a battle with another organization intent on keeping the witches secret. The scope of Yamada’s story expands with every witch he encounters. None of this is spelled out in the beginning, as Yamada goes through a lot of trial and error to figure out what is going on. There’s a funny sequence where Yamada and Shiraishi think that they swap bodies by tumbling down the stairs, so they try it a few dozen times before realizing that kissing is what allows them to swap bodies*. I appreciate a story that doesn’t spend a 60 minute prologue explaining why 7 witches (and warlocks) are fighting over a Holy Grail. It’s evident why Yamada is doing what he is doing by the end.

(* This is just perfect doujinshi fodder.)

There’s just a lot of genuine moments too, like when a witch asks Yamada to help her because her powers do not let her have a boyfriend. She tells him that she is afraid that she will be lonely forever. It makes him think about how lonely Shiraishi was, alone party because of her powers, and this prompts him to find a way to help the witch. The Yamada from episode 1 would not do this for her. The Yamada who grew to love Shiraishi, who grew to like coming to school, and who grew to gain more friends than the club room can hold? That Yamada would do this for her.

And that’s probably my favorite part of this series, the romance between Yamada and Shiraishi. While Takeo and Yamato-san have been a couple longer* than Yamada-kun and Shiraishi, Takeo and Yamato don’t feel as real. They feel like manga characters. Yamada and Shiraishi? They feel like normal people trapped in a manga. That’s a subtle difference I guess. As Yamada goes trying to find witches (and thus having to solve each witches’ unique issue), he depends a lot on Shiraishi. Shiraishi gives him the useful body swap ability, she comes up with good ideas, and she provides Yamada with stability. The two complement each other very well. Shiraishi is a bit too cautious and closed, things that Yamada never has issues with. You can see Yamada slowly realizing that he has feelings for Shiraishi because at first, he has no issues kissing her to swap bodies. As the series goes on, he hesitates more and more in kissing her. By the end, there’s an issue that can be resolved easily if he just fucking kissed her, but he opts not to because he is too overwhelmed with anime male protagonist MERS/SARS/whatever. It’s cute, infuriating, and entertaining all rolled up in one.

(* I love Takeo and Yamato too, but I feel like Yamato is going to snap and go Future Diary on Takeo if Takeo doesn’t put out soon.)


Oh yes, and the comedy. The fact Yamada can gain witch powers with kissing is golden. It sets up a lot of smooching. There’s more smooching in this series than in the first season of 90210. There’s smooching of all kinds: guy/girl, girl/girl, guy/guy. This anime has it all, very equal, much opportunity. If the plot enters a scenario where Yamada has to kiss someone to resolve it, the kiss will not be straightforward, Yamada might be abused, but it will be hilarious. The kissing feels normal, which seems abnormal considering this medium is anime where kissing is forbidden. Kissing becomes as commonplace as watching Gundams launch into space. There’s also a lot of gold moments in the show, like whenever a boy or girl switches into the opposite gender (always a “I HAVE THAT NOW!?”) reaction that doesn’t get old. There’s the time when Yamada switches with Shiraishi because Shiraishi hates taking baths with the other girls. Of course, it’s not heaven for Yamada. And it gets worse when he discovers that Shiraishi, in his body, has been stealing Shiraishi’s panties. When Yamada finally gets out of that frying pan and asks her, “Why the fuck would you steal your own panties while in my body,” she deadpans, “They’re cute. I just wanted to see them.” Just little moments that accent the general chaos that occurs. There are other moments too, like when Miyabi spends the club budget on yet another dumb thing, Leona randomly undressing, and whenever Yamada has to take a test and can’t swap with Shiraishi.

Maybe the animation isn’t as bad as I think it is, maybe the kissing isn’t as funny as I think it is, maybe Yamada isn’t the second coming of Onizuka like I think he is, but putting everything together, Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches is a charming series that is my favorite of the season. Sure, it may look pretty like Sound! Euphonium, have zettai ryouiki tsundere like UBW, food pr0n like Food Wars Ore Monogatari, Endless Eight of Punch Line, YEE-ART! of Ninja Slayer, disappointment of Yuki Nagato, decisive romance of Nisdekoi, boob string of DanMachi, incomprehensible dialogue of SNAFU, random technobullshit of Arise, or the total badass nonsense of Blood Blockade Battlefront. But Yamada has heart, characters who seem real (except the dude who loves tempura a bit too much, he’s totally a manga character), enough romance, dash of comedy, and is just plain fun to watch. Enjoy the 12 episode ride.

3 Responses to “there are seven witches”

  1. I completely agree with you about Yamada-kun being a favorite from this past season, along with the fact that what makes it so enjoyable are the realistic relationships, particularly between Yamada and Shiraishi.

    That said, I have one small bone to pick: particularly after the midway point, the story is VERY rushed. They were clearly condensing a ton of manga material into a very limited number of episodes and it absolutely harmed the story-telling, taking what could have been a classic and reducing it to just a very nice show.

  2. I think this first section of the manga was very well constructed. It had a clear goal and intent with the 7 witches and the story it wanted to tell while giving like able characters. I think however it should definitely stop here. Past here it just keeps adding more and more due to the manga’s continued popularity without really adding much of substance at all. It feels played out, but reading this post definitely reminded me why I enjoyed reading this series in the first place (and watching the anime).

  3. Finally finished the series, and my first thought was to come here and finally read this post, AGREE AGREE AGREE AGREE!

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