Review/discussion about: Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
I think it is safe to say that everyone has a wish they want fulfilled. Money, power, and fame are the common ones, as they seem to be the most wanted. But money, power, and fame are not everything. More often than not, what we need most is not a shiny new car or rabid fans but instead something a bit more universal. A shoulder to lean on, a friend to hang out with, or a partner to hug; one of the greatest aspects in life are the relationships we share with the people around us. For it is these very relationships that do what those previous three wishes cannot: make us happy for a lifetime. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is all about relationships, wishes, and of course witches, that provides an average outing overall.
The Seven Witches (as it will be named from here on out) stars Yamada-kun, a delinquent whose behavior makes him very difficult to associate with. One day, when walking up some steps, he falls, crashing into the top student of the school, Urara Shiraishi, which magically causes their bodies to switch. From there, the quest to find the other six witches begins.
Perhaps the anime’s greatest strength comes in the form of the theme it tackles: the importance of relationships. Whether it is with friends, family, or anyone in-between, people are always looking to form a connection with those around them. This is the main point of the show, with the witch powers revolving around such a concept. For instance, Shiraishi is able to switch bodies because she always wanted to experience a different lifestyle, Nene is able to coerce others because she was looking to gain increased support, Maria can see the future in order to have others avoid terrible fates, etc. As the anime depicts, the girls have these abilities and use them on their fellow classmates not because they can but because they wanted to have everlasting relationships that they could not obtain otherwise. Scenarios like Noa dealing with some teenagers’ hardships and Meiko working with students to perform better on their tests showcase the differing ways in which relationships are formed and comfort is found in others.
One of the best and simplest examples of the show’s emphasis on relationships that the anime employs is the kissing that is needed to use these witch powers. Kissing, be it on the hand, the cheek, or the lips, is a sign of affection towards another, and a known symbol of love between two people. Throughout the entirety of the anime, kissing is shared mostly between Yamada-kun and Shiraishi, but also between many more with gender being a second thought. Nobody thinks of it as anything more than a necessity until the end where Shiraishi clumsily goes through the act. She understands that now, after losing her power, the kiss’s true meaning is all that is left.
But it took a lot to get to that moment; the girls, despite being granted amazing gifts, do not find immediate solace. In fact, while their status gave them interesting abilities, at the same time their powers actually prevented them from maintaining the relationships they so desperately wanted. Certain situations, such as Saionji’s ability causing everyone to forget about her and Maria being unable to have a boyfriend, made it impossible to create such relationships. Worst still, those around them were affected, too; Yamada and Leona experience this firsthand through the loss they undergo. In this way, the conclusion of the anime – where the characters discover that it was not their powers that allowed them to all become such good friends but the experiences themselves – is a simple message that finishes the narrative nicely.
However, there is one glaring issue that The Seven Witches has, known as “firing and forgetting.” The anime follows usually the same sequence of events: learn of new witch, help this witch, and move on from said witch. There are minor discrepancies to this formula in the beginning (where the main group is being put together) and during one event in the middle (still dealing with forming the main group) but the show generally has the tendency to forego its most important aspect, namely the witches. Despite them all having interesting abilities, the anime refuses to use the girls in conjunction with one another or even after they have been discovered. This is strange because of the theme on relationships; one would think that, given the focus on it, such newfound relationships would play a more pivotal role in the scenarios encountered. Again, the non-witches are affected by this tactic as well because, after a certain point, cast members such as Miyamura and Miyabi are pushed to the side to make way for the anime’s next set of occurrences.
One of The Seven Witches weakest areas is the art it utilizes. In short, it is boring; besides the characters themselves not visiting too many locations outside of their clubroom or other parts of the school, there is little in the way of detail. At the minimum, the show does use some pretty hysterical reaction faces – usually performed by Yamada-kun – that have the eyes bug out as giant, white spheres that have lost their pupils. It sounds scary but it works to make Yamada-kun seem even more incredulous.
The character designs are very nice, especially for the female characters. While they tend to follow typical tropes for the medium – an uncommon hair and color combination – it fits with the uniqueness the girls have due to them being witches. Shiraishi’s long blonde hair and jewel-like eyes, Nene’s short purple hair, and Maria’s earrings with pink hair and ponytail, with each wearing their school’s uniform, is quite attractive. Yamada-kun’s spiky blue hair and unkempt attire also coincides with his overall demeanor.
Actual animation is somewhere around average. There isn’t a whole lot of action within the anime itself and therefore little movement. Lots of dialogue and sitting around is had instead, with the characters really only being animated when going through those all-important kisses.
Due to the “firing and forgetting” method used on the characters, many of the witches only have minor background details given about them. There is very little in the way of development because the show just does not give them any time whatsoever. This is evident in characters like Meiko and Noa who, after their specific episode, have nothing else about them provided. Other characters, like Miyabi and Ushio, undergo the same treatment of initial divulgence on their persons followed by a stagnation of their character. Nene at least garners a bit more attention in the form of (ironic) unrequited love, but it is nothing worthwhile.
Two arguments arise as to why nearly the whole cast is little more than their personality traits: the comedic nature of the anime and the size of the cast. Since the show is more about inducing laughter than enacting drama, it becomes understandable that the characters are not entirely complex. Instead, by being only known for their individual shticks, the comedy is easier to handle and therefore present. As for the large cast size, the bigger it is, the more resources have to be spread evenly between everyone, devaluing each of the characters to a certain extent. That is, it becomes unrealistic to expect every cast member to be entirely fleshed out. This type of logic can be seen in most comedies involving a sizeable amount of characters, meaning them not being the most compelling of people is not too much of a negative.
The Seven Witches does put higher emphasis on two characters: Shiraishi and Yamada-kun. Shiraishi, as has been briefly described earlier, is the model student of the school. She is beautiful, gets great grades, and is respectful to those around her. Yet she has extreme difficulty connecting with others because many people are jealous of what she has, and for those that are not they cannot seem to understand the girl who hides behind her books. It is not until Yamada-kun shows up that she begins to open up. What is interesting is how the phrase “opposites attract” both does and does not apply. She is like Yamada-kun because they both find themselves unable to connect with people and she is unlike Yamada-kun because of her passiveness compared to his active behavior. That last fact is a constant factor, with her mostly tagging along for the whole season. To that end, at times she feels nonexistent which in turn stagnates her character, but at the minimum she opens up more so than she ever did before.
As for Yamada-kun, he is arguably the strongest character the anime has to offer. Upon entering high school, he wanted to leave behind his old self in favor of a new one, but found that he once more could not find a place to call his own. It is at this point that Yamada-kun stumbles upon and on Shiraishi, with the rest of the season following. The further along it goes, the more situations he finds himself in and subsequently the more relationships he establishes with the people around him. He almost loses them forever, but his newfound determination fostered throughout the series pulls through, with him saving Shiraishi and the other witches with a wish that makes perfect sense; Yamada-kun already has everything he could ever wish for, so him unburdening the girls now and in the future to form their own relationships brings everyone the greatest amount of happiness. At this point, the reason for him having such a power to start with becomes clear: not only did he need friends and relationships the most out of anyone in the school but it was what he wanted more than anything all along. Meaning, he was granted all of the witch powers – which were designed to create these connections – to eventually achieve his wish, and achieve his true wish he did.
The opening theme starts and ends nicely, but the middle is rather repetitive. Listening to the piece more closely, the vocalist does nearly all of the work, while the instruments are composed in such a way as to bring about a mysterious yet hopeful vibe befitting the anime well enough. The ending theme mirrors its opening counterpart in that the singer does the heavy lifting; she has wonderful range and really carries the piece despite the boring beat.
The remainder of the soundtrack is nothing too notable. There are tracks that follow the feeling of magic through their strange-sounding instruments, hard-guitar riffs for Yamada-kun’s more rough-and-tumble encounters, piano melodies for the happy and sad times, and other tunes that find their place among the mystery that permeates many of the events. It is an OST that is not worth listening to outside of the anime itself, being little more than background noise.
Voice acting for the anime is somewhere slightly above average. Special shout-outs are deserved for Ryota Osaka as Yamada-kun for his accent and reactionary way of speaking and Saori Hayami as Shiraishi for her “manlier” way of speaking when Yamada-kun took over her body.
Looking back through the anime, I found the first half or so pretty funny. Shiraishi was very cute, her interactions with Yamada-kun were always adorable, Miyabi and Miyamura were fun with their teasing, the body-switching created hilarious scenarios, and Nene’s embarrassment despite her confidence made for quite the happy times.
But when the show moved away from its comedic roots and into the more dramatic elements later on, it started to fall apart. Due to the progression of the story, there were fewer cute moments between the main couple, the side characters were pushed to the sidelines, the powers were used less and less, and due to the shift in tone the anime was not looking to make Nene blush but instead have her cry. To put it differently, when the anime was trying to be funny, it was, and when it was not, it really should have been.
The point about not utilizing the witch powers to their full extent, talked about here and in other areas, was also sad to see. When the anime places so much importance on the witches that it includes them in the title itself, and then proceeds to not do anything with them, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It is even worse when the witches and their personalities added some spice to the mix. Noa’s clinginess, Maria’s assertiveness, and Meiko’s dual personality were all quirks that the anime could have leveraged but failed to do so.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches has an interesting premise that ultimately does not go anywhere. Its themes are personable and some of its characters are interesting, but the misuse of its cast, the lackluster art, and the lame soundtrack bring the whole package down. While Yamada-kun and Shiraishi live happily ever after, this one still needs a wish of its own.
Story: Fine, theme on relationships is executed nicely but “firing and forgetting” is rampant
Animation: Fine, boring art style, fitting reaction faces, nice character designs, about average actual animation
Characters: Good, Nene and the side characters are passable, Shiraishi is okay, with Yamada-kun undoubtedly being a strong character
Sound: Fine, okay OP, okay ED, boring soundtrack, slightly above average VA work
Enjoyment: Fine, Shiraishi is adorable, with the show being hilarious earlier rather than later
Final Score: 5/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3