Come Out and Play

Miki Yoshikawa
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, book 1

Yk7V1

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Volume One collects the first five issues (of 243!) of Miki Yoshikawa’s eponymous manga series. The series ran from 2012 to 2017. The English translation was released in 2015.

Ryu Yamada is an outcast at school, a delinquent whose marks are as unimpressive as his attendance record. He regards Urara Shiraishi as exactly the sort of overachieving student he loathes, so he makes a point of cutting in front on her while ascending the school stairs.

One tumble down the stairs later and he is a delinquent transformed.



Yamada wakes in the school infirmary. Given his history of roughhousing, this is almost certainly not the first time this has happened to him. Finding his mind ensconced in Shiraishi’s body is, however, a new experience. Since Shiraishi is not present IN the body, he must assume that she has found herself in Yamada’s body.

But Shiraishi and Yamada’s body are nowhere to be seen. It takes Yamada some time to track down his body and its current occupant. What he finds is that thanks to her academic success, she has been a target for bullies. In fact, she has been something of an outcast. They are more alike than they would have thought.

A little experimentation teaches them that simple kiss will trigger a body swap. They still don’t know why they have gained this weird ability or exactly how far it extends. Yamada and Shiraishi embrace experimentation with a fine scientific fervor. In the end they have a much better (although still pretty inaccurate) idea of what this new magic can do.

Shiraishi may be a stuck-up bookworm (or a miserable victim of bullying who uses school work as a solace) while Yamada is a boorish fool (or an outcast who doesn’t let reason and convention get in the way of doing what’s right or at least interesting). Their magical link sparks a grudging friendship. Body-swapping lets them solve some of their problems: Shiraishi takes tests for Yamada, while Yamada manages to improve Shiraishi’s social standing by dealing harshly with a peeping tom.

Student council vice president Toranosuke Miyamura takes a personal interest in the peeping tom incident. Forthright action like that isn’t in character for Shiraishi. Perhaps it wasn’t Shiraishi at all…. It takes Miyamura surprisingly little time to prove that a body swap happened and to work out who was really in Shiraishi’s body.

Miyamura has a use for someone who can swap bodies….

 ~oOo~

Do I have a standard fan service warning? This series dishes out a lot of fan-service, but it was also aimed at a broader audience than hardcore otaku.

Some readers may be wondering


Yes. Yes it is. Nothing NC-17, as far as I know.

Miyamura manages to work out what’s going on because he’s open to all possibilities (in more senses than one), but also because Yamada is not especially adept at passing for a girl even when he is one. The body may change but the body language is quite consistent….

I’ve read ahead. The rules Shiraishi and Yamada think the magic follows are correct but incomplete. Yes, kissing is a necessary part of the process but there are other conditions that don’t apply quite yet. Points off for getting it wrong, but lots more points for trying to work out what’s up, rather than simply panicking when they swapped bodies.

The interesting thing about the story thus far is that despite featuring otherworldly powers, the problems the kids tackle are surprisingly mundane. Don’t go into this expecting the fate of the world to depend on the kids’ decisions. Instead, they wrestle with more personal issues: bullying, marks, romance, and the bitter struggle over who will be the next absolute ruler of the student council. More often than not, the key to resolving disputes is working out what’s motivating the players on the other side and turning them into allies.

So far the series is surprisingly amiable. If there are dramatic shifts in tone coming up, please don’t tell me.

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, volume one is available here (Amazon) here (Amazon.ca) and here (Chapters-Indigo).


Comments

  • Robert Carnegie

    It does say "Seven Witches", so why, so I looked up Wikipedia... if I'm following the extremely condensed summary, Shiraishi and Yamada both possess distinct magical kissing powers, and others show up (more than seven), but body swapping is Shiraishi's specific power... until it isn't. Another is "sbetrg nyy nobhg (*)" juvpu unf nyernql unccrarq ng yrnfg bapr jura guvf ibyhzr fgnegf.

    Apparently the "Japanese chess club" gets involved. Inputting that into Wikipedia indicates that "Shogi" can be described as a "chess variant", but specifically as being descended from from India's "chaturanga" as "Western chess" also is, so which came first, neither. This isn't linked from "Seven Witches" and I'll take a guess that the actual rules of any chess game are irrelevant to the story... though for all I know, the plot follows Shogi rules and moves rigorously. Then again, the game where pieces frequently jump across or onto each other is checkers. ;-)

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