Witch Hat Atelier Volume 10 is the tenth tankōbon in Kamome Shirahama’s Witch Hat Atelier secondary-universe fantasy manga series. Titled Tongari Bōshi no Atorie in the original Japanese, Witch Hat Atelier has been serialized in Kodansha’s Monthly Morning Twomagazine since July 2016. First published in Japan in 2022, the English translation of Volume 10 was released later that same year.
When last we saw Coco and her colour-blind chum Tartah, they had been having what should have been a happy reunion with their pal, Custas. Too bad that he has made certain discoveries concerning magic and in consequence is less than pleased with his friends.
Officially, only witches have the inborn ability to work magic. This is a lie. Anyone can perform magic, given the proper training. This has been concealed for the greater good. Magic in the masses’ hands led to catastrophe centuries ago. Sanctioned witches go to great lengths to conceal how magic really works. They are opposed only by the iconoclast Brimhat witches.
Born and raised an impoverished beggar, Custas is inclined to distrust the upper classes. Informed by Brimhat witch Ininia of the great lie, Custas is outraged. He trusts the Brimhats, because they used illicit magic to save Custas’ mentor Dagda from the brink of death. He is angry at his old chums, who had declined to use their magic to heal Custas’ crippled legs. If witchcraft can heal, why not Dagda? Why not Custas?
Custas helps the Brimhat Ininia ambush Coco and Tartah. Clasping magical bracelets onto the wrists of the pair, Ininia demands that the pair do her a favour. Fail or refuse and the bracelets will burn a forbidden magical tattoo onto their wrists. Coco and Tartah have no choice but to agree.
Knight Moralis Galga has the misfortune to overhear a familiar tune. He recognizes the tune as one played by Dagda. Curious as to why Custas vanished from medical care (in a previous volume), he confronts Dagda. Since Dagda now embodies forbidden magic, Galga must be silenced before he can share what he has learned.
As the volume closes, Coco wrestles with an insurmountable challenge. The favour demanded by Ininia requires that Coco take part in the Silver Eve Procession. But Coco may not be able to prove she has the necessary qualifications in the time allotted.
I’d feel sorrier for Galga if what he suffers in this tankōbon were it not exactly what he and his fellow Knights Moralis routinely dole out to anyone who may have learned too much about magic. The thing about inflexible, ruthlessly applying draconian measures is that wrongdoers have no reason not opt for their nuclear option. This theme is a constant in this manga .
The witches have done an exemplary job of eliminating healing magic, on the grounds that the body modification techniques involved lend themselves to horrific abuses. Given that other forms of magic have also been shown to be liable to misuse, this decision is … credible? But it does mean that even the Brimhat witches should not have healing magic. So how did Ininia save mortally wounded Dagda?
Strictly speaking, she didn’t. Ininia used a spell more commonly used to extend the service life of objects. A time loop spell winds time back for a damaged object, seemingly restoring it. However, it is not fixed, only shifted back to a moment when it was not yet damaged. Once sufficient time elapses, the damage reappears. Thus, a very confused Dagda has been reliving his demise over and over again since he was supposedly healed. There are good reasons for fearing misused magic.
This volume is a bit of a downer, what with kids being blackmailed with the magical version of exploding bracelets, poor Dagda dying over and over, Galga’s boyfriend learning what happened to Galga, and so on. Usually, there are little happy moments in each volume. This one is almost entirely about trauma and PTSD. The art is still beautiful and the characters engaging, but the narrative is increasingly bleak.
Worse yet, I’ve now run out of unread volumes. Binge reading is at an end. I won’t find out what happens next until July. Oh, the anticipation!
1: Note that the reason Coco and Tartah can be blackmailed is because they will be punished for being tattooed even if it was not their fault.