Ryū Mizunagi’s contemporary fantasy manga Witchcraft Works (Witchikurafuto Wākusu ) has been serialized in Kodansha’s good! Afternoon magazine since March 2010. Volume one of the tankōbon series collects the first four installments.
Honoka Takamiya is an unremarkable high school student. His otherwise normal life is subject to ongoing disruption thanks to … propinquity . The statuesque Ayaka Kagari not only has the desk next to Honoka, she takes the same route to school. Her legion of adoring fans sees Honoka’s uninvited (and unwilling) proximity to their idol as an affront to be punished whenever possible.
One day the school’s clock tower is dropped onto Honoka and his life changes forever.
Honoka is swept to safety by Ayaka. Remarkable! Even more remarkable is the broomstick on which Ayaka is flying as she saves Honoka. No sooner does the young woman rescue Honoka than cat-eared witch Tanpopo unleashes an army of enchanted teddy-bears at her. Ayaka bursts into fire and incinerates the lot of them.
This is unexpected even for a Japanese high school. Ayaka’s explanation is less than entirely informative: Honoka is Ayaka’s “princess” and Ayaka will protect him. Ayaka is a fire witch — despite her human appearance, she appears to be made entirely of fire — and is largely immune to physical harm. She belongs to the Workshop witch organization. The people trying to kill or capture Honoka are Tower witches. Workshop witches protect society; Tower witches spread chaos.
Previously, Ayaka’s efforts to protect Honoka have been subtle. Now the Tower witches have, for some reason, embarked on overt attacks, which have forced Ayaka to reveal her true nature to Honoka.
Precisely what makes Honoka so pivotal is unclear. Tanpopo’s explanation — they want the white stuff which is inside Honoka’s body — fails to illuminate anything save that Tanpopo is oblivious to double-entendres. Ayaka is oddly evasive as well, but she does warn Honoka that if the Tower witches win, the consequences would be dire: all humans would die, the Earth would explode, and giraffe’s necks would get longer.
The tower witches are quite determined to get their hands on Honoka. Some of them transfer to Ayaka and Honoka’s high school. The fire witch has her job cut out for her…
One might think that women authors are less prone to fanservice than men. This manga does not support that thesis. I double-checked and Ryū Mizunagi is referred to as she or her where I could find pronouns. She seems to be perfectly comfortable with doing fanservice for her male readers; the manga features legions of buxom high school girls whose skirts appear to have been sewn during a severe cloth shortage.
I’ve read ahead so I know that “the white stuff inside Honoka” is not what you think it is (stop smirking); it’s Sealed Evil in a Can, potentially a source of great power or at least carnage. Ayaka and Honoka’s backstory is more complicated than we can learn from volume one. Ayaka’s backstory includes training from hell.
If we are to believe manga, a surprising number of Japanese schoolboys find themselves coveted by legions of attractive girls. Honoka stands out because unlike a lot of leads in harem stories, he brings no particular utility to the game (he’s just the wrapper for the candy everyone wants), and rather than having any particular romantic interest in him, most of the women pursuing him just want to dispose of him to get at the treat inside.
This manga is mostly harmless, I think. So far. The author doesn’t give much away in the first few issues — gotta keep the readers on tenterhooks — and nothing very decisive happens in this volume. I suspect some archive bingeing may be in my future. Which suggests that this manga is good enough to provoke a “want more.”
1: Only my aged, covid-19-vulnerable readers will remember a TV series called The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis , which features a high-school girl who sets her sights on Dobie, assuring him that he will fall for her eventually, thanks to propinquity .