2022’s Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 11 is the eleventh tankōbon of Kamome Shirahama’s Witch Hat Atelier fantasy manga series. Witch Hat Atelier (Tongari Bōshi no Atelier in the original Japanese) has been serialized in Kodansha’s Monthly Morning Two magazine since July 2016. The English translation of Volume 11 first appeared in 2023.
Having been convinced to demonstrate some wonderous new spell in an upcoming procession, Coco encounters a foe too formidable even for her: spellcaster’s block.
It is not enough to resolve to invent some wondrous new magical application. One must actually invent the application. Coco finds the task so important yet so difficult that she spirals into panic and despair.
Fellow student Agott, with whom Coco has never been friends, charitably steps in with advice that breaks Coco out of her doom loop. Past conflict (Agott was unpleasant to Coco when Coco first arrived at the Atelier) is forgotten.
Coco invents a cunning new water purification method. She’s ready to go — or so she thinks. But she soon realizes that she has a new problem: it’s not enough to invent something that’s socially beneficial. Potential customers need to see what the product can do for them. Coco’s idea is a good starting point, but it requires a tweak from Agott to make Coco’s innovation marketable.
So far the story is heartwarming … which makes the magical catastrophe that ends the volume something of a mood-killer.
The art on this still amazes me. I really should track down Kamome Shirahama’s other work.
One of the main themes of the manga so far is that the witches are determined to regulate magic, which can get out of hand without some oversight. (Coco knows this all too well, as she killed her own mother in the first volume of the manga, when she was first exploring magic.) Of course, the regulations can be enforced draconically (with nasty consequences) as Coco also knows all too well. Given this setting, I found myself wondering why witches would encourage the development of commercially viable magical products, as they do in this volume. Surely those products can get out of hand?
On the whole this is a comparatively quiet volume. No horrifying body-warping magic1, just writer’s block. No big fights, just students learning to be better friends. Presumably, this is to better contrast with Volume 12, which promises calamity on a vast scale.
1: No body-warping magic in this volume. But there are hints that it’s going to be a big deal in Volume 12.…