Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 7 is the seventh tankōbon in Kamone Shirahama’s secondary world fantasy manga. Witch Hat Atelier (Tongari Bōshi no Atorie in the original Japanese) has been serialized in Kodansha’s Monthly Morning Two magazine since July 2016. First published in Japan in 2020, the English translation of Volume 7 was released in 2021.
Having passed senior witch Beldaruit’s test in the previous volume, Beldaruit takes Coco into his confidence regarding certain sensitive concerns. Coco’s teacher Qifrey and Qifrey’s friend Olruggio happen to be talking about the same subject.
The subject: does Qifrey have Coco’s best interests at heart or she is merely the means to an end? Is her well-being a secondary consideration?
Qilfrey’s dislike of the Brimhat cabal is not rooted in a concern for society’s general well-being. His anger is personal. When he was a boy, Brimhats stole his eye, erased his memories, and buried him alive. Qifrey survived only thanks to a stroke of good luck.
Coco is a promising student. As a fellow victim of the Brimhats, one whose memories were not erased, she is also a potential lead in the search for the elusive cabal. Both Beldaruit and Olruggio worry that finding the Brimhats is more important to Qifrey than Coco’s welfare. Will he sacrifice her if that gets him what he wants?
Coco has another concern. She wants to learn magic that will save her mother (whom Coco accidentally turned to stone in volume one). What is known so far is that any magic that could undo her mother’s transformation would necessarily be forbidden magic. Either Coco won’t be able to reverse her spell … or if she succeeds in doing so, she will by default become a Brimhat.
Coco’s confab with Beldaruit has an immediate effect. Coco sets off in quest of forbidden knowledge said to be sequestered in the Tower of Tomes, for whose guardian Coco may soon become a snack.
To be honest, this isn’t Delicious in Dungeon or the Kyle Baker run on The Shadow. Coco isn’t all that likely to die several volumes from the current end of the series.
Poor Coco is learning that while magic is powerful, it is not all-powerful. Moreover, she’s learning that worthwhile goals may exact a painful price. I don’t recall exactly how old Coco is supposed to be, but she’s definitely a child. Those are heavy lessons for a kid.
The Brimhats do not appear in this volume but two other plot threads underline the importance of setting limits on magic.
A: An aristocrat consults Olruggio on a matter of wedding decorations. The aristocrat is self-centered and short-sighted and if allowed to have access to the full capabilities of magic, will misuse it. Just as it was misused in the past. Best to hide the full range of sorcerous potential from such people.
B: While some of Qifrey’s actions in this volume (putting himself at risk to save Coco) are laudable, others suggest he’s willing to ignore rules and even ethics. Qifrey is clearly in the ends justify the means camp — which is scary1.
Does this sound like an unremitting grimdark installment of the manga? IMHO, author Shirahama manages to keep the tone light enough that the reader will feel some hope that all will turn out well.
Will there be a happy ending? I am reading Witch Hat Atelier faster than it is being published. Only three more volumes to go, and then I will be caught up. I’m anxious to find out what will happen.
I am pretty sure there is one correct cover for this tankōbon, the one I used, but various booksellers appear to believe volume 7 and volume 1 share the same art.
1: Qifrey apologizes as he ambushes and mind-wipes people who trusted him, like that’s sufficient recompense.