FLYING WITCH VOL. 1 BY CHIHIRO ISHIZUKA
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
The main heroine of FLYING WITCH leads the plot in random directions, but the humor and quirky characters keeps you entertained.
80 %
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Imagine you’re heading home and then whoosh—a high school girl flies by on a broom. Maybe you’re just seeing things, yeah, you didn’t get much sleep last night. Best to forget about—wait, did you just hear that horrifying scream? It sounded like—no best to forget about it. Keep walking. Walk faster. Run! Oh, you’re finally home. Time to take that nap—hold on . . . is some strange creature waiting for you outside your house?!

Welcome to the world of FLYING WITCH, a world where magic meets reality and weird things happen often. The manga is Chihiro Ishizuka’s debut manga series and his only one to date. It’s set in rural Aomori Prefecturewhere Ishizuka grew upand follows Makoto Kowata, a novice witch who moves in with her distant relatives to continue her training.

The first volume is about Makoto settling into this lifestyle and using the world around her to practice her magic. In this volume, Makoto is a bit of an enigma to the other characters due to her eccentric personality. Chinatsu, her younger relative, is wary of her at first but becomes fascinated once Makoto reveals she’s a witch. Nao, a girl at Makoto’s new school, also discovers Makoto’s secret but isn’t quite as enthused. However, through her infectious personality, Makoto discovers a fitting place among these unusual characters.

Sharp Writing

You wouldn’t expect a manga with such a tranquil-looking cover to be funny, but FLYING WITCH delivers sharp, witty humor within the very first chapter. In Chapter 1, Makoto arrives in Aomori Prefecture with her familiar Chito, a black cat that can understand human language but not speak it, and starts exploring her surroundings.

Here, the backgrounds are soft-looking and Ishizuka uses lots of white space, drawing focus to the characters. The low energy of the shots and characters’ poses also creates a relaxing atmosphere. You don’t expect something funny to happen and that’s what makes it so impactful. For example, when Kei shows up to lead Makoto to his home because she has a bad sense of direction, Makoto brushes his worries aside. She says, “That was so long ago. I can remember how to get that far.” Then immediately goes the wrong way. As you can see below, this scene becomes even funnier because of Kei’s reaction.

Makoto and Kei
Kei is pretty straightforward about Makoto’s silly antics. | Image: Vertical Comics

These types of interactions fill the first volume and the comedy feels like a mix between a trope called “playing for laughs” (using things to make the reader laugh) and the stand-up comedy style of manzai (a two-person comedy routine where the straight man reacts to the funny man).

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An Entertaining Cast

In addition to making FLYING WITCH’s story more fun, the comedy also makes the characters more engaging. It either enhances what we know about a character or shows a different side to them. Kei is straightforward and calls out Makoto on her strange whims, but the comedy allows him to also be whimsical. One instance of this is when he introduces Makoto to Chinatsu, his little sister. He lets them greet each other and then says “This is . . . your real mother, Chito,” with a serious, straight face, blatantly lying. Another moment showing Kei’s silliness is when Chinatsu wants Makoto to buy her a donut. Kei starts to yell at Chinatsu and Makoto tries to wave off his words, but then Kei exclaims with a serious, angry face “No! I want a donut too!”

On the other hand, Chinatsu’s candidness shines even more because of the comedy. Like Kei, Chinatsu is straightforward, but much more often. One instance of this is when we first meet her at her home. She greets Makoto and then instantly asks, “Are you Kei’s girl?” with a straight face. Even later in the volume, her scenes are hilarious. One example is when she meets the Harbinger of Spring, a creature that sends away winter and brings along spring. Chinatsu takes one look at the ominous figure and slams the door in his face, refusing to let him in. Using comedy to make characters more interesting isn’t an original concept, but here it works well. There are times when the comedy falls flatseemingly more appealing to Japanese audiences than American audiencesbut these moments are minimal at best.

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The Wonders of the Witchy World

Another element that makes FLYING WITCH’s story entertaining is its education element. Makoto’s knowledge about the magical world provides plenty of interesting information about witches and magic, from witch culture to ingredients for spells. We also learn a bit about the other magical creatures that exist in this world, which vary from moving plants to spring fairies to other witches. One of the most exciting parts of the manga is the arrival of Akane, Makoto’s sister. She arrives with a teleportation spell and quickly teaches Makoto a spell to summon a crow. This was my favorite part of the manga because Akane’s step-by-step guide on how to perform the spell allows you to see how each piece creates the magical result.

The magic in FLYING WITCH also looks great. Compared to when Ishizuka uses a more simplistic art style to focus on the characters, here he uses more detail to bring the magic to life. The shots and character expressions are also more animated, giving the panels more energy and excitement.

Crows
A sudden murder of crows descends from the sky! | Image: Vertical Comics

Some parts of the art style also have a bit of an eeriness to it. When the spell goes wrong, we suddenly see a murder of crows. The image feels like something out of THE BIRDS, a horror movie. It makes you feel uncomfortable. Though this mood quickly fades and switches to something more light and humorous, like how Akane has teleported away and left Makoto to deal with the leftover crows, it’s interesting to see Ishizuka take these kinds of risks in his first volume.

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A Magical Concept?

However, FLYING WITCH isn’t without its flaws.  It’s rare that we see real magic as part of the normal world, which makes this concept incredibly appealing. Discovering what items to use in spells and learning about magical creatureswho wouldn’t want to do that? However, it takes a while to get to that knowledge.

FLYING WITCH’s art style is very relaxing, and its story covers more of Makoto’s everyday antics than her witch training. As a result, the tone is cheerful and comical, as if we’re supposed to focus more on the funny character interactions than the magical plotline. I can understand why you would want that kind of focus in a slice-of-life series, but the magical element feels too minimal for a series that’s trying to stand out because of it.

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The Spacey Heroine

Unfortunately, some of this fault may lie with the heroine. Makoto has a likable, friendly personality, but she takes her magic lessons at a super slow pace. Even by the end of the volume, she’s barely even flown on her broom. Her sister Akane points this out.

Makoto and Akane
Akane lightly scolds her sister for slacking on her training. | Image: Vertical Comics

Part of Makoto’s laid-back attitude stems from a lack of risk or urgency in the story; there are no enemies to fight or punishments if she fails. The other part stems from her easily-distracted mind. Makoto has a childlike sense of wonder; she’s fascinated by anything new and must instantly explore it. Her childlike side can be amusing; however, this side of her can also be distracting and make the story feel unfocused. For example, in Chapter 3, Makoto decides to grow vegetables that can be used in spells and starts to teach Chinatsu about them, but before she can get into anything specific, she gets distracted by a pheasant and chases it for nearly the rest of the chapter.

A bit confused, Chinatsu asks, “Is catching pheasants part of your witch training, too?” And Makoto answers, “Oh, no, it has nothing to do with being a witch. I just want to, that’s all,” with a smile. Makoto’s distraction during this chapter was probably supposed to be funny, but for me, it felt random and less interesting than what was happening before. I’m all for comedy, but not when it distracts so much from the action that the story becomes an afterthought.

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Cast the Spell!

The world of FLYING WITCH is fascinating, and the humor and quirky characters kept me hooked, even when the plot meandered. Makoto is not the most focused heroine and the story does suffer from that, but her redeemable traits make her adventures fun to watch. I highly recommend this manga if you’re looking for a new, funny slice-of-life story with a bit of magic. Hopefully, as Makoto encounters more witches and her knowledge of spells grows, magic will become a bigger element in the story and the pace will improve.

FLYING WITCH Vol. 1 is available for purchase at Vertical Comics. Featured image courtesy of Penguin Random House.

3 Comments

  1. Kris

    February 26, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    I’m pretty excited to start this series. I really love fantasy series that have a more slice of life feel, and I think I’ll enjoy it a lot more since it also has some comedy mixed in. I’ve actually been reading a similar series recently that just started up. It’s called The Knight of The Falling Star, and it deals with a man from the fae realm coming to the human world. Going to the human world is the last thing he has to do before he can become a knight in his world, and when he travels over he wasn’t expecting the human world to have become so much more modern. There’s a lot of humor in this series too, and it also focuses on the very interesting romance between the main character and the human girl he met after he traveled over. I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re open to trying a new series!

    Reply

    • Crystal Holdefer

      February 27, 2018 at 9:07 pm

      @Kris Thanks for the recommendation! I hope you enjoy it!

      Reply

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