“Ah, fire: scourge of Prometheus, toaster of marshmallows, eradicator of dead wood.” – Sideshow Bob, The Simpsons.
Some people say it is best to fight fire with fire. In Witchcraft Works it seems it is best to fight just about anything with fire.
Set in Tougetsu Academy, the story begins with a perfectly ordinary boy called Honoka Takamiya, whose main problem in life is that the person he sits next to in class is Ayaku Kagari, the seemingly emotionless daughter of the school’s chairwoman and by the far the most popular girl in the school. You know the sort: the kind of anime character in a school so idolised they get their own fan club. Has anyone in a real school ever been so popular they got their own fan club?
Anyway, being so close to Ayaku, Honoka often gets attacked by her overzealous fans, but this is nothing compared to when he finds a cuddly toy with the label: “Today’s weather. Mostly clear skies, with occasional school buildings.” At which point the school clock tower begins to collapse, endangering Honoka. Luckily he is saved by Ayaku – who is now dressed in a big, pointy hat and cloak. Ayaku is actually a witch with the ability to control fire, to such an extend she can even set her whole body ablaze.
After this incident, Honoka finds himself attacked by other witches, but Ayaku decides to protect him and he takes to calling her “princess”. Honoka is eventually told what is going on: there are two groups of witches in the world: the “Workshop Witches” who protect the world and ensure magic is not being misused; and the “Tower Witches” who want to use magic for their own ends and appear to want to destroy the world. Both groups are after Honoka because he has some kind of magical power that he has yet to take control of. Thus Honoka decides to become a magical apprentice under Ayaku.
The best part of Witchcraft Works is the artwork. The combination of character design and magical elements work together in a way that engages the reader in a combination of ways. For example, when Ayaku reaches the point when her power is at her height and her entire body becomes a flaming torch, creator Ryu Mizunagi artfully mixes Ayaku’s beautiful body with the fire that covers her from head to toe while protecting Honoka. It is quite literally the heat of passion.
There are also some fine comic moments. Five Tower Witches transfer to the school, so in response to this the next day, Honoka finds Ayaku in one room having tied some of the witches to brooms, ball-gagged, in a room full of fire with Ayaku armed with what looks like a cross between a flamethrower and a sawn-off, flintlock rifle
The story has plenty of action in it, and with Honoka making the move to be an apprentice we see the entire story moving forward. This is a good manga, which has also had an anime adaptation earlier this year on Crunchyroll. Witchcraft Works is worth checking out.