Monica Everett is one of the Seven Sages, the most powerful group of mages in the world, but she’s unique among her peers in that she has mastered the art of casting spells without uttering a single chant. One day, a fellow mage enlists Monica’s help to protect Prince Felix at his prestigious academy without the prince knowing at all that he’s being watched. With her low profile and ability to cast magic with no words, as well as being close to the prince’s age, she seems perfect for the role. But there’s one problem: Monica is extremely shy; it’s why she learnt how to cast spells without words, because she’s too nervous to speak! Will her extreme shyness get in the way of her mission?
Secrets of the Silent Witch manga is an adaptation of the light novel of the same name, which the lovely Demelza covered previously; both are licensed by Yen Press. The adaptation is handled by Tobi Tana, who has credit for this series only and nothing else. Tobi does a good job at captivating Nanna Fujimi’s original character designs; the titular witch is full of detail, and every new character who’s introduced also pops out with attention lavished on their clothing and facial expressions. The world she inhabits also feels full of life, with every set piece from Monica’s cabin to the school looking distinct and lived-in.
As for the story itself, the manga does a decent job at setting up the world and mythology, having us follow a side character at the start, as a dragon starts torching the town, and having an outsider’s perspective on the witch herself. The reader will have some pre-conceptions about Monica if they’ve read the blurb on the back of the book, but the common folk see her as ‘cool’ mage, due to her being able to handle giant beasts without uttering a single word and then leaving silently like an action hero. It’s a nice opening that simultaneously introduces the world and its relationship to magic, as well as setting the stage for why Monica is as revered as she is before we officially meet her and realize that she’s the opposite of their perceptions.
The story then quickly sets up the main conflict: Monica going undercover to the school to protect the prince, with a made-up backstory to hide her identity. The set-up to her place within the school is a clever plan and makes use of her special ability, whilst also putting our heroine in a situation she’s not familiar with; it also struggles a bit with the lore dumping. We get one scene where we meet the student council (with Prince Felix being in charge) and lots of names and titles are thrown in the reader’s face, the same goes for the teachers and other students. There’s so much thrown at you that it’s impossible to memorise them all. I don’t know if it was better delivered in the light novel, or just a fault with the manga version, but the issue just about scrapes by to introduce an internal conflict with the group that plays alongside Monica’s main goal, with a supposed outsider (presumably a mage) trying to harm the prince. There’s a very large cast in action here, and relationships between all the different characters that could play out very well in coming volumes, but right now the first volume seems to try too hard to introduce everyone and get to the main story, without realising that the reader isn’t going to absorb it all in one go.
As for the main character, Monica, I felt a little conflicted about her. When you introduce a character who is so anxious about speaking in public, that she strives to learn to use magic without chanting (which is stressed to be extremely difficult to do) then I’m expecting Komi Shoko from Komi Can’t Communicate levels of social anxiety. But we don’t get that; whilst Monica is nervous about talking to people (except for her cat familiar) there are examples of her, whilst stammering, able to talk to others, even new students in the school. I’m not saying that there’s only one way to express a character with social anxiety, but Monica has a scene later in the book where she literally chatters on whilst talking about something she’s passionate about (numbers and equations) but when it comes to chatting about spells (something she’s also passionate about) she can’t? Again, maybe it’s explained better in the light novel, or later in the manga, but to me it seems inconsistent. She’s a cute character, don’t get me wrong, just contradictorily written this early on in the story.
Secrets of the Silent Witch is a beautifully drawn manga and the story shows a lot of promise, but the lore dumping and inconsistency in the character writing left me unsure of its premise this early on. Hopefully the next few volumes pick up the pace and capture the light novel better.