By Chihiro Ishizuka. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Melissa Tanaka.
Relaxed and easygoing titles have always been a thing in Japanese manga to some extent, but over the last ten years or so it really seems to look like they’re coming into their own, or at least coming to North America more often. Whether it’s school life, village life, or workplace life, there is a growing need for watching a cast of mild to strong eccentrics go about life at their own pace, usually with at last one “straight man” to boggle at their antics. And as you may have gathered, Flying Witch continues in this genre, showing us a young witch who moves out into the sticks in order to train, and her laidback adventures with a group of (mostly) normal villagers.
Makoto is the witch, and she’s a bit of an airhead, although not to the extremes that some of these series try to go. She wants to do her best to be a better witch, but is easily distracted, has a Ryouga Hibiki-like sense of direction, and also has absolutely no idea how to hide her identity as a witch, which is supposed to be a secret, from anyone at all. She’s moved in with her cousins, and on the very first day she’s trying out a new broom in front of the youngest one, not particularly noticing that she isn’t supposed to be floating in the air. The cousin, Chinatsu, is probably my favorite character in the book; at first shy and a little reluctant to like this new girl, she gradually warms up once she realizes Makoto is a witch, and is a nicely realistic young girl.
Less successful is Kei, the main male lead, who unfortunately is not straight-laced enough to be the main “tsukkomi” that this series needs. (That falls to his classmate Nao, who holds up her end of the bargain admirably, and is the recipient of the manga’s funniest and also possibly creepiest moment.) Kei is simply too laid back and relaxed, and as a result has a tendency to have no personality. He seems to be a ‘minder’ sort, like Yotsuba’s dad, but these girls are too old to really need to take charge of, so mostly he exists so that the series isn’t made up entirely of girls. I was pleased to see that the witch aspect was not forgotten – this felt like one of those series that would settle into slice-of-life and forget its roots, but each chapter does have a small element of the supernatural in it, from the terrifying mandrake root to the Harbinger of Spring (whose matter-of-fact introduction reminded me of some of the better Zetsubou-sensei chapters) to Makoto’s older and more accomplished sister, who arrives, makes chaos, and then leaves.
There’s not much to grab a hold of here, and I doubt a “real” plot will form. But who wants a real plot to form anyway? Flying Witch is filled with cute, nice, slightly weird girls living their everyday life and doing witchcraft. If you enjoy slice-of-life eccentricity, it’s right in your strike zone.