Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches debuted in Spring 2015 with an interesting enough premise going for it. But did it utilize its potential to the fullest to become something great as was expected, especially considering the strong source material backing it?
The anime follows the school life of a delinquent who doesn’t want to stay a delinquent anymore, Yamada Ryuu. He accidentally falls on top of a cute girl — Urara Shiraishi — and accidentally kisses her which causes them to switch bodies. Slowly Yamada starts to uncover more mysteries and finds out about the existence of six more witches with different powers.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches had potential to become a good comedy. The fact that the source material also had a decent story made the idea of this anime having something resembling a well thought out story not that far fetched. But despite having the potential to not be terrible, it ended up being a big disappointment.
For most of the part, this anime was fairly unpredictable as to the direction of its plot. During the initial four episodes or so, it gave the impression that the fight to become the next student council president would be the center of attention – whether Yamazaki chooses Miyamura or Odagiri as his successor. But when it was discovered that there were a total of seven witches in the school, it was believed that the focus would be mainly on how Yamada helped out these witches in whatever problems they faced. But towards the end, a lot of new discoveries were made and they ditched the character centered notion too and ended up doing something which couldn’t have been predicted based on whatever happened prior.
The initial four or so episodes served the build-up purpose well. They managed to set the premise for the upcoming witch hunt Yamada and friends were about to embark on. They also managed to get a good enough relationship developed between Yamada and Shiraishi. She was the point of focus during the later parts of the first half. Things were going smoothly and it looked like they would end as smoothly as they began.
But then it decided to go for the “witch of the week” format which dealt a fatal blow to the anime’s overall quality. Being a single cour, they had to stuff a lot of content within the available 12 episodes. And because of that, they revved up the engine and blazed through everything. They went so fast that they messed up a lot of aspect. Things which needed two episodes were crammed into one. Notions which needed mentioning were skipped. They spent a little too much time in the build-up which left them with little time for character development. As a result, apart from Yamada and Shiraishi, we couldn’t care less about anyone else.
The way they treated the witches wasn’t nice at all. Each witch needed at least more than one episode so that we got to know them better and ended up caring for them even if just slightly. But the folks at Lidenfilms were too busy focusing on their other anime airing alongside this one, Arslan Senki, to care about some high-school supernatural witch harem thingy. The anime decided to focus on the “Yamada-kun” part and forgot about the “Seven Witches” part.
A lack of enough episodes to tell the story properly really hit it hard, as all issues tie into this.
Take the twintail girl and her problem, for example. The twintail bishoujo has the ability to look into other people’s pasts. She had three followers who were previously honor students and are now presumably being blackmailed by her after she learned something about their past. But it turned out that she was only helping them in her own way. The anime decided to not focus on what the issue was with those kids. And when the time came to wrap things up, they solved the problem offscreen. Sure, they were just a bunch of side characters who wouldn’t show up later on, but they should have let us know how they got their reputations back then, because that was the reason why Noa was in the spotlight. The least they could do was show what they did to solve things.
Then we have Asuka. She was the sixth witch with the ability to become invisible to one person at a time before giving up her ability to Tamaki – another character no one cares about. All we know about Asuka is that she is the student council president Yamazaki’s secretary and gave up her ability on his advice. Why did she do it? What did Yamazaki have in mind? Why did Asuka trust him so much as to give up her ability? What reason did he give her? Who cares anyway! Lidenfilms and co. didn’t give us a reason to care about her. Answering these questions would have benefited both Asuka and Yamazaki’s characters, but since they were neither a Yamada nor a Shiraishi they didn’t get any development.
Another problem is the way the anime gives us the required information about its characters or its world in general. One episode we haven’t even been told the kaichou’s name, next episode we are told that he knows everything because of his position in such a matter-of-fact way as if they were expecting us to know this by default. This has been a consistent problem and towards the end, they throw in some random stuff suddenly without much explaining.
The issue of lacking development for the characters, missing stuff, and its super fast speed, are all linked to that one problem of lacking episodes. Had this been a 2-cour most of these wouldn’t have been present. It was a bad idea from the start to try and tell the story in one season. But since the initial four or so episodes didn’t show signs of a rushed adaptation, this disaster couldn’t have been predicted.
Other than that, they decided to add romance in this. The first two witches introduced after Shiraishi and Odagiri didn’t end up falling in love with Yamada. Most harem anime tend to get the whole female cast to fall in love with the dude. It was nice at first to see that the girls only befriended Yamada and nothing more. It was a bit different from the norm at the very least. But towards the end, all the witches were made to fall in love with Yamada, effectively ruining one thing which made it slightly different from other harems.
The comedy was one strong area during the initial part of the anime. But as it progressed, these comedy scenes started to decrease and, at times, to feel a bit stale. The comedy could have easily taken this one home if it had retained its original quality. It was great for most of the part though – especially when it came to using some of the witches’ powers in amusing ways, like Miyamura using the telepathy power to fill Yamada’s mind with oppai during a test instead of helping the delinquent.
Despite failing in so many places, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches still managed to build a strong relationship between Shiraishi and Yamada. This was one thing which didn’t face any issues. It was as if they decided to focus only on this. Throughout the series, they grow closer to each other. He starts to care more and more about her, mainly given her past of being lonely at school. Yamada helps her get more friends and ends up falling in love with her. He doesn’t keep his feelings to himself as he goes and confesses to her. Shiraishi also becomes closer and falls in love with him in the end. The two end up getting their “happily ever after” ending; if there’s one thing the anime delivered without fail, it’s this.
Another thing worth noting is that the story reaches a conclusive ending. There’s no “to be continued but we’ll never continue it” finale, as is seen all too often nowadays when it comes to adaptations of strong source materials. The ending went by super fast like most of the series, but at least we won’t have to read the manga to get a satisfying conclusion. It is anime original, considering that the manga’s serialization has only just finished, with the final tankōbon set to release in December 2017. This original ending isn’t pulled off well enough, but they did take the initiative to put the anime to a proper end.
Coming back to the question put forward in the beginning: no, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches did not utilize its potential to the fullest at all. The anime fell short of being anything noteworthy overall. A lot of stuff went wrong, with the main problem being its lack of episodes. If it had had 24 or episodes or so, the situation would have been much different. But even then, Lidenfilms could have done more even in five or so hours of show. Their poor management of the episode count resulted in this 12 episode-long disappointment.
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