Based on a series of light novels by Jougi Shiraishi, Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina is a manga that embodies the saying: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Beautifully illustrated by Itsuki Nanoa, Wandering Witch brings readers along for the ride, as the titular Elaina takes a fantastical trip to places unknown.
As a child, Elaina adored a book series that chronicled the real-life adventures of a witch, named Nique, as she traveled to interesting places and experienced extraordinary things. Elaina studied hard and, thanks to her determination and natural abilities, she achieved the status of witch at an unusually young age and set out on her own journey to see the world. Elaina encounters all kinds of strange phenomena and meets a wide variety of people along the way, sometimes lending them a helping hand and other times simply observing the wonders (or horrors) of this magical land before moving on to her next destination, never knowing what new adventure might be awaiting her next.
Wandering Witch is a road-trip manga, with each chapter featuring a new locale and characters with unrelated problems for Elaina to solve, or at least bear witness to. The tenor of each of these self-contained stories varies, with some being cute and sweet, while others are creepy and tinged in horror. This can result in some tonal whip-lash, but I liked all of the stories and seeing the bright, talented and self-assured Elaina tackle all of these different situations with aplomb. As there’s no overarching plot or goal behind Elaina’s travels, aside from a desire to explore and a vague hope of meeting up with her former teacher and mentor again, there’s no urgency to Elaina’s journey and the manga has an overall leisurely feel to it that I found made for a pleasant reading experience.
Probably my favorite story in this volume was the last chapter, which showed us a flashback to Elaina’s time training as an apprentice under Fran, the Stardust Witch. The fact that Elaina advanced so quickly rubbed many members of the Mage community the wrong way and her reputation as an uppity brat made it difficult for Elaina to find a master willing to train her. As a result, when Fran takes on her apprenticeship, Elaina winds up putting up with a lot of odd and unfair treatment from her, until her master finally pushes her to her breaking point. However, this all turns out to have been a ruse in service of teaching Elaina a lesson about standing up for herself. Up until this point, I would have said that arrogance was Elaina’s main flaw, as she often acts full of herself and can be a bit condescending. Fran sees through all of this and recognizes that Elaina is a hard worker and mature for her age. She also realizes that Elaina thinks there’s nothing that she can do about the resentment that her success has earned her and has resigned herself to just putting up with it. Rather than trying to take Elaina down a peg, the Stardust Witch instead encourages her pupil to speak out against injustice and advocate for herself. I loved seeing a young lady encouraged to speak up for herself, rather than being punished for being proud of her skills and talent. It’s a moving scene and the emotional high point of the volume.
I’d describe Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina as a relaxing, rather than exciting, manga, but the variety of stories helped to keep things engaging and Elaina proved to be a fun and loveable lead character. I think I’d like to continue to accompany Elaina on her journey and I’ll be picking up the next volume in order to see where her travels will take her next.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit Square Enix Manga’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Has anyone read the original light novels? Let me know in the comments.