Amongst Weekly Shonen Jump’s current crop of series, Kenta Shinohara’s WITCH WATCH stands out as a consistently endearing romantic comedy. This week marks the release of its first volume in English, so now more than just avid Jump fans can check out the paranormal shenanigans. Do these seven chapters get the series off to a strong start?
So what’s it about?
Here’s the official summary to Vol. 1 courtesy of Viz Media:
Morihito Otogi’s family is descended from a long line of ogre familiars, and he has the inhuman strength to prove it. One day, his father comes to him with the life-changing news that he is to become the familiar of his childhood friend, the teenage witch Nico. He is to live under the same roof with her and protect her from anything and anyone that may attempt to harm her. Meanwhile, Nico is excited to get to live with the love of her life, even if her crush is one-sided—Morihito is so serious about his duties to protect her that any romance is going to be an uphill battle. But he has every reason to be serious, as Nico has a prophecy of doom hanging over her head!
Slow and steady wins the race
While WITCH WATCH has since built up quite a large cast of supernatural simpletons, these opening chapters are only concerned with Morihito and Nico. The lore about witches and ogres is introduced quickly and only addressed deeply enough to explain the series’ core circumstance: that a pair of childhood friends are now living together with no adult supervision, and their misunderstandings are the stuff romcoms are made of.
Nico and Morihito are classic examples of opposites attracting. Nico is flighty (sometimes literally), eager for validation, impulsive, and generally just not that great at critical thinking. Morihito, meanwhile, is more stoic and resolved to others keeping him at arm’s length. He’s also responsible and quick to address crises, which comes in handy when his new roommate’s spells constantly backfire.
The writing here is smart, with the characters’ interactions fleshing out both their individual personalities and their awkward but earnest dynamic. Chapter two stands out in particular for its panels in which Nico discusses her love life as if there were a reality TV producer right off-panel prompting her with questions. Shinohara does a good job getting the characters into ridiculous circumstances that emphasize their clashing personalities and desires all while maintaining a consistently humorous and laid-back tone.
The visuals and comedy in translation
Another pro WITCH WATCH has going for it is the artwork’s sense of polish. The line-work is always clean, screen tones are well-utilized in shading characters’ clothing and backgrounds, and the flow of action is consistently easy to follow. Shinohara’s work integrates all the visual signifiers of high school romance stories resulting in settings that look as idyllic as Nico’s daydreams. The facial expressions throughout are also great, with Morihito’s straight man reactions to Nico’s behavior stealing the show.
With that said, your mileage may vary on some of the humor. While none of the jokes fall flat, they aren’t as charming or impeccably timed as much of what’s to come in future volumes. There’s also a fair amount of comedy rooted in Japanese pop cultural references many readers likely won’t be familiar with. To their credit, the translation and editorial team do a great job handling and providing context for moments like these. Nonetheless, the early reliance on Hunter x Hunter gags and the like also reminds one that the series’ own unique foundation isn’t yet finished being established.
So, is it good?
All in all, WITCH WATCH Vol. 1 is a slow but solid start to the series. Shinohara takes his time establishing Nico and Morihoto’s dynamic, which is crucial as the series’ emotional bedrock moving forward. While this volume lacks many of the great supporting characters and gags that have helped the series blossom since, it’s still an enjoyable read that effectively sets the stage for future developments.
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