Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Vol. 1

By Miki Yoshikawa. Released in Japan as “Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

The debut volume of this series has a war between a plotline I love and a plotline I always find discomforting and embarrassing, and ends up taking it in a rather sedate direction. Of course, this is clearly a slow burner – we’re already a volume in and we have no idea who the seven witches are. But in the meantime we get to see the titular lead, Yamada-kun, make all sorts of amusing faces, and see various high school romantic comedy hijinx. This has been out on Crunchyroll for a while now, so I know that things will ramp up soon, but I was actually surprised at how little happened in this initial volume.

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Yamada is a delinquent, which I always love, although he’s sort of a sanitized delinquent. Even Onizuka (who appeared in the same magazine 20 years ago) was allowed to have bad habits. Here he’s just a guy with bad grades who sulks around the school wondering why things aren’t more interesting. He also may seem slightly familiar to those who know of Yoshikawa’s former series Yankee-kun to Megane-chan, which also featured a lead delinquent (of a sort) and their supposedly straightlaced female equivalent. The plot kicks in when he accidentally falls down the stairs, dragging a young girl down with him and forcing them to swap bodies, because they fell down the stairs in a high school manga and that is what inevitably happens in these sorts of things.

Urara is more interesting, if only as she takes much of this in stride. While Yamada is busy freaking out, her reaction is more sedate. Of course, she might be quite happy to take a vacation from her body, as we see (through Yamada’s eyes) that she has a lot she has to deal with. She seems fairly stoic, but as she warms up over the course of the volume it becomes apparent that it’s more repressed emotions than anything else. The dynamic between the two of them is interesting but fairly mild, except, of course, for the kisses that allow them to swap bodies at will. As we gain more cast members (Miyamura, whose attempts to convince Urara to continue high education by trying to find blackmail material and ogling her cup size, did not impress me) we will no doubt gain more dynamics.

At the end of this volume, even with the addition of a new girl who promises to make life miserable for everyone, we’re not one step closer to knowing what’s going on. We haven’t met a witch, and we’re not sure why Yamada suddenly can swap bodies with anyone he kisses. Given the author’s success with her prior work, I imagine she has a lot more leeway to develop things the way she wants without the fear of getting cancelled after 15 chapters. Which is fine, but it does lead to a first volume that’s merely average, even as I know it gets better later. Still, if you like school romantic comedies with an emphasis on the comedy, and want to step in before the inevitable harem plot starts up, this is the volume for you.

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