Once Upon a Witch’s Death: The Tale of the One Thousand Tears of Joy

By Saka and Chorefuji. Released in Japan as “Aru Majo ga Shinu Made: Owari no Kotoba to Hajimari no Namida” by DENGEKI no Shin Bungei. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Richard Tobin.

I rarely begin a review by noting whether the series is continuing in Japan or not, but it actually makes a difference in how we’re supposed to take this story in this case. Yen is releasing this as a one-shot, and Dengeki seems to have had no desire to release any more since this came out in Japan in December 2021. But if this is the only volume, then the plot sort of becomes irrelevant. It’s not a story of how a girl tries to gain powerful “tears” in order to avoid her impending death, because that plot, spoiling a bit, is not remotely resolved. Instead, it becomes a sort of slice-of-life book starring a very fun main character. And that’s great, don’t get me wrong, but it makes the ending seem like this was more of a parable than a novel, with a final revelation that kind of made me go “ergh”. Which is a shame, because Meg really *is* a great main character.

Meg Raspberry is an apprentice witch. When she was a young girl, her parents passed away, but she was taken in by a witch who saw her potential power. That witch was also the Eternal Witch, Faust, so Meg actually ends up in a pretty cushy position. Unfortunately, when the novel opens, we hear Faust tell Meg that she is cursed, and has a year to live. Unless she collects “one thousand tears of joy”, she will age 100 years within a day and pass away. Unfortunately, getting these tears is very difficult, and getting one thousand is next to impossible. Given that… why not just have Meg go about her normal life in Lapis, an English village? While trying to pick up these tears along the way, by helping people and having them cry with happiness?

Meg is, frankly, a hoot. The Japanese reviews of this book all say she “talks like a middle-aged man”, and there is a bit of that. She’s excessively tomboyish and casual, and is not above pretending to perv on her friends as a joke. She’s also a bundle of positivity (which she calls her one good trait), can get along with absolutely everyone, and has a knack for making people feel better. She’s also really good at magic, though she seems to think she’s still an amateur, mostly as she’s surrounded by the most powerful witches in the world. I really wanted to see how she would either succeed (if this is a heartwarming series) or fail (if this was a tearjerker). Unfortunately, the book ends a good 9 months before the deadline, with Faust hinting that what Meg was told may not be the entire truth after all, and that this might be for a totally different reason. Which… didn’t sit well with me.

So yes, if this ever gets more books (the webnovel apparently continued to a conclusion), I’ll happily read more. As it is, though, for once we really do have a book that is lessened by being part of a “cancelled” series.

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