Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina ‒ Episode 6

2 weeks ago 10

We've had coming-of-age tales, horror stories, and slice-of-life fluff so far, and now this week Wandering Witch tries its hand at pure comedy. There is conflict in “The Land of Truth Tellers” but it's largely magical sitcom shenanigans – the king of a country has come to possess a magic sword that prevents anyone within its borders from uttering or writing a lie, and through happenstance Elaina is roped into helping a now fully-fledged Saya to get rid of the dang thing and return its magic to the witch who made it. What follows is a story that's mostly about gags, to decidedly flat results.

The comedic crux of this is having all the characters being forced to only say the truth, thus undercutting any niceties they might try to use for the sake of being polite, essentially turning everyone into bluntly honest jerks who will immediately say the most cutting or judgmental thing that pops into their head during conversation. I'm very much not a fan of that premise – mainly because it's a shaky one to begin with. Yes, people will tell white lies or bend the truth in casual conversation to avoid conflict, but there's a big leap from that to “everyone is actually an asshole all the time and only hides it to get by” which becomes the thesis of the whole comedic gimmick. It's also just a tired means of driving comedy – you can make a room full of jerks funny if they're written cleverly enough, but most of the dialogue in this episode just fizzles down to Elaina, Saya, or another character saying shitty, rude things to each other and everyone flinching or looking miserable. There are ways to make this premise entertaining, but the dialogue here is largely repetitive and goes for low-hanging fruit as it mistakes being an asshole for a punchline.

This especially doesn't play well with the return of Saya, whose personality has been boiled down between appearances to where nearly all of her dialogue is just talking about wanting to date Elaina. Like yes, that was one of her defining features in episode two, but being a disaster lesbian isn't her only character trait, and the way Elaina constantly rebuffs her despite seeming more than happy to receive her company just a few episodes ago makes it feel like a totally different pair of characters from when they were last together. It's another way where equating “honest” with “says the nastiest thing to ever pop in their head” takes what could be a funny clashing of personalities and just makes it feel mean. By the time everything's resolved and Saya's showing off their matching dolphin necklaces, it leaves you wondering what either of these two like about each other considering their “honest” selves were constantly at odds. Elaina's ego and willingness to be brutally honest have been well-established, but even in her coldest actions she's been shown to have some kind of affection for people, and that gets scrubbed off here for the sake of the same joke over and over.

There are at least a few gags that work alright. There's a fair bit of slapstick once the Witch trio storm the castle, and the bit about the king hating the design of his magic sword isn't repeated enough to stop being funny. And I do like that the people of the country managed to find ways around their inability to lie to still get by – that more than anything sells the “moral” of the episode. People just are not going to always be straightforward, and forcing magical limiters won't change that; it just pushes them to adapt. The nature of trust is that it's an act of faith in your fellow man, and the King's solution ultimately made trust harder to forge, not easier. That lesson is only slightly undercut by how sardonically it's delivered, but that's maybe fitting for a conflict that's presented largely as a farce rather than something with any teeth.

Still, a few decent bits aren't enough to save this episode from just feeling poorly considered. I've largely been alright with Elaina's combination of emotional distance and self-appreciation, but this feels like the show absolutely tipping over into mean-spiritedness with nothing to back it up. “The Land of Truth Tellers” may think it's saying something about the nature of deception, but it ends up saying a lot more about its personal definition of “honesty” in the process.

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Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina is currently streaming on Funimation.

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