I've brought up before that, for being an anthology series, Wandering Witch has an odd habit of repeating itself in tone. First we get a pair of fanciful character dramas, then a couple weeks of darker tragedies, and now we're on our third week of total farce. It's an odd approach to episodic storytelling, and has left this already uneven show feeling all the more disjointed for it. And yes, despite the name, “The Ripper” is somehow more ridiculous (and anachronistic) than the grape-stomping foot fetish bit from last week.
It doesn't exactly start off that way, though. We begin with Elaina entering a new country where everyone just carries around a doll with them at all times. Instead of recognizing this as the horror movie waiting to happen that it is and flying right back out, she decides to sit down for lunch and overhears another witch investigating a mysterious criminal called the Ripper. This leads to perhaps the (unintentionally) funniest scene in this whole adventure as Elaina casually reacts to the news of an apparent serial killer with hundreds of victims while barely looking up from her sweetbread. I don't know if this is meant to be character-building to establish just how desensitized our heroine has become to horrible tragedy after three of them back-to-back, but it got the biggest laugh of anything in this episode from me.
Conveniently though, after an opening act of misdirection, it's revealed the Ripper isn't a murderer, but rather a serial hair thief who takes the clippers to Elaina's hair while she sleeps. Granted they do this by controlling one of the countless creepy dolls in the country, which would honestly be scarier to experience than being attacked by a serial killer. I will gladly take on the Axeman of New Orleans over these creepy bastards any day. Elaina is less scared and more pissed off, joining up with the Magic Association witch Sheila to hunt down the perpetrator who gave her an unwanted haircut. Personally I think the new 'do looks pretty cute on her, so while I get the whole disgust over the invasion of personal space and privacy thing, I don't see why she's so steamed about it. You were just complaining about how hot it was in this country! Now you don't have to worry about it, girl! Also, again, a little weird how you're this angry over hair but just sorta washed your hands with the witch who wiped out her entire city-state. Just saying.
Anyway, enough of that, it's time to put on a fancy dress and mask and go to Victorian Fantasy Wonder Festival! Because after the whole foot fetish thing last episode we've just abandoned any sense of fantasy verisimilitude and will heretofore operate entirely on otaku in-jokes. Sure, have our leading lady balk as rich people buy bunny-girl sex dolls at an underground masquerade auction; who cares at this point, right? Have the ultimate culprit be a weirdo who gets her rocks off to seeing people's angry faces. Who even remembers when we were having sincere and personal character arcs by now? Maybe this bit would play a little better if it weren't preceded by three equally goofy stories that continue to degrade the setting and characters, but it could not feel further from the opening episodes, and that's really depressing considering how rich and inviting this universe felt at the start. Not even some admittedly cool magic from Elaina could win me back after all that nonsense, and I was glad when this whole adventure finally, mercifully called it quits.
That probably sounds harsher than what I really feel, but after two stories that feel barely removed from imageboard shitposts, Wandering Witch plays like a hollow imitation of itself. The extended focus on comedy just makes the earlier attempts at darker or heavier topics feel even more out of place, and it bodes poorly for any future attempts at drama or pathos. So either the rest of this season will continue to drift into pointless farce, or it's pre-emptively kneecapped itself whenever it decides to actually take itself seriously again. Neither option instills much hope, honestly.