Ryu Yamada is a second year in high school, but has still managed to go an entire year without any friends. Everyone in the school knows him as the ruthless bad boy who slacks off in class and gets violent easily. One day after being shown up in class by honors student Urara Shiraishi, he attempts to show her who’s boss, only to trip and knock her down the stairs. When Yamada wakes up he realizes something: he and Shiraishi have switched bodies! This event leads to Yamada’s discovery of the seven witches on his high school, each with their own unique ability.
The Harem Ain’t Happenin’
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect of Yamada-kun at the start of the season. The premise of witch powers sounded interesting, but the concept of seven witches sounded harem-y and anime has a bad history of enjoying making some cruddy protagonist into a supposed ‘stud’ that gets all the ladies. In that respect, Yamada-kun is kind of similar. Yamada does kind of ‘get all the ladies’, but not in the manner that you might expect (a manner that would have likely just been annoying).
In fact, instead of being a ‘happy harem’ show, Yamada-kun really isn’t a harem at all since very few of the witches have actual romantic feelings for him and the show isn’t centered around romantic tension like other harem series would be. The series actually benefits greatly from this, because it is able to tell a comedic story focusing around a group of girls with a male lead without devolving into the usual, boring trope soup.
While the lack of harem allows for Yamada-kun to be clever, it is the actual powers of the witches that are really what makes things fun. Each of the seven witches have abilities that can only be utilized by kissing, and since Yamada can mimic abilities of witches he kisses, it creates an interesting dynamic and opens numerous opportunities for comedic moments.
This is especially clear since the first power discovered is the ability to switch bodies, as this ability is often utilized in tandem with the witch of the week’s power. The ability of each witch always links to their personality in some way, and each witch is a decent character. They all have defining characteristics because of this, and it helps the cast stand out from each other.
(Relatively) Benign Fanservice
Honestly, Yamada-kun has very minimal fanservice outside of its kissing scenes and the occasional odd moment, something very surprising considering the nature of the premise. The kissing scenes themselves are actually 100% equal opportunity for both genders and there is nothing out of bounds, be it girl on guy, guy on guy, or girl on girl. It all happens, multiple times. This is definitely interesting because very few similarly styled anime handle fanservice as well as Yamada-kun.
All of the previous assets to Yamada-kun that I mentioned factor into the comedy’s overall quality. Basically, the show is funny. The writing utilizes all of the opportunities it gets, from witch powers to Yamada himself, and does exactly what it intends: it’s amusing.
Yamada is an easily upset and violent kind of guy, so needless to say, he is frequently involved in altercations that generally result in him attempting to teach someone a lesson only to get his ass handed to him because he lacks the brains to outwit most of the cast. While most characters aren’t developed much beyond their initial characterizations outside of Yamada himself, they all have characteristics that are executed brilliantly and used to troll our hopeless protagonist.
A Decent End
Yamada-kun is an adaptation of a manga series that has yet to end. Oftentimes when short anime series are adapted from ongoing manga, they have trouble ending properly as they have to make up an ending or partially conclude without actually ending. Yamada-kun does not have this problem.
It managed to find a good spot to end from the source material and still feel complete, something crucial since an anime like this rarely gets a second season. The show manages to tie everything together and conclude pretty well, so if you’re the kind of person who is turned off from shows that lack an actual ending, then watch Yamada-kun because that is not going to be a problem whatsoever.
In order for Yamada-kun to reach a point in the source material where it could end properly, it unfortunately had no choice but to rush through the plot at breakneck speed. To give you an idea, the show went through a volume (around 200 pages!) in almost every episode. Now, I hadn’t read the source material at the time, but even without it the show feels slightly rushed after the first few episodes.
Since each of the seven witches is introduced significantly after the others, the show had to make sure to cover all of the material so that the full title (Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches) would actually have seven witches. This leaves little time for much character development, and it would have been nice if the series had maybe been two cours and had covered the characters more substantially. However, if we accept the fact that the anime had to rush in order to end properly, then for a show with rushed pacing, the writing actually did a good job at covering most of its bases. Although the series was rushed, I never felt like it was speeding along so fast that I was having trouble enjoying it, as it still is just as humorous and interesting.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is an incredibly amusing romantic comedy that manages to throw off the worst of the classic anime stereotypes for the genre. The premise is executed excellently, with very little by the way of harems or unreasonable fanservice to drag down the show. Although the series is quite rushed with a mere twelve episodes, it manages to pull it off with quality writing to create what was one of my favorite shows of the Spring 2015 season.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is available for free and legal streaming on Crunchyroll.
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This is the first in my series of reviews for the Spring 2015 anime season. Here’s the full list (I will link them as they release):
- Seraph of the End
- My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
- Sound! Euphonium
- The Ani-TAY Spring 2015 Music Awards
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