Witch Hat Atelier
Published by: Kodansha
2016 – Present
“A curious girl, embarks on a magical journey to save her Mother.”
If you enjoy the fantasy genre, you will definitely fall in love with Witch Hat Atelier! This magical manga begins with Coco, a quiet girl from a quiet village who, in time honored fantasy tradition, finds herself on a fantastical adventure.
She dreams of becoming a mighty magician, though in a world where only those born with magical abilities can study the secret arts, it remains just a pipe dream. Or so everyone thought…
One day, a magician by the name of Qifrey, visits her village and orders her “not let anyone enter the room while he is performing magic”. It’s revealed to be a great taboo for non-magic folk to witness magic being performed.
However, for the ever curious Coco, keeping that promise proves to be impossible as she easily breaks into the room to witness Qifrey’s mysteries for herself. She is astounded to see the great magician, not invoking magic, but drawing it! This revelation shakes her world. As long as you can remember the symbols, anyone can become a magician!
Brimming with excitement, Coco consults an old reference book and draws her first magic symbol. Though instead of the desired result, the spell goes horribly wrong, converting her mother to stone! Little did Coco know that by learning the truth about magic, she would plunge herself and her mother into terrible danger!
With her world in turmoil, Qifrey offers her the chance to study magic under his tutelage, thereby learning how to release her mother from the accidental curse.
Coco’s journey to becoming a magician has begun.
Witch Hat Atelier is a manga of many parts. Everything from classical fantasy tropes, Renaissance art and Victorian idealism is squeezed into this delightful story.
Let’s start with the protagonist. Coco is the perfect character for a story of this kind, evoking a beautiful sense of Alice in Wonderland with her innocent and curiosity. Much like the titular heroine of Lewis Carol’s Victorian masterpiece, her curiosity entices her into a land of wonder, though at a terrible cost.
Her “mission” to bring her mother back to the land of the living is an old one, but Kamome sensei’s use of delicate art and interesting characters breaths fresh air into this age old story structure.
Talking about art, the beautifully drawn lines and use of etching gives the page a vintage look to rival any dusty, magical tome. But it’s the use of light and dark that really gives this manga life. Much like the parallels of magic itself, Kamome sensei emphasis the darkness in her panels, thereby giving strength to the light. A technique initially perfected by the great Renaissance painter Caravaggio, further showing us the depth of inspiration in this magical tale.
Despite the action taking place in the familiar world of magic, including a magic school, Coco’s journey is much more than a ‘nobody’ becoming a ‘somebody’. It’s a tale of hope, hardships and above all, love, repackaged in the magical format of manga.
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