Train wrecks. No one could argue that they hadn’t happened before- Mai-Otome and Fate/Stay Night stood in the Great Hall of Crashed Series as a testament to their existence. Even they, however, were the mere forerunners to the newly crowned Queen of Train wrecks- better known as Good Witch of the West (Nishi no Yoki Majo).
Like the series that preceded it, Good Witch started well enough. The first episodes seemed to promise a magical fairy tale, perhaps even a candidate for ‘fantasy of the season’. The story started simply enough- our heroine, Firiel Dee, resides in the quiet village of Sellafield until the day her father’s observatory is attacked and her friend Roux is captured. Through the ensuing events, Firiel learns that she is a descendant of her country’s queen, and a new chapter of her life begins. A seemingly simple tale, yes, but in the right hands, one that could be effective.
Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the writers didn’t really know what they wanted to do with their thirteen episodes. Rather than picking any one plot, each episode is more of a buffet of possible story ideas, introducing more threads even as the old ones fail to be resolved. Perhaps it was meant to be a revolutionary interactive anime, a ‘choose your own adventure’ where viewers must edit together the scenarios that interest them the most, and then animate their own ending.
The eighty plot threads that went nowhere: choose up to five to make your own story
Firiel and Roux
At first glance, Firiel and Roux seem like a decent enough, dare I say even likable pair of leads; the spunky yet determined heroine, and the childhood friend who seemed destined to become her sweetheart. Unfortunately, any positive traits they may have had at the beginning are quickly washed away by the bulk of the series, and by the end, the desire for a ‘torture Roux’ mini-game was nothing less than great.
An aspiring semi-bishie, Roux’s glasses seemed to indicate that he was, in fact, Harry Potter, and it was clear that this downturn in his career didn’t please him at all. Although the script called for him to care for Firiel, Roux had already discovered his hard gay leanings through long nights at the observatory with her father, and was unwilling to accept a relationship with a woman. Although Roux went out of his way to protect Firiel, any kind of social situation usually ended with him calling her an idiot.
For her part, Firiel did little to improve matters. By the time the series had reached episode four, Firiel could barely function without Roux by her side, and she was soon reduced to but a single ability- “summon Roux”, in which she could instantly call him to assist her. Needless to say, she and Roux are a couple by the end of the series.
Adale and Eusis
A long lost sister of H&C’s Hagu, Adale is one of the contenders for the throne of Gulair, and also a writer who publishes under the pen name Evangeline. Unfortunately, when it came to demonstrating any qualities for government, Adale proved singularly lacking, and spent so much of her time being utterly useless that the antagonistic Leandra came to seem like a better choice.
Despite not being a blood relation, Eusis is regarded as Adale’s brother, and does his best to represent the bishier side of the series (he may be a cousin of Meine Liebe’s Ed). For a few episodes, he seems like a serious contender for Firiel’s affections, even going so far as to propose to her (thus provoking Adale’s jealousy for all of ten seconds). As soon as the dragon arc kicks in, however, Eusis recalls his hard gay leanings, and at the end of the series, he picks his bishie friend Lot as his adjutant. Given Lot’s comments about “not having time for women anymore”, it isn’t too hard to guess what they’re going to be up to from now on.
Leandra, Queen of Bondage
Adale’s opposite number, Leandra’s special skills include impersonating nuns, bondage practices, and generally doing what she can to make herself seem evil. After the psycho lesbian school incident (see below), her need for secrecy suddenly vanishes, and she emerges into the open at a royal ball. Oddly, upon seeing her, Adale and Firiel’s only reaction is to comment on Leandra’s dress is better than theirs- the series’ first lapse into “we’re all good friends really, no hard feelings about that whole ‘trying to kill you’ incident”.
In later episodes, Leandra actually began to emerge as a better choice for queen than the useless Adale; even if her actions were the misguided ones of evil, she was at least making an effort to defend her country by raising an army and planning battle strategies. For all her dark bondage ways, however, even Leandra cannot evade the demands of the ever shifting plot tides; in the final episodes she is forced to briefly make up the numbers on the side of good before reverting to her default self in the epilogue.
It’s only a fairy tale
In early episodes, an issue is made of the fact that fairytales are only accessible to nobles (although Firiel likes them, and Roux is named after Rumpelstiltskin); at one point, books are even burnt, which I have to admit upset me more than most of the events of the series. As with so many things, however, this point swiftly becomes irrelevant.
Firiel’s father, and Roux’s hard gay lover during the long nights at his observatory, Gideon seemed to be the key to everything, who would emerge late in the series to guide the heroes on their path to the final boss. Unfortunately, having been relegated to the land of offscreen, he found it difficult to claw his way back into the story, and ended up “observing the stars somewhere” for five seconds at the end.
Firiel’s royal blood
Rags-to-riches is not an uncommon tale, but in Firiel’s case, it was one that went absolutely nowhere. For a time it seemed as if she was to become the third candidate for queen, pitted against the evil bondage mistress Leandra, and her new best friend Adale; even the evil yet ambitious Riez tried to advance himself by proposing to her. As a destined main character, however, Firiel has no need to concern herself with such lowly matters, and soon her part in the contest becomes irrelevant.
In principle, it makes sense for Firiel not to be a contender for the throne; after all, regardless of the fact that they are actually useless, Leandra and Adale were trained for the job all their lives. The real gripe is more about consistency- is Firiel a contender for the throne or isn’t she?
Psycho lesbian school
In episode three, Firiel is sent away to study at a convent school filled with Strawberry Panic rejects; a place where they must put aside their preferences for the sake of the country and learn to seduce men. At the time, it seemed like a blip in the series’ quality, but as we were to later realise, it was just the beginning of a downward spiral.
During Firiel’s time at the school, she runs afoul of Ravenna and her psychotic lesbian student council, who like to take new students aside and check the status of their underwear. Of course, as a destined main character, Firiel manages to gain allies in the form of Marie (later to become her maid) and Vincent (friend of Adale)- even Roux joins the school under the guise of the female Rouxnet in order to help her.
After various uninteresting events occur, Firiel finds herself not only on the wrong side of Ravenna, but also set to duel her- a slightly problematic situation given that Ravenna is a premier swordswoman and Firiel is completely lacking in combat skills. In an attempt to rectify this lack, Avenger’s Layla Ashley takes on the name Igraine and attempts to impart some basic skills to Firiel. Unfortunately, such a crash course isn’t nearly enough, and it takes Roux reflecting sunlight into Ravenna’s eyes at a crucial point in the duel to secure victory for out heroine.
At this point, the forces of good suddenly come forth, the forces of evil are unmasked when the school’s Sister Lain is revealed to be Leandra, and the school of Sister Rosette clones is barely glimpsed again. Exactly why Leandra was pretending to be a nun and directing Ravenna’s actions from the background is unclear.
In order to demonstrate their fitness for the crown, both Adale and Leandra are tasked with answering a riddle. Leandra chooses to field an army in answer to the riddle; Adale watches her brother slay dragons and then does nothing. Even leaving aside the obvious arguments that there must be better ways to test the next ruler than via riddle, this is yet another storyline that is not resolved- the battle for the crown continues through to the end of the series and beyond.
Dragons and unicorns and mystical beasts, oh my
Although we didn’t even hear of them until around episode eight, dragons came to play a large yet ultimately pointless role in the closing chapters of the series. Seemingly on a whim, Eusis decides that he must become a dragon knight, which first entails catching and taming unicorns, the only steeds brave enough to face the ugliness of Good Witch’s dragons. As the main character, Firiel comes along too, and even gets her own baby unicorn, Rouxbow, which comically bites Roux from time to time.
The unicorns themselves are hardly the most attractive of beings, resembling two legged alien mutant beasts, but nonetheless, they are the height of beauty when compared to the dragons. Dragons are tricky things to get right, but very few places have ever managed to get them as utterly wrong as Good Witch. Instead of dragons, these hideous beasts are more akin to dinosaurs, and after the pointless arc dedicated to hunting them, their purpose is to rampage around and point out the existence (and brief failure) of a previously unmentioned magical wall separating different regions of the world.
Astraea, the Good Witch of the West
There is actually an eponymous “Good Witch of the West” in the series; unsurprisingly, here name is Astraea, and she is something of an object of worship in Gulair. I’d like to write more, but the series left me with very little to say on the subject, with Astraea seemingly only included to give the series some kind of title.
A series that fails to execute even the simplest of storylines correctly should not attempt any kind of large scale conflict, but the attitude of the Good Witch writers seems to be “why not give it a stab anyway”. To that end, a half-hearted attempt at a war involving the countries of Gulair, Brigeonte and Torubarto is put into place, but might as well not exist for all the good it does.
The wall, the HiME Mahiru star and ‘the sage’
At a point when it seemed as if it would be laughably ridiculous to pile anything else on top of an already overstretched story, we are suddenly introduced to a mysterious wall that divides the world into “Gulair+allies” and “some other countries+dragons”. Although not everyone could pass through it, the wall did not seem to hinder the various plans for war allegedly put forward by countries on the other side, and like so many of things mentioned above, it played a very minor role beyond keeping Roux occupied for an episode.
Beyond the wall itself, however, was the mysterious ‘Mahiru Star’ that controlled it, another important aspect of the world that we are kept unaware of for as long as possible. In the final episode, the Mahiru star suddenly descends towards the surface, creating the beginnings of an apocalyptic tidal wave; fear not, however, for a plea from Bard to ‘the sage’ who controls it puts everything back to normal and gives the world another chance. The identity of this sage remains unknown, but I wholeheartedly support his efforts in trying to destroy the Good Witch world.
As mentioned above, the series contains a character named Bard, a name so uninspired that it could only have been borrowed from an early Final Fantasy game. An agent of the queen (perhaps her magic CCTV), Bard is equipped with every special power the plot needs- teleportation, communication with the sage, you name it. He also looks a lot like Cain, so much so that I thought they were the same character until they both appeared together in the same scene.
At the end of the series, it is revealed that Bard was telling the ‘fairy tale’ all along; one can only hope that he was relating invented events and thus all the blame falls on him for being such a poor storyteller.
Duke Riez, Bartholomew’s long lost brother
Although I have barely mentioned him thus far, Duke Riez is one of the frontline figures for evil in the series. In fact, he even appears in the OP in sinister green-skinned book-clutching form, although as it turns out this pose was never re-enacted within the anime proper, and its inclusion is even more questionable than everything else that occurred in the series.
Even without his verdant complexion, Riez did his best to offer some kind of scheming villainy. As a relative of Meine Liebe’s headmaster Barty, he was openly acknowledged as gay in the series, and indeed his plan was to replace the queendom of Gulair with a hard gay kingdom; to that end, he served the offscreen king and the shadowy organisation of Hermes.
Early in the series, Riez appears as one of Roux’s hooded captors and even brands him with the evil Snake Rod mark; one might confuse this for torture, but to the trained eye it is simply yet another visit to the country’s many underground gay S&M clubs.
Later, Riez tries to play the shadowy duke, a man juggling myriad plans that the audience can not be privy to (primarily because they do not exist), before prematurely dying and reappearing at the end to explain that he only faked his death to add a little unpredictability to his storyline.
For a time, it seemed as if Riez would actually turn green and become the final boss, but in an anticlimactic ‘battle’ scene he and co-conspirator Lot are easily overpowered by Firiel’s party, and there their role ends. At the end, he is even forgiven and seen sheepishly sitting next to the king, fully chastised and with his adult magazines now confiscated.
Hermes, the Shadow Kingdom
A shadowy organisation led by Hermes Trismegistus (confusingly there are two, one black, one white), Hermes does little except direct the actions of certain villains, emerge as a complete Shadow Kingdom promoting the use of HARD GAY in episode 12, and sink into obscurity again.
Supposedly some kind of valuable item imparting great power and all the rest, Ephemeris is one of the few elements to get some kind of resolution when it turns out to be an informational book about the Mahiru Star. Despite going to a lot of trouble to get it, Riez neglected to find out what it was for, and hence the oft-mentioned Ephemeris turned out to be completely useless by the end.
The evil cross-dressing king
King of Gulair (who knew it even had such a thing until the finale) and the white Hermes Trismegistus, the king seems to spend his time sitting in a chair in the queen’s tower and dressing up as a woman. After being confronted by Leandra and the forces of good, he tries to style himself as a serious figure of evil, but soon descends into ridiculousness when he is easily scared into compliance by having a frog thrown at his face.
I am an awful queen, for I sit and do nothing
Throughout much of Good Witch, one of the things that seemed unclear was who was actually running the country. Adale and Leandra were contenders for the throne, but the question remained- was anyone in charge in the meantime, and if there was, why wasn’t she taking a more active role in proceedings?
Finally, at the end of the series, the queen is revealed to patient viewers; isolated in her final boss tower, she has been watching everything via some kind of magic CCTV, but seems to lack the will or ability to govern her own country. She admits that her uselessness has caused the current situation, but offers no reasons as to why she is doing nothing about it. Fortunately, a fairly meaningless paragraph of positive thinking from Firiel is enough to give her new perspective and avert the end of the world.
The finale: RPG battle mode style
Firiel/Roux/Cain vs. Riez/Lot
The party enters Riez castle. Cain equips Kero Ball and uses it to make the generic soldiers flee. This tactic fails to work on Lot, and the party is taken to the boss room.
Lot casts “bishie underling” to paralyse Roux and Cain.
Riez attacks hot poker and stands around talking. Firiel uses Steal and gains hot poker.
Firiel equips hot poker whilst Riez equips sword. Riez wins the first round.
Lot loses sword; Firiel equips Lot’s Sword and wins the second round again Riez.
Leandra vs. the king
Leandra uses evil bondage sword skills to defeat the king’s generic guards.
Back to Firiel
Bard enters and uses Warp to transport Firiel, Roux and Rouxbow to Leandra. Leandra joins the hero party; Roux uses Frog to terrify the king.
The party heads up to meet the queen, Bard warps Adale to join them.
The queen casts “Poor Ruler” and the world begins to end.
Firiel uses “Positive Thinking” to cure the queen of negative status effects.
Bard appears and uses Second Chance to save the world.
Ending cut scene plays.
What did the series actually achieve?
A lot happened throughout the course of Good Witch, but on reflection, very little of it can be said to have gone anywhere or accomplished anything. At the end of the series, everything is pretty much back to where it was at the beginning- Firel and Roux are in Sellafield, Adale and Leandra continue to battle for the crown, Eusis and Lot are hard gay (but now hard gay dragon knights), and even the villains admit that it was all in good fun and that they’ll behave themselves from now on. It would, however, perhaps be cruel to say that Good Witch accomplished nothing whatsoever- for that would be to neglect the pain and suffering inflicted on those either brave or foolish enough to actually watch it.