Witch Craft Works – What Does it do for Feminism?

My boyfriend and I originally started watching Witch Craft Works because an article about the show said that it reverses gender roles and does a lot of really awesome things for women and feminism. This should be awesome, I thought. But, as I started watching it, it got a little complicated…and I’m not sure that article was completely correct.

The plot is that this boy, Takamiya Honoka, is just an average student, and there’s nothing special about him. In fact, he’s not particularly good at anything. He just happens to sit next to Kagari Ayaka, the “Princess” of the school. The school chooses a princess to represent them, and the princess is the smartest, prettiest, coolest, etc. She has to be perfect, and any rumor of her wrongdoing reflects poorly on the school itself. I’ll totally be talking about this later in the article. Takamiya and Kagari have never even said a word to each other. But then one day, Takamiya is attacked by a witch with a robot bunny army, and Kagari comes to his rescue.

It turns out that she’s a witch and she’s sworn to protect him at all costs from the Tower Witches, who just want to see the world burn. She’s a Workshop Witch, which is the faction that builds up towns and protects normal people. Kagari is extremely powerful, so during the first two or three episodes, I was on board with the gender roles reversal thing. I was like, oh wow, here’s an incredibly talented, badass woman protecting this guy who’s pretty much just a fuck-up and can’t do anything particularly well. But, as the show went on, I started to doubt that it’s actually good for women. For one, there’s a ton of objectification of women. There’s even a couple of times when the camera shows a woman from the chin to the chest, completely dehumanizing her by showing her as just a large pair of boobs. The nurse outfit that Kagari puts on at one point is all fan service. Oh, and then there’s a whole scene where two of the Tower Witches are completely naked.  And geeze, Kagari’s boobs are gigantic. Like, holy shit. So, of course they also have a ton of unnecessary boob shots. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having large breasts, but the way the anime treats them is just icky. I’d have no problem with her gigantic cup size as long as the camera didn’t keep zooming in on them when they jiggled. I think that because these instances are super over-the-top, the anime is trying to mock this trope. The problem is that it doesn’t work; it still just reads as the objectification of women.

And yes, I understand that this is anime. Anime does this kind of thing – it’s almost built into the system of animes to do that. But it doesn’t have to do that. And just because, “That’s the way it is,” doesn’t mean it’s acceptable or right. Attack on Titan is a fantastic anime. Does it objectify women? Nope. Let’s have more of that, anime creators. Another thing that started to bother me about the anime is how completely devoted Kagari is to Takamiya. Yes, they have some kind of past that’s been wiped from their memory, but still. She’s willing to give up her life for him, but then she refuses to let him make any kind of sacrifice for her. She believes that her life is worthless and his is the most important thing in the world. Yeah, a little fucked up. Oh, and that whole princess idea? What the fuck? It reminded me a little of Hollywood and actresses. These women are put into the spotlight and expected to be absolutely perfect. They have to fulfill the ideal they’ve been forced into, and if they don’t, everyone starts to hate them. And it’s not like they have to be good at just one thing: the princess has to be beautiful, AND smart, AND quick, AND athletic, AND everything ever. No man or woman is perfect, and expecting anyone to be perfect is just awful. Unfortunately, I think that happens a lot — not just in our society, but in many societies, and especially to women. The thing that annoys me the most about the princess thing is that the explanation of it was almost a throwaway. To me, that demonstrates how deeply ingrained objectification and having ridiculous expectations of women is in our society.

I was still willing to look past those aspects of this anime and continue on with the story, but then the plot got weird. Tons of other witches are trying to capture Takamiya, and of course they fail. Kagari tells him that he must always be near her so she can protect him. One day, the other witches ambush her while she’s waiting for the bus to meet up with him. Their hope is that one of the witches from the group can grab Takamiya while Kagari is fighting the other group. So, a witch shows up to his bus stop to grab him, but his sister turns out to be a Tower Witch. She totally saves him, in the most ridiculous way. But then it gets weird. You discover that his sister is SUPER clingy. Weirdly clingy. Incestuously clingy. She likes to just walk into his room and sleep with him at night, or run naked into the bathroom while he’s also naked…just weird shit like that. And she gets super jealous of Kagari, so much so that she kidnaps Takamiya and tries to run away with him so that he can just be hers.

But wait, it gets weirder. After his sister kidnaps him and Kagari takes him back, Kagari comes to him and says that she never realized how strong a sister’s love could be for her brother. Kagari then says that she wants to be Takamiya’s sister and makes him call her sister over and over again. Weird…and uncomfortable for both Takamiya and me.

So, overall, it was fun when it started, but as the show has gone on, it’s started to deteriorate. At first, the anime might have seemed like it swapped gender roles and made the female character strong, capable, and a great example of feminism, but over time, the show got weird and started to objectify the female characters more and more. Kagari is the perfect ideal of a woman (as perpetuated by our patriarchal society): she’s hot, capable, kickass, doesn’t speak much, and is completely devoted to her man to the point that she’d be willing to die for him. Not really something I want girls and boys to learn.

P.S. Completely outside of everything else though, the ending credits are freaking mesmerizing. Even if you never watch the anime, watch the closing credits. The song is stuck in my head even just thinking about it.

11 thoughts on “Witch Craft Works – What Does it do for Feminism?

  1. she’s hot, capable, kickass, doesn’t speak much, and is completely devoted to her man to the point that she’d be willing to die for him

    A man being attractive (albeit in a masculine way), capable, kickass, doesn’t speak much (ever heard of the strong silent type) and completely devoted to his wife to the point he’d be willing to die for her is the societal male ideal, this series is a reversal of gender norms.

  2. Ya, sexism really sucks :((( I was also disappointed by witch craft works 😦 If you are interested, the best feminist animes I’ve found are:
    – The Promised Neverland
    – Attack on Titan
    – Kurau Phantom Memory
    – Gekkan Shojou Nozaki-Kun
    – Claymore
    – Ouran High School Host Club
    – Hellsing
    – Violet Evergarden
    – Kino’s Journey
    – Of course, most of ghibli movies (When Marnie was there, Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle…)
    – (Okay not technically animes but) “Avatar: the Last Airbender” and “The Legend of Korra”

  3. I don’t think there is anything morally wrong with objectifying cartoons characters and I don’t think just because a female character is sexualized it means that the story is automatically not a feminist story. Although in most anime it is the case and I agree this anime witchcraft works sucks lol.
    An example of a feminist anime I think is Bayonetta anime/game. It is super sexy/objectifying of the main character but during the whole story the main/female character is fighting symbols of patriarchal societies with sex imagery. Things like priest,angels, and her dad. She is also role model for a little girl in the anime and they make fun of sexist tropes like the damsel in distress. Also if you Try watching Bayonetta turn off any “anti-sex” goggles first otherwise you’ll just be stuck on that.
    Also try Michiko & Hatchin. It is also another great anime directed by the same guy who directed cowboy bebop. It is a story I haven’t really analyzed but is feminist as well. It’s about a little girl and an older woman chasing down a guy across brazil. He is the lil girls dad and the older woman’s lover. These are the only two anime I’ve seen that focus specifically on feminist themes and not just having strong female leads like ghost in the shell or avatar: the last airbender.

  4. “And geeze, Kagari’s boobs are gigantic. Like, holy shit. So, of course they also have a ton of unnecessary boob shots”

    The creator of WCW’s is a woman. In addition it was planned as a yuri manga, until the editors persuaded her to switch Honoka’s gender at the last moment (Which is why he has a female name, his character was developed as a girl). So there’s a strong possibility that big breasts may be in her own interests rather than just pandering to male readers. Also, if your still watching, you should have noticed by now that there’s a definite lack of sexual “fanservice”.

    The you article quoted sounds like it was based on the manga, and I agree with it’s conclusions. I believe your judgment here is a little premature.

    • I have watched at least 7 or 8 episodes, so I don’t think my judgement is premature. I purposely watched more episodes than I would have, just to make sure I wasn’t prematurely judging the series.

      Also, as I said in my article, I don’t mind the fact that her boobs are big. What I mind is the unnecessary boob shots the anime does, AND the obvious fan service. As I said in the article, the times when she’s in the nurse outfit, or when the other two tower witches are completely naked was completely unnecessary and fan service-y.

      So I’m going to have to disagree with you. I think the anime absolutely does have fan service in it, and I think that it sexualizes the women characters. Again, I think that what they might be doing is trying to be over the top and show how ridiculous that trope is in anime. But I think if that was their aim, it missed the mark, and just ended up contributing to the problem.

      And that’s great that the creator is a women. But that doesn’t change my opinion about the anime.

  5. The sexism in anime in general is too damn high!!
    *insert too damn high meme here*
    It’s so intensely, rare to see an anime with a female character that isn’t objectified at some point. Now that I’m more aware of it it makes a lot of anime unbearable nowadays. That being said I still watch too damn much.

    • Ah!! I agree! There are so few animes that have strong female characters who are also not made into sexual objects! I tried to watch episode one of Wizard Barristers, which seemed really interesting, and both my boyfriend and I decided halfway through that we just couldn’t do it. The focusing in on boobs and panty shots just hurts my soul.

  6. I agree 100%! I was so on board for those first few episodes…. and then it just turned into the normal Moe bullshit. As an anime fan, I just dont get why ANYONE still making anime thinks that it’s clever or funny to continue to obsess with boobs. I have that problem with Kill La Kill. “Oh look we’re aware of this trope” might be funny the first few times it’s done, but after that it’s just self-aware sexist bullshit, which isn’t better than the normal kind of sexist bullshit! Ok rant over lol. It’s just that I had so many hopes for this show T_T

    • Absolutely. It really pisses me off when people do that whole “oh but we’re aware of the trope, we’re just making it outrageous and ridiculous to show our awareness. It’s supposed to be funny and tongue in cheek!”

      No. You know how you share your awareness of the issue? DON’T HAVE SEXISM IN THE ANIME! The exaggeration of the problem doesn’t help, it actually contributes to the issue.

      I also had very high hopes for the anime… and am now sad…. 😦

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