Justin: For something as normal as setting up shop and selling contraptions at the upcoming witches’ festival Silver Eve, it turns out to be more than what anyone can see on the surface. With Tartah asking if Coco, Agott, Richeh, and Tetia can help him during the festival, as Qifrey continues to recover from his injuries, on the outside it seems this would be a brand new and helpful experience for them. But while preparing for Silver Eve, how magic is used and what is considered useful continues to conflict Coco, and it’s taken to a new level when she runs into Custas, the boy she helped save during the river accident. Now disabled, he fears affecting the one person who saved him from a life in the slums, and being unable to move fills him with regret.
From what he’s experienced Tartah is determined to help Custas out. Coco is as well, but between what’s allowed under the rules in the witches’ world, what she sees in front of her, and the words she remembers the Brimmed Caps saying regarding magic usage, she aims to find a solution that can work, but What price will she pay as she continues to learn more about this world?
Witch Hat Atelier has always shown two very different sides of withholding responsibility regarding magic – after all only a certain few know of its secrets, but it does feel like volume 8 really shows who ends up being the ones to suffer due to the current system. That’s not a bad thing though: through Custas, we follow someone who wants to make it easier for someone he’s grateful for, but that person, Dagda, puts himself in harm’s way in order to take care of him. Without seeing any future with his legs as is, Custas can’t help but feel limited as to how he can move forward in this world. In seeing this reality staring them in their face, Tartah and Coco, who each come at this from different situations, are determined to change how Custas sees his world. And as they go through doing so, you can’t help but start to wonder if what they’re doing does really help…not just in the short-term, but in the long-term.
Coco has learned much since coming into the witches’ world, but the deeper she gets into it, the more she learns its flaws. The phantasm fire that doesn’t hurt and provides the actual benefits of a fire that Olruggio and the witches considered a failure and unusable very much sounds familiar to real world stuff: depending on how you teach it to someone, someone can grow up not fearing fire…which means the faux fire looks so real that there’s the possibility someone could think real fire is actually safe and would be in for a terrible awakening. And yet, staring down around her are people that can be helped and stay safe, and for Custas, there’s a possible way to not heal him, but to uplift how he lives his life.
This isn’t to say the witches are inherently wrong – and quite frankly, Qifrey is an example of having to skirt rules in order to accomplish his goals – but the inflexibility creates a different set of problems, one that Coco, who was not born in the witches’ world and was someone who grew up admiring magic, finds herself caught in the middle of. We got Tartah mixing magic and medicine without telling anyone else, but as we know, that’s forbidden. He came to this conclusion due to his experiences and his desire to help those who aren’t as blessed as everyone else. Coco, understanding full well the dangers of just anyone using magic, still has much to learn, but she genuinely wants to help as best she can.
As much as Witch Hat Atelier shows off the inflexibility of its system, the end of this volume certainly suggests the Brimmed Caps are not the only ones fed up with it either. And yet, this new group of witches, at least for now, don’t seem anything like the Brimmed Caps, but they want to use their magic to help – without restrictions. We certainly will be getting more information about them, and I’ll certainly be curious how this will affect Coco and the rest of the girls.
Justin’s rating: 4 out of 5
Helen: To start this review with a tangent and a metaphor: I grew up in a Roman Catholic family and I still believe that in some ways the overall teachings of this denomination espouse a “radical kindness” that is worth striving for and I also had a good teacher in my Catholic high school who taught the Bible as a historical collection of works which really illuminated some of the original meanings for me (for instance, “turn the other cheek” did not mean “let them hit you twice” but rather “don” ‘t let them hit you with the hand that is literally only used to wipe your butt, have more dignity than that”). But even with that, I stepped away from the church as a teenager because I could see how the organization was shaped not only by this higher ideal but also by centuries of hidebound tradition and I couldn’t stand to be a part of that, I ‘d feel better striving for that “radical kindness” on my own without the 2,000 years of baggage that came with the church.
Coco is still relatively new to the world of witches — we don’t have an exact time frame but I believe that she’s only been with Qifrey’s atelier for a few months, and I think she is in the beginning stages of her own crisis of faith . Growing up in a non-magical community, Coco was always amazed at the brilliant things that magic could do, and from the outside looking in that was the only viewpoint she could have. But now that Coco is a part of that magical community she’s seen so many witches who cling to old ideas and who generally use their magic to be unpleasant people, people with personalities that drove Richeh (and probably Agott as well) to Qifrey’s atelier.
Even Coco has begun to change, when she learns that Tartah is secretly studying her apothecary her knee-jerk reaction is to freeze up; logically she knows that there’s a big difference between using herbs (the same ones that witches use for other things) and drawing spells directly onto the human body, but the taboo of practicing both medicine and magic has already deeply taken root in her. She’s forced to confront this and other feelings when dealing with Custas, one of the people she saved from the river crossing earlier in the series, and he casually says things like “You two [Coco and Tartah] didn’t choose to be born the way you are any more than I did. You came into this world as witches. It’s not like you chose your fate.” Coco is of course, possibly the only witch ever who’s been born to a regular family and let in on the secret of magic, and Tartah has struggled with vision issues that have left him isolated from most other witches, he still hasn’t even been taken on as an apprentice. If anything, these two are the closest people to standing on the line between witches and non-witches; Both earnestly wanting to do great things with their magic but their only “choice” in the matter was that or complete banishment from the community.
Because of her background, Coco has always had a different view on witches and magic than those around her and I can’t help but wonder if she was specifically targeted by the brimmed hat witches (if they saw something in her at an early age) as one of their avenues to remake the world or if many magic books and pens were given out by the brimmed hats and Coco was the only child to discover their secret. Her faith in the fundamentals of magic has been shaken a bit more now, it’s not as if she hadn’t already seen in multiple instances how the hidebound nature of some witches threatens to kill anyone who doesn’t follow the same ideas exactly, and It’s difficult to guess what path Coco will eventually take: one as an apostle of magic or that of an apostate brimmed hat.
Helen’s rating: 4 out of 5