The Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Volume 5, written by Jougi Shiraishi, illustrations by Azure, and translation by Nicole Wilder, continues the tales of traveling mage Elaina. The stories, for the most part, are adorable and bear similarities to stories such as Grimms’ Fairy Tales. They instill a sense of morality and cautionary tales within each enchanting story. Yet, the stories also blend present-day phrases and wording, despite its setting. As such, it brings the reader into the world but also draws parallels between their world and ours. 

Wonderful Tales With Moral Guidance

The collection of stories are tales of Elaina’s journey as well as mages Elaina knows. Many of the best stories have a lesson for the reader that doesn’t become a sermon. The first—a story within the stories—is short and sets up the reader’s journey. The second, “Castle Town Fresia: Gardenia’s Carrier Pigeons”, is inspiring. It uses the world of postal delivery by pigeons to talk about exploiting workers. The story feels fantastical and familiar. The world-building is beautiful and subtle and does not overuse descriptions. It tells the reader what they need to know to understand what is essential to the plot. 

There are no sweeping, epic battles in these stories. However, Elaina’s travels and tales are memorable. Elaina encounters new people, good and bad, helps solve a problem, and moves on. The stories are captivating and readers will love the world and wonder about living in it. The unique types of problems always have a root in the universality of human nature. Thus, the stories deal with identity, conflict, happiness, superficiality, the transitory nature of beauty, and so on. The light novel has ample pearls of wisdom that adults and young kids alike can take from its pages.  

Drags Occasionally But Oh, Inclusion!
The Wandering Witch cover of mage Elaina holding a bag, her broom and a donut in her mouth while her hat magically hovers above her head.
Courtesy of Yen Press

Some of the stories have pacing issues, yet the ending makes them worthwhile. The only story where the pacing and narration made it both slow and confusing was the final story, “Two Pupils.” The reason being, the usual narrative style from the third-person to the first-person was a hindrance given the subject.

The relationships outside the hetero-normative gaze also stand out. The beauty in stories like “Castle Town Fresia: Plumeria in a Cage” and “A Honeymoon and the Lily Flowers of Happiness” is their ability to include other sexualities with ease.  Readers will cheer for these relationships. Elaina remains a fascinating character because she helps people but her internal monologue doesn’t make her a likable character so much as a real one. Even when we do the nice or “right’ thing, our thoughts are rarely that pure. We are often filled with annoyance, some resentment, and castigate the person who wants help. Yet, we do help. Sometimes we just need to vent, even if it’s to ourselves. 

The illustrations and cover by Azure are nothing short of magical. The cover especially. The detail, like the floating hat above Elaina’s head, bag, and broom convey a magical girl on the move. This is a person that is both interested and has interesting stories to tell. It’s beautiful and it would be great to see someone dress up like this for Halloween. 

The Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Volume 5 is gorgeous, detailed, and inspiring. Each story gives readers something to smile at and think about. Both children and adults can read these stories and enjoy it. I can’t wait for the next volume of this series!

Feature image courtesy of Yen Press