The Witch and the Beast #12 – Eloquence and Silence: Final Act (My Overall Thoughts on the Anime Adaptation)



Staff List

Yuuichirou Momose
Takayuki Hamana
Episode Direction:
Chief Episode Direction:
Makoto Tamagawa

Chief Animation Direction:
Hiroya Iijima
Assistant Chief Animation Direction:
Noa Kawamura, Haruka Maruyama
Animation Direction:
Miyoko Shikibu, Yuri Hashimoto, Miyako Nishida, Chisa Shibata, Kei Tsushima, Asuna Imahashi, Yoshihito Narimatsu
Monster Animation Direction:
Shouya Gotou

Key Animation:
Mana Azumaya, Machiyu Ooyama, Hiroyuki Kamura, Kitano, Hayashi (Joe Hayashi), Mina Nishikido, Yuka Anze, Kaoru Satou, Noa Kawamura, Kouichi Hayamizu, Yoshiko Nakamura, Haruka Maruyama, STUDIO CL

The Witch and the Beast has finally come to its conclusion (a few weeks ago), at least for its first season, and you know… It has been a very interesting experience for me personally. This is one of my favorite mangas, maybe ever. I had almost insane expectations for it when it was first announced. But then, when I found out Yokohama Animation Lab was behind it, my excitement took a nosedive. Still, Takayuki Hamana, kept my hopes up for the project to turn out fine, as he’s someone who can work in pretty rough conditions. Just look at how much work he managed to produce between 2020 and 2023 alone. His series aren’t always good, but he always seems to have a baseline level of quality he’ll accept into his shows, and I feel like he understands the source material better than many newer directors do.

Either way, I was still a ball of anxiety every time I thought about this show. The PVs didn’t give us much regarding the production, which really didn’t help with nerves. I didn’t want to see one of my favorite series ever tarnished. So the day finally came when the first episode was released. The production was a little iffy; it was clear to see from the start. Not great models, and the CG blending of Ashaf’s crows coming in, for example, was also a bit off. But you know what? I honestly still loved it. Despite all the production issues, I still saw all the love put into it—through its direction, art direction, and just faithfulness to the manga’s aesthetics.

And that’s honestly how I’ve been feeling about the anime adaptation all the way up to this last episode. Of course, not every episode was necessarily good; there were some lows for sure, especially in terms of production. However, even in those episodes, I still feel like there were elements I can appreciate. You know though, I could just be biased since I love the manga. It might just be how good the source material is seeping through, but I feel like we have to give credit to what the anime actually does well.

I wanted to use this episode as a way to describe my overall feelings. In terms of production quality, I would put this episode on the upper echelon, though not the highest. It contains all the things I love about the anime but also things I genuinely don’t like. So, I wanted to go step by step, element by element, regarding my thoughts on this episode, which you can relate back to the show as a whole.

Production Issues, Bad Animation/Off-Model Issues, and How Sound Design Makes it Worse

I wanted to start off with the bad parts as I didn’t want to end this article on a sour note. This is by far the biggest issue in the whole show. From the start, even though we did get some well-animated sequences in the first episode, it was still clearly limiting in some parts, and that limitation sort of turned into a bit of a janky mess at times in later episodes. Unfortunately, it really impacts a lot of the action scenes; it feels very limited even when it’s not “quite” bad, but you feel like something more should be happening- which I think is also true for this episode. What makes it worse a lot of the time though is the sound direction on display (? On performance?). That “sound design” references mostly every, like the OST itself is quite good, but the choices of when to play them feel insanely abrupt. And to the action point the sound direction is so weird that sometimes it barely matches with the attacks, or it just feel so light that it doesn’t match anything that is being shown on the screen.

That mismatch also extends to a featured fight scene in the finale, shaped as a battle with the Executioners. This episode’s action is probably some of the best when compared to the average action scene in this series, honestly. However, I think we can still discuss the issues that persist- although I don’t actually mind the action here all that much unlike in previous episodes. I could pull off an example from a different episode, but that would undermine the purpose of this being an episode review, and I’ve already addressed it in said episode’s reviews. Anyway, let me just show you.

Here you have monster animation led by Shouya Gotou, whose appearance in this show has been a highlight for me- considering all the limitations. I just wish that he could have been present during the Demon Sword Arc. This sequence started off well thanks to Gotou, the monster feeling feral and moving wildly, but the sound direction failed it before it could even attack. This terrifying monster summoned by Craig sounds so muted and dejected it’s insane. Especially when the sound of Guideau’s punch just sounds like a thud. The sound direction of this show always goes one way or another, as in totally underwhelming or hilariously bulky sounding, that it doesn’t match the scene at all. The lack of consistency in sound effects in the show is continually one of its worst aspects. Even Craig’s scream at the end seems to have a weird “start-up” sound before it happens. It’s just a big mess.

The second video is a showcase of the lack of animation in the actual fight scenes of the show. Knowing the limitations of the staff, it felt like most of the storyboarders on The Witch and The Beast approached the fight scenes with that in mind. It makes the flow of the fights feel really clunky; the zoom-in on Guideau, for example, is a common effect they use throughout the show, but it has never looked very good. For one, it lasts way too long which exposes its limitations, and there are no slight changes at all to the facial expressions to even try to convey movement. The sound direction makes it worse still- the stark contrast between thunderous effects and the lack of corresponding on-screen action makes the limited animation painfully apparent.

Besides the model issues plaguing the first half of the show (though I don’t have a specific example from this episode, which is a promising sign for the impending Blu-ray corrections), I think most people would agree with me that the main issue is 100% the animation quality, especially during fight scenes- and the awful sound direction and music placement throughout the whole show.

I’ve seen many people say that it’s a deal breaker for them, and honestly? It’s understandable. The Witch and the Beast, even in anime form, has excellent art when drawn correctly and consistently gorgeous backgrounds. It’s a series about aesthetics, and with glaring holes like these conveyed through animation, it’s just not the quality that something like this deserves. It’s extremely unfortunate because there are many staff members here who are doing great work (which I will be talking about shortly), but their efforts are hindered by Yokohama Animation Lab’s production. As long as Yokohama continues to release mediocre works, if this ever gets a second season, I would hope for a studio change.

Why I Still Can’t Hate It

I still enjoyed the anime adaptation, and I’ve seen many people with similar sentiments. We all notice the production issues- it’s there, it’s undeniable. Some might be fixed in blu rays, but it won’t completely improve the whole production just magically. But why do we still enjoy it so much?

I think it just felt like the overall essence and aesthetic of the manga still remained there at it’s core. I’m going to break this down as simple and concise as I can, but I have so many thoughts on this that it will likely sound like I’m blabbering, but let’s get on it.

I wanted to first mention the most obvious: The director himself, Takayuki Hamana.

He has been a long-time veteran in the industry. He’s not the most well-known, but he’s worked on many shows with mixed to even great results. But I’ve always seen him as a director who works well in very bad circumstances, like in Sorcerous Stabber Orphen (making 3 seasons in like 2 years?). It’s much the same here. I felt that he understood right away that the production was not going to be able to handle the action scenes that The Witch and the Beast wanted to showcase. So, the direction he took for the show was something much different than what I felt he had done in his previous shows. Hamana has always come off to me as a director without a really strong sense of style. A lot of the things he touches on tend to have a bit of an “older school” feel, but it’s nothing like someone like Yuki Yase, for example, where I stare at like a 10-second clip and I’m like, “Yeah, he directed this whole series.” It’s not anything like that. But in this show, I felt he focused on giving this show a true sense of identity. Of course, much of the credit should be given to the individuals who worked on those elements (which I’ll be doing), but it’s Hamana as the director who likely decided and even assigned most of these people’s jobs. The backgrounds, the color, and even the character designs felt like they didn’t belong at this level of production. It looks genuinely very pleasing to the eyes. By knowing the struggles that the production will have, I believe Hamana knew he couldn’t rely on the show being backed by Sakuga moments now and then like his previous shows due to the poor Yokohama schedule. He needed something else to carry it, something that didn’t require movement, which almost forced them to recreate the manga’s aesthetic in anime form- and quite well, at that. This is notably impressive to me knowing how busy Hamana has been in the last few years. I was expecting his busy schedule to be a detriment to this show but it seems like he tried to work with it well. Everything is just so dense with “aesthetic”.

Character Designs by Hiroya Iijima:

The closeups in the Witch and the Beast are almost always gorgeous and are some of my fvaorite parts of the whole show. Iijima, while a Chief Animation Director, did not keep the character designs always on model in the first half of the show. When it is on model, the designs are really something to look at though. The deep shading on the character’s faces, the fidelity in the characters eyes, and just the sharp features that a lot of modern shows tend to lack. It’s a very distinctive look and I believe a great conversion from the manga to anime form. When you look at it, you’ll know it’s the Witch and the Beast- there’s really nothing that quite looks like it. They can get a bit lazier for the designs of less important creature/characters, but anyone of any significance tends to always be afforded this benefit in the anime.

Art Direction by Hirotsugu Kakoi:

This is by far my favorite part of the show. Kakoi has proven to me with this show and Kingdoms of Ruin that he’s genuinely one of the most underrated art directors I have ever seen. The integration of CG/2D elements, all of which are ingrained with detail and depth, is just so rare to see. Of course, huge credit goes to the Photography Director Natsumi Uchida too, adding a great deal to Kakoi’s environments. But still, Kakoi is just so consistent with it. His backgrounds completely envelop the scene and establish the whole general aesthetic of the show. It’s perhaps one of the single elements of this show that never falters. It’s genuinely beautiful work. It does a great job of understanding Kosuke Satake’s style to a tee. The Witch and the Beast in manga form is incredibly bold even without colors, though you can still see how it is via the covers. These backgrounds, while not matching the covers’ look, still embody the elements of the manga well. The colors feel super full without being too saturated for the show. The amount of detail put into things like the small objects in the background, the bushes, and the concrete on the road—it’s just such a high density of details that it’s genuinely almost overwhelming (in a good way).

The reason why I can’t dislike the adaptation is simply that it’s overflowing with charisma and visual aesthetic. In the episodes where it had a good storyboarder like Shinji Itadaki, it created amazing experiences even when paired with subpar production quality. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything well-animated though, because there was. The first episode featured some good animation, such as Guideau eating or winding up for a punch. Guonian Wang’s excellent work on the Phanora/Johan episode is another example, too. However, animation tended to be the weakest link throughout the entire show, and if it were more polished, I truly believe this could have been one of the top anime of the Winter 2024 season.

That’s essentially the gist of it. I enjoyed the anime adaptation, but it’s hard not to feel disappointed at the potential of what this anime could be. The way the anime ended, leading into the next arc, does suggest that a season 2 could be planned or is in the works. I hope they either improve their production schedule or that the Witch and the Beast goes to a different studio. Either way, I’ll be there to watch it. When the Witch and the Beast Blu-rays are out, I’ll also be trying to make comparisons and show you guys what changed. Anyways, this is where our discussion on the Witch and the Beast will end for now. It’s a series that is highly important to me and is one of my favorite mangas, and I hope you enjoyed reading this and will continue to support the series.

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