The Witch and the Beast #5 – Beauty and Death: Final Act



Staff List:

Screenplay: Yuuichirou Momose
Storyboard: Hiroyuki Yoshii
Episode Direction: Makoto Tamagawa
Chief Animation Direction: Hiroya Iijima
Animation Direction: Hiroyuki Yoshii, Tenshou Satou, Guonian Wang
Monster Animation Direction: Shouya Gotou
Key Animation:
Hiroyoshi Iida, Kaoru Satou, Kiraku Uramatsu, Guonian Wang, Mizuki Nakane,
Seon-Hui Kim, Ayaka Kondou, Risa Yoneda, Tamao Takano, Takeshi Ninomiya,
Daigo Kofuku, Chisa Koide, Teruki Tomomatsu, Hayashi (Joe Hayashi), Tenshou Satou

My anticipation for this arc has been high since the beginning of the show. While waiting for us to reach this arc, I experienced a mix of anxiety and great anticipation, especially since Phanora and Johan are among my favorite characters in the manga. As mentioned in the previous write-up, the last episode featured some of the most on-model and detailed art that remained consistent throughout the entire episode in The Witch and the Beast. This left me feeling positive about the outlook towards this episode, as I have always believed that this arc would rely more on storyboarding, direction, and artwork rather than animation. However, the previous episode was primarily handled by Maru Animation and this episode has been returned to Yokohama’s more usual staff. So the real question is, how did it turn out?

It turned out pretty damn well. I might even say (as of writing this I’ve watched the first 6 episodes and 7 is about to come out), so far it is currently my favorite episode in the whole series. This episode was boarded by Hiroyuki Yoshii who is a long-term veteran animator in the industry, but as far as I can find, I don’t believe he has done storyboarding ever in his entire career. His effort in this episode is actually quite good, especially for more pivotal moments. I did notice a high use of panning shots throughout the episode, which can feel a bit repetitive considering how similar some of them are. However, I think he mostly used them during the table discussion, so it was fine with me. It didn’t need a lot of movement anyway, and I think his framing for the most part, function well with the background/environment of the show. The panning shots just let us see and appreciate the backgrounds more than average.

But where he really shines, as I said, is in the pivotal moments, like the reveal of Phanora being a witch, which is one of my favorite parts from the manga. It is, of course, perhaps a bit derivative from the manga, but the focus on the artwork at that point is just so beautiful. The aesthetic of The Witch and the Beast shines through fully with the painted stills that he constantly implements during this part of the episode.

In the first episode, we also had uses of stills, but for example, during Ione’s introduction, I was not that much of a fan of the pastel colors and overall more saturated look that scene had. Whereas, I love the darker aesthetic they chose for Phanora’s reveal, it fits great with the theme of death and the weight that the Death Knights committed themselves to.

And something I’ve been waiting to talk about in terms of visuals… Guonian Wang CARRIED this episode. According to his own admission on Twitter, he animated about a third of this whole episode, doing something like 50 cuts. He mentions specifically that he did all the scenes relating to the Death Knights, which, of course, includes perhaps the second-best Sakuga moment of the entire show. But it also unfortunately does bring up the subject of how this show is purely carried by very certain individuals, rather than this being a well planned or produced project as a whole. But for this episode it worked out in their favor because Guonian Wang is just a crazy workhorse of an animator. He draws and animates in his free time for his Twitter, after he gets done animating 50 cuts for an anime. That is Guonian Wang.

I was happy with the visuals in the episode, it wasn’t as consistent model wise as episode 4, but it was much more ambitious in its ideas and I think Guonian Wang’s huge role in this episode really paid off a great ton.

While the narrative of The Witch and the Beast has been faithfully adapted throughout its airing, there are moments where the flow of the episodes feels a bit off and somewhat disjointed. Nevertheless, this episode stands out the most for how consistent it is throughout in visual quality as I’ve already mentioned and narrative. Phanora and Johan’s characters come across better in the anime than our main duo, Guideau and Ashaf, within a much shorter timeframe, and I think that’s because of the way they were handled.

I’ve seen comments stating that this arc was their favorite so far in the anime, and they managed to achieve this with two newly introduced characters. While this arc has always been a favorite of mine, it wasn’t a commonly shared opinion among manga readers (though most do like it). Though considering how true this episode is to the manga in it’s aesthetics, I believe it resonated much better with anime-only watchers than previous episodes just due to it containing the greatest essence of the manga (except maybe Episode 1) that is just naturally charming.

I hope that, moving forward, we will have more episodes like this one, with exceptional visual aesthetics that align well with the manga—arguably the most crucial element of The Witch and the Beast. Not only that, but I hope to see those aesthetics supported by talented animators such as Guonian Wang who are given time to do their craft. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, and I look forward to seeing Wang animate more scenes in subsequent episodes. However, his involvement in future episodes is a bit in limbo, given his large contribution he made to this particular one.

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