Witch Hat Atelier Volume 12: The Lion’s Share



I think it’s very hard to expose any “cracks” in Shirahama’s works, and Witch Hat Atelier volume 12 is no different. It doesn’t feel like it’s on the offensive or blatant, but everything that Shirahama does is conveyed clearly and thoroughly to readers. In a sense, it makes it easily equatable to Shirahama almost teaching us about this story. Witch Hat Atelier is a process of learning, and within that experience Shirahama tends to leave little pieces that allow those truly interested the ability to peer deeper into the abyss of this work. Though, maybe I’ll get there in a second. It’s no fun leaping out the gates with the best bits of information.

All the same, Witch Hat Atelier volume 12 does nothing at all to betray the quality of this series. It remains centered around the value of knowledge and its accessibility, and continually pushes the limits to see a break down in the barrier imposed by the witches of yore. Though, that’s really been the modus operandi of the series from the very beginning- bridging the gap between humanity and magic for the sake of saving another. It’s just that here, we see that gulf between the two at its thinnest yet (obviously). Under the inscrutable gaze of King Ezrest and the Knights Moralis. It’s a tension that even surpasses the danger of the massive valence leech threatening Silver Eve, casting a deep shadow not on the present like the beast, but the future. Shirahama has continually been forward-thinking like that however, exposing us to all manner of future thought alongside the dangers of the present.

Being surrounded by such danger and passion though, it can be very easy to forget the lessons and messages conveyed to characters like Coco, and even supporting cast members like Jujy. In the latter’s case, I think it’s really nice that Witch Hat Atelier volume 12 found the time to establish the isolation that she feels as a character, not having anyone to share passion or knowledge with like Coco and Aggot do. Education is equally as important as environment, and much like the balance between medicine and magic, a balance needs to be struck in order to create the greatest harmony. It’s a really sweet and simple moment, but it’s a great takeaway established in a far heavier and more “high stakes” volume.

Similarly, Ininia’s experience serves really well as a mirror for the consequences of actions. While her actions are beyond reason, she herself is shown to exist separate from them- once the connection to her master has been severed. I wouldn’t say that Shirahama frames this as the corrosion of knowledge or anything of the sort, but more so as the intentions of knowledge matters more than anything. Ininia’s backstory is unknown, but it’s clear that they value Restys. Similarly however, the guilt they feel for erasing Galga’s memory, as well as for how Atwert handles the situation is genuine and her own as an individual. To borrow from Coco’s Silver Eve spell, though Restys may be poisoning the mind of Ininia, moments like these show the malleability and innocence of a young mind- such that it has the ability to purify.

But that’s really all just a segue to Galga and Atwert. Shirahama, my hat’s off to you. I wish you could be more bold, but you’ve effectively said the quietest parts out loud with their relationship. It’s detestable that it’s to be limited as it is, but I cannot commend the effort of Witch Hat Atelier volume 12 enough as it sets in stone that the pair are lovers. The most heartrending piece of that being that Atwert effectively proposes to Galga in the heat of the moment, making for a painfully bittersweet reunion of sorts.

And an equally big moment is Shirahama’s discussion of the oppression and accessibility of knowledge. Within Witch Hat Atelier volume 12 works wonders on that front, taking in Tetia’s experience with the Prince of Ezrest, and creating a totally different experience in this volume. Where she felt unnerve about his request to exist as equals, her experience with a woman aiding those ailed by the valence leech is one of a desire for humanity. The older woman isn’t looking for something in return from Tetia, but is rather aiming to help the people in her own way. It’s that precise difference that breaks down the walls in Tetia’s mind and sees her spiralling in front of the woman. All the same though, the point is mostly about the delivery, coming from a woman of color, who seems to be single (though the most correct term would be divorced, as she states in the manga).

It’s not that it’s one thing, or two, but several that create a tapestry of arguably the most historically oppressed groups in history. Without the “support” of a husband, without the identity of a majority or the dominant group, she’s left as a vestige of a fringe that to this day remains oppressed, challenged, and ridiculed for every movement they make. Having someone that is so visibly beneath the weight imposed by society provide such strong words to a young girl like Tetia is really powerful, and just another feather in Shirahama’s cap as she uplifts communities and groups as if it were as natural as breathing.

When you begin to break apart the moments within Witch Hat Atelier and slowly piece them together into the bigger picture is beyond incredible. For example, Aggot primes readers with her discussion of “seals” in volume 11- specifically in relation to monsters. They’re claimed as seals, but with Engendale’s exposition at the start of the volume, they’re revealed as something called glaives. The comment about embedding into the flesh of the target though is quite interesting, and really calls into question his discussion of monsters later on… and one very big reveal. That is, the Isle of Oblivion. it itself is a monster. In the very subtle bit of exposition, a visual representation of the Isle of Oblivion appears behind Galga, and it sports the same design language as the glaives of Engendale at the beginning of the volume.

At the end of it, Witch Hat Atelier volume 12 doesn’t so much rock the boat as it attempts to capsize it. The tension of the series continues to boil over, and in doing so exposes readers to all sorts of new aspects in the world, like glaives. It’s still far from a “tipping point”, but it remains a culmination of the incredible effort that Shirahama has expended now over a dozen different volumes in this series. Truly, it is a perfect reminder as to why Shirahama is an award winning mangaka, and why she has such a fervent fandom around her and Witch Hat Atelier.

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