Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches was extremely surprising in several ways. Despite appearances, it is not a harem anime and is not a fan-service anime. Instead, it’s a fairly straightforward…. well, somewhat convoluted romance in a magical world anime. It does a good job of capturing your attention and keeping it throughout. Though it’s not the slickest anime out there, it has a tremendous amount of heart.
Purpose: Very Good. The most interesting thing here is that the anime revolves around special powers… and kissing. Knowing only that, you’d completely expect a fan-service anime. If I then say there’s some body-switching in there, most people would have raised eyebrows by this point. There are a couple short scenes of fan-service, but those are out of the way early on. Even at that, the fan-service was both reasonable and understandable – it’s not there for fan-service’s sake, it was there because the story called for it. Aside from that, the anime does involve kissing as a central theme. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t end up being about any of these things. Perhaps the strongest point of the purpose was the fact that they were able to de-emphasize those elements to the point that they were both reasonable and matter-of-course, given the circumstances. Instead, the anime focuses on the growing relationship of the main two characters in these strange and weird situations.
Characters: Very Good. This anime did a really good job of knowing which characters to develop and which ones not to. What it ended up doing was differentiating between the main group of characters and characters that don’t ultimately play around in the main group. It sets up a much more real dynamic of friends and people you share some interest or event in common with. For the main cast, the characters become something quite other than what you’d expect. Throughout, there was a good deal of genuineness to the characters, something that is quite uncommon. One of the strongest parts of the characters was how they dealt with problems. Surprisingly, they would actually talk about their problems and share their concerns with their friends. This ended up cutting off a tremendous amount of “filler angst” that you find in most anime, resulting from some misunderstanding. Even when there’s a delay in talking about something, it isn’t really ever belabored and strung out – it’s done out of consideration for the other’s feelings at the moment. Yet another of the surprising things about the characters was that they did a good job of both humanizing all the characters and making everyone sympathetic, to a certain extent. There aren’t really villains – everyone has their problems.
World: Good. The world mostly borrows themes that are pretty standard to the high school romance/ drama genres. Though most of the anime takes place at the school, occasionally, you’ll step outside to another setting. However, each setting has a purpose, either to develop a character or provide unique circumstances to affect character relationships. That aside, the magical element isn’t overpowering – it’s pretty minor, as things go. It’s never fully explained, but it doesn’t exactly need to be, since the magical aspect of the world is another part of the setting – interesting situations for them to do interesting things in. As the anime goes on, it becomes clearer both what the magical powers are and how they affect people’s relationships.
Plot: Good. Again, fairly standard for the genre. You’ve got a relatively straightforward romance, and odd events running interference. The main plot is supported by the plotline that involves figuring out the magic powers. Actually, when the plotlines intersect near the end, it ends up making something quite powerful. One of the more unique aspects of the plot is that it hints at another part of the story, not told, that precedes the events that happen here that ultimately play an interesting part in the resolution.
Storytelling: Masterpiece. When you can manage to make an anime about kissing and bodyswitching work without being a harem or fanservice… it takes a special kind of storytelling. However, the storytelling is very skillful because it takes what seems like really limited gimmick and varies it so it’s never boring. Instead, it varies it to provide some excellent situations for the characters, and shows them in a very genuine way. Of course, that’s surprising, given the anime’s about kissing and bodyswitching. Even so, they skillfully managed to make the kissing aspect mundane and, sometimes, even necessary without being rude or bad. That’s really surprising since there’s kissing that isn’t solely limited to boy x girl. And yet, it’s not fan-servicey and not done poorly. Perhaps it’s because they make it mundane that it isn’t awkward, romantic… or, well, anything. It just is. However, the fun thing is that they’re able to turn it into something special by the end.
Now for the bodyswitching. Again, exceptional. This was only something that could have been pulled off by the exceptionally talented, veteran Japanese voice cast. It really is something that you have to see to appreciate what they’ve done. Since they’re bodyswitching, the voice actor has to act like another character, matching inflection and tone. And they do. They do it so well, if you actually think back to some memorable lines, you will only think of it in the original character’s voice or forget that it was a different character delivering the lines. The tone, the inflection, the delivery is all just… right. This keeps a strong continuity of character so that you can always tell who a character is.
Pace: Very Good. The anime constantly builds tension as it goes, resulting in a really strong ending. The comedy is spaced really nicely to offset the character drama that’s going on. In addition, introductions of new characters, and their development, is handled in quite a solid way so it’s neither overwhelming nor too slow.