In a gender bender story, it’s almost inevitable there’s going to be a scene about a close call in the bathroom. So that’s how If Witch, Then Which? volume 2 kicks off. Beyond that, we also get magic tea, mysterious rooms, and mandragora leg hair love potion.
Yes, I’m going to file that last one under “things I never thought I’d have to say/write”.
But you know what? It was funny. And that’s all that really matters in a comedy.
Haruka continues to disguise himself as a girl to help his childhood friend Maruna at the magic academy. And between Maruna’s lack of control over her magic and motions and Haruka’s pragmatism and thickheadedness, the pair find themselves in one jam after another. Sometimes, magic is the problem, and sometimes, magic is the solution.
Take the aforementioned bathhouse scene. Maruna leaves her guard duty for a moment, and that’s when other students enter. Maruna is forced to cast an illusion spell to disguise Haruka, and the spell also makes the girls look like cats to him. Readers get to see both the real situation and Haruka’s perspective, and I found myself cracking up as a group of “cats” innocently encourage Haruka to stay and hang out a little longer.
The next chapters continue the laughs with an eccentric tea-drinking mandragora and a love potion made out of the plant’s roots (aka leg hair). It’s not gut-busting, but it’s the sort of simple, straightforward, brightly-drawn work that makes it a fun, delightful read.
The problem comes toward the last two chapters where the manga switches gears. We and the two main characters are formally introduced to Oboro, the mysterious girl (and cat) who has sometimes appeared. She asks for help in exploring a room that only appears once a year in connection to her mother who vanished. While Oboro notices that Maruna and her mom are similar, they soon could have one more thing in common.
The switch from cat-girls and full-school harems to a strained relationship between mother and daughter and a mysterious disappearance is abrupt. I know several comedies tend to suddenly have a more somber tone right before the end, and for a moment, I honestly thought the series would end right here even though I knew If Witch, Then Which? has a third volume. Both Maruna and Haruka are emotionally shaken up afterward, and they are going to have to sort out their feelings before the manga’s conclusion.
It’s a shame, as the series just seemed to have found its groove in this second volume. As suspected, Maruna isn’t an incompetent witch, and I would have liked to seen the silly adventures continue for a little longer. The mood shift was too abrupt and probably too early, as I doubt there will be room for much school comedy now that love is on the horizon.