As Yamada executes his now-familiar process of meeting, assisting, and befriending a new witch, some of the recent faults of the series are becoming more readily apparent. This is a series still struggling to redefine itself after the original plot of the seven witches was fully resolved, leaving little reason for the manga to continue publishing. Continue it did, obviously, and while all the new characters and plot elements have merit, they fail to measure up to the standards of their predecessors.
The primary case in point is the pairing of Sid and Nancy, the aptly-named punk duo that now serves as Yamada’s impetus to discover and aid the new witches. Sid and Nancy are decent characters in their own right, even if their personalities and behavior are made deliberately predictable to fit their homage. They have managed well enough in shaking Yamada free of the orderly confines of the student council, thus placing the protagonist in situations and environments better suited to his loose attitude.
However, while Sid and Nancy are a superior alternative to Yamada’s current role in the student council, they are no substitute for the characters who surrounded Yamada during his time in the Supernatural Studies Club. All the lively and amusing interaction that defined the series is gone; those very same club companions are still around, but are seen far less often, and even when they show up, they have become tame. With those characters no longer intended to provide the creative diversity needed to shape the story, author Yoshikawa Miki has handed down that responsibility to Sid and Nancy, student council newcomers Kurosaki and Arisugawa, and the new witches.
Despite being afforded every chance to impress, none of these characters have done anything to stand out from the rest of the cast. Again, these are not bad characters; each of them has been given clear definition, personality, and motivation. Still, even good characters need some kind of spark to help them become compelling, and the fact that the series was effectively reset means these newcomers, however interesting they might be, have no strong connection to current events, because those events feel reused.
Chikushi Aiko, for example, is a perfectly acceptable character. All aspects of her identity, from personality to present circumstances, are different enough from other recent characters to prevent her from being confused with anyone else. She even participates in a funny scene, attempting to save a fellow student while in a silly disguise, thus making her endearing. As a standalone situation, this works on all levels; the problem is that this situation is not clearly more engaging than anything found in Yamada’s original escapades. The unusual continuation of the plot looms over every story line now; the series can’t merely be as good as it used to be, it must exceed itself.
So far, Yoshikawa has only matched her own writing, not outdone it. Granted, the original plot of the seven witches only became exciting around the introduction of the third or fourth witch, when Yamada’s life started becoming truly complicated. In that regard, the author still has time to recapture the magic she found not long ago, but until that happens, Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches suffers from a feeling of complacency. Yamada is stuck in a student council role that doesn’t suit him, as evidenced by his need to disguise himself before coming to Chikushi’s aid; his wild demeanor, which was crucial in setting the tone of any conflict he faces, has been neutered by his position as an authority figure. Similarly, the other familiar characters who have the quality to push story no longer have the drive, given that they all effectively ceded their relevance to Shiraishi. That move was correct at the time but has since proven lamentable, given Shiraishi’s unfortunate regression to a more supporting role.
All in all, the author has all the pieces available to make the story work, but those pieces have been placed the wrong way around. Shiraishi needs much more attention, established supporting characters like Miyamura should reclaim a good share of the spotlight from Kurosaki and the like, and above all, Yamada needs to be his original, unrestrained self again.