November 27, 2021

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Witch Hat Atelier GN 6-8

Witch Hat Atelier GN 6-8

It isn’t hard to realize that, having been deprived of her attempt at the Second Trial, Agott is going to be even more upset than usual. Her drive to succeed, which is almost pathological at this point, means that she’s very likely to be resentful of not only the Brimmed Caps who interfered with her Trial, but possibly also of the witches who she may feel held her back. It’s therefore a measure of her growth that she’s also able to be concerned for Qifrey, although it’s clear that going to the Great Hall isn’t something she’s looking forward to.

The answer to just why that may be is revealed in volume six, along with the reason why she’s so driven to succeed. Agott, the daughter of one of the oldest witch families, was rejected as an apprentice in her own House because she was accused of using a stolen spell in one of her assignments. Whether this is strictly true or not – and it does feel as if it could go either way given Agott’s need to succeed – it resulted in her being rejected by not only her House, but by many of the other witches in the Great Hall. Essentially Agott was accused of plagiarism in the same way that someone who turned in a paper they bought online instead of writing one themselves would be, and that’s a level of underhandedness that can never be counted out if someone is desperate enough. The question is whether Agott was always that desperate or if that’s something that developed in her as a result of being unfairly accused. Coco’s statement that the Agott she knows would hate an Agott who plagiarized is true, but that assumes that Agott has always been the way she is now, and that isn’t necessarily something that we can count on.

Whatever the answer, the Great Hall is not a particularly welcoming place for Agott, which is something that can be said for Richeh as well, since she’s Qifrey’s apprentice because she was belittled for preferring “frivolous” spells. Again, this should make us wonder about Qifrey almost more than the girls – what is it that drives him to take in apprentices rejected by or likely to be rejected by other witches? Certainly no one else would have given Coco a chance, and given what Agott is accused of, it isn’t likely that many would have offered her a second chance, either. While Qifrey himself is down for the count this volume (he spends most of it unconscious in the hospital), Beldaruit, one of the Three Wise Ones, may offer us some insight.

There are two reasons for this, and the more pertinent one isn’t really revealed until the end of the volume. But he’s the person who decides that Agott and Richeh should have a second chance at their Trial, and that since Coco and Tetia are there as well, they ought to take it, too. He devises a special Trial that doesn’t rely upon the Serpent Back Cave: the girls must surprise him using magic. Given his position in the Great Hall – to say nothing of the fact that his “wheel”chair runs on goat legs, one of the more remarkable visual touches of the volume – that’s likely a tall order, especially for a by-the-book witch like Agott or one without a lot of confidence in the worth of her spells, like Richeh. But it is right up Coco’s alley, and essentially what needs to happen is that she has to first convince her fellow apprentices to view magic with the same sense of wonder that she does before they can work on creating a treat for Beldaruit that will leave him surprised.

Beldaruit himself, however, has more surprises for Coco than she has for him, at least in his estimation. The reveal that he was Qifrey’s master and that he’d prefer Coco to become his own student leads to the revelation of Qifrey’s troubled past in volume seven. I said earlier that we perhaps shouldn’t be taking Qifrey’s motivations at face value, and this more or less proves it – yes, he’s in part making up for the torture and abandonment he suffered before Beldaruit found him buried alive, but the sort of torment he went through is the kind that can really change a person in major ways. Even more than Coco, Qifrey has reasons to want to find the Brimmed Caps, and that has driven him in some directions that not even Olruggio may be able to handle. While Qifrey spends most of volume eight as his regular self, we cannot forget what is revealed at the very end of volume seven, which may be not only one of the cleverest bits of costume design in the series, but also the most important detail for whatever is to come.

Despite the outwardly cheery plotline of volume eight – Tartah asks Coco (and the other members of the atelier, mostly because they’re there) to help him with a stand at the witch festival of Silver Night – there’s a lot bubbling just below the surface. Yes, there’s the Qifrey thing, but we also see the return of Custas, the boy Coco saved at the river. Custas has lost the use of his legs, and Tartah, rebelling against the stricture that magic cannot be used to heal, is secretly studying herbs in order to help his new friend. (And romantic rival. He’s not thrilled about that.) He believes that magic should be used to help in all cases where it’s possible, and his determination that the old rules aren’t working, while driven by Custas’ situation, is aligned with what Qifrey essentially acknowledged when he agreed to take Coco on as an apprentice – and what his ultimate goal might truly be. When we add in the events that befall Dagda and Custas at the tail end of the volume, things are looking very much primed to change, although whether or not those changes will be entirely positive (and for whom) is very much in question.

This returns us to one of the themes of the series – that magic is something that should never be viewed as mundane. That’s a direction that many of the witches are headed in because it’s not only something they’ve grown up with, but they also know the nuts and bolts of how it works. Because Coco truly sees magic as magical rather than as a scientific and artistic process, she’s able to view everything in a different light, one that many of the witches either learned not to do or grew out of. Beldaruit, however, clearly still takes delight in magic, which may indicate that Coco is on the right track and that magic begins to corrupt when the joy is taken out of it. The examples we’ve seen of “bad” magic indicate greed rather than wonder as the root of the spells – greed for power, money, whatever. Those are now primarily cast by the Brimmed Caps, but given the utilitarian way that the witches now primarily use magic, we have to question whether the joys of it have also been labeled as the province of the Brimmed Caps, which would make Coco potentially dangerous on two levels: she’s from a non-witch family and she’s fascinated by the possibilities of what magic can do. And now Tartah is starting to have similar thoughts all on his own.

Certainly that’s something that the Knights Moralis are keeping an eye on, and they’re not so sure that Olruggio (who becomes the girls’ primary parental figure in volume six, which he’s surprisingly good at) is doing his job as a Watchful Eye because of it. But Beldaruit seems like he might be of a different opinion, and that’s something we as readers need to watch, because the magic world may not be nearly as unified as naïve young apprentices think, and Coco and Tartah could well be the catalyst for more changes than even Qifrey dreams of.

#Witch #Hat #Atelier

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