The idea for Witch Hat Atelier came from a conversation the author, Kamome Shirahama, had with a friend. They observed, “The process of bringing an illustration into the world seemed just like magic.” Under Shirahama’s hand, this book may just be real magic.
Coco is a young, driven girl set to one day become a witch. One problem: witches are born, not taught. Like Harry Potter, you either have magic abilities or you don’t, and spell casting is kept under wraps. Which is why she’s so enamored when a witch, Qifrey, visits her small town. Sneaking into a casting ceremony, she discovers the truth: magic is cast by drawing circles! Okay, it’s more complicated than that, something Coco finds out the hard way. Forced to leave her home, Qifrey takes Coco under his caring wing and promises to teach her the ways of magic. They travel to Qifrey’s atelier, where he teaches Coco and other girls the art of magic.
The art style tries to replicate the illustrations of children’s book in the 1800s, most notably Alice in Wonderland, and does it succeed! With fantastic character and background work, the book bursts with detailed whimsy. The use of space is great and the panel layouts make it a smooth read. There are pages with ornate panels that are wonderful to look at, which makes you look over the fact they’re usually exposition dumps.
The illustrations are what make this book stand out from other fantasy (or magical girl, in the same way Mary And The Witch's Flower is magical girl) titles. Like most first volumes, this book is all about introductions. It’s more efficient than most, making sure to develop the character relationships alongside the world building, and balances foreshadowing with plot immediacy pretty well.
But outside of the illustrations and spell casting, I don’t know what makes this series “unique.” Not every story needs to have a crazy premise like Assassination Classroom. But in a crowded genre like fantasy, standing out is important. Still, I’ve been drawn in and plan on picking up the second volume to see if it can differentiate itself. I want to see this series succeed, if only so Shirahama can continue to make beautiful illustrations.
In a world where everyone takes wonders like magic spells and dragons for granted, Coco is a girl with a simple dream: She wants to be a witch. But everybody knows magicians are born, not made, and Coco was not born with a gift for magic. Resigned to her un-magical life, Coco is about to give up on her dream to become a witch…until the day she meets Qifrey, a mysterious, traveling magician. After secretly seeing Qifrey perform magic in a way she’s never seen before, Coco soon learns what everybody “knows” might not be the truth, and discovers that her magical dream may not be as far away as it may seem…Add to CartLearn More