This has got to be one of the dumbest takes I’ve ever seen regarding an anime character. How incognisant of non-verbalised emotion you have to be to dream up the fantasy that Elaina is abnormally violent and uncaring is frankly ridiculous, and the fact that there’s a large swath of Majo no Tabitabi critics that will bring up ‘Elaina is a psychopath’ like it’s actually a point worth debating is infuriating.
The main points of evidence for this absurd opinion come from the controversial episode 3. Now, I will meet the more amicable folk halfway and say that Majo no Tabitabi’s first ‘darker’ episode was perhaps a little too vague to say what it wanted. The important details were brief and undeveloped. When Elaina discovers a field of brainwashing plants, and sees firsthand somebody losing their mind in a field, she chooses to walk away. She has powerful magic, and we know that from prior episodes, but we’re lead to believe that she is powerless in this instance.
Look at this cinematography – a screenshot of the scene of her watching, before slowly backing away and flying away – and tell me, honestly, that this is a psychopath:
It’s clear as day that Elaina is not at all happy with this situation. It’s unclear whether she is merely disturbed by the actions of the driven insane gate guard, but the shots refusing to show us her face, juxtaposed against a bleak sky on the verge of raining, tells us that she is upset (to some degree) and barely holding herself together. That, surely, means she is not a psychopath. I read this scene – in the context of the entire episode – as Elaina feeling a sense of guilt that she could not do more to help. Perhaps that’s a charitable reading, but I still see Elaina as a girl that only got on her broom and flew away because she felt she could do nothing else, and her silence on the matter was clearly speechlessness rather than indifference.
A better argument that these hyperbolic claimants could make is that, instead of a personal attack upon Elaina’s character, they should blame the writer or director, for not showing us more detail of how Elaina is powerless in this situation.
Majo no Tabitabi didn’t help itself, though. This deeply cynical half-episode shared space with a tale of a boy trying to make a slave girl’s day better by showing her the happiness of the people he met on her travels, only to further rub in her position as a slave under a sexually abusive lord, and how she will never be free. Those same halfwits try to make this somehow Elaina’s responsibility, that she should rescue this girl from slavery.
Critical discourse died an unceremonious death around Majo no Tabitabi, but I must digress, take a breather, and carry on – because this isn’t a perfect show, and burried under the rubble of nitwits are probably some soured fans with half a developed opinion (and maybe, if we’re lucky, a braincell or two).
Elaina’s Journey is not free of criticism. Tone is slick within episodes, but going episode-to-episode can be a jaunting experience. The past few weeks gave us attempts at comedy, which should be something where Elaina’s egoistic personality and the world’s amusing magic should shine, but the continuing cynical messages pervade – such as the suggestion that lying is needed to have a happy population; or that inter-country relations are best smoothed over by realising that you are equally horrible, rather than good. The whacky comedy isn’t introspectively developed (the episode about lying was delivered by an impromptu monologue no-less, based on barely any built-up tension). It’s not very meaningful long-term, and it’s not particularly funny either (all too frequently relying on recurring character, Saya, being a one-note disaster lesbian) meaning that the show has spent three weeks coasting on mild entertainment at best.
The most recent comedic episode showed Elaina furious that a local witch cut her hair against her will. Those critics argue in snide-filled tones that it is funny that she gets angry when somebody cuts her hair, but quietly walks away when it is revealed another witch committed mass genocide against her populace because of a grudge match with her father. It’s almost like context matters, huh? It’s almost like her feelings in one instance were swallowed under a sense of powerless inability to solve the situation, versus rising to the top at the petty absurdity – like, youknow, a real person might? When I learned that nukes fell over Japan, I was not angry but quietly shocked… when my sister ate that Cornetto I was saving… you get me?
And that is how one of the best shows of 2020 went downhill, and how any discussion surrounding the show became an untraversable quagmire of shit takes. The majority of its critics are too busy parading a nonsense rhetoric of Elaina being morally bankrupt to talk about anything beyond episode 4. But here’s to Elaina getting back on track and finding the introspective heart-to-hearts that it did so well in its first couple of episodes – and, maybe then, this whole discussion from nearly two months ago can be put to bed under something actually worth talking about.