Elaina recalls the time she visited the city of Royal Celesteria, where witches and other magic-users work for the good of the citizens. After being accosted by a group of novice mages, she is reunited with her mentor, Fran. She spends some time as a teaching assistant, contemplating what her happiness is before resuming her journey.
This episode is a nice break from the last two bleak entries in the series, focusing on a much more mundane story as Elaina meets Fran for the first time in years. Still, after hypnotic plant monsters, slavery, and a demonic manifestation of injustice and revenge, it’s a bit jarring to be back into happy, lighthearted shenanigans.
We open as Elaina visits the lovely city of Royal Celesteria, and observes other witches engaged in fairly mundane work such as delivering packages and newspapers. Like the City of Mages in episode 2, Celesteria is built with broom flight in mind, with platforms and landing balconies. It’s a nice touch that builds out the world and demonstrates the thought put into the setting. Other details like floating serving tables and a metal gate that moves like living vines, serve to make the world feel that much more magical.
Things get hectic when Elaina runs into a group of off-brand Harry Potter characters who chase her through the paths and skyways of the town for most of the day. As a fully-fledged witch, Elaina is able to avoid them handily, eventually discovering that they were sent by Fran, who is teaching at the royal magic academy. Fran manages to rope her former student into helping her as a guest teacher, assisting some of the students who struggle with the basics.
As I said, the episode is a nice change of pace and more in line with what the first couple episodes led me to believe the show would offer. Even so, I can’t help but feel that the episode doesn’t serve much of a purpose beyond that. We get the impression that there’s more going on between Fran, Elaina’s mother, and the author of the book Elaina loved as a child, but that barely plays into the plot. The “moral”, if you can call it that, is about Elaina understanding what brings her happiness, but I don’t feel like that’s something she or anyone else in the episode was struggling with.
Once again, the show looks and sounds excellent. The magic effects are more subdued this time around, but still fun to watch. The background artists are really putting in the work, creating a world that feels warm, inviting and enchanted. This is all let down a bit by a lack of direction or interesting plot developments. I get that the show is more about individual moments than an overarching story or character drama, but that approach requires clear intent or focus behind those moments, and that just isn’t apparent here.
The more I watch of this show, the more concerned I become. The script is fine and the visuals continue to keep me on board, but I feel like the show’s bones are just not strong enough to make up for the weak lessons and morals it tries to pitch.
It’s possible that this is a symptom of adaptation sickness, and Elaina’s adventures are richer in the novellas, but I’m not sure I’m interested in tracking those down at this stage. I had decent hopes for the show, and I still hope it comes together as it goes, but the first half of this season has proven pretty shaky.