I’m so excited to tell you that we interviewed Jougi Shiraishi, the mastermind behind Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina.
Shiraishi-sensei gave us a lot of interesting facts about Wandering Witch. You’ll love the interview!
Thanks to KADOKAWA, Shiraishi-sensei, and everyone that made this interview possible.
Also, big thanks to Karl, a member of our team, for interviewing and translating it for us!
Here’s the interview, hope you enjoy it:
To start off, I’d like to ask about the origin of “Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina.” How did the story become a published light novel?
Well, in the beginning, I was aiming to become a professional light novel writer. But just before I started writing Wandering Witch, I had pretty much given up on the idea. I thought I would never be able to debut as a pro.
Since I had resigned myself to the idea that I’d never debut, I decided to wing it and just write a story about whatever I wanted.
That story is what would become Wandering Witch. It’s basically a story full of things I wanted to write about.
When the time came to publish my work, I opted to release it as a Kindle e-book edition. After, SB Creative published the official light novel.
Of course, I could have posted the story on a web novel site or tried submitting the manuscript to a publishing house.
But I wanted to have more concrete proof that I had written and published something, and if I published it as an ebook, my proof would be right there in the online shop.
After releasing my work, I could finally let go of my dream to become a writer.
That’s how things began, anyway.
Wandering Witch has been quite well received both in Japan and overseas, judging by its high position in various anime rankings. What do you think makes Wandering Witch uniquely interesting? What about the series makes it so appealing to fans?
That’s a good question.
I’d say one of the most interesting aspects of the series is the depth and range of Elaina’s personality.
For example, in episode 7, in the span of a single conversation, she goes from looking bored to an expression of total shock.
With the novels, I can only describe those expressions in words, and there are a lot of expressions you’re not able to fully achieve.
Being able to see those expressions brought to life in the anime was a new experience and quite a lot of fun.
When the original work is adapted into a manga or anime, how involved is the original creator with the production process? Do they tend to offer a lot of input or make requests?
For both the manga and the anime adaptations, I was quite hands-off and didn’t bother the staff much.
Of course, I checked everything as part of the usual production process, but the manga and anime staff are both full of veterans who are really good at what they do.
So I only commented specifically on a small portion of the content and didn’t get too involved when it came to most of the story or character decisions for the adaptations.
Regarding the anime, do you feel that it’s coming together as you hoped it would? Is it able to tell the story you had imagined, in terms of plot and characters?
Well, I didn’t have a particularly strong image, or even no image at all, for a lot of things.
Yet despite that, the anime staff produced such beautiful visuals. So honestly, I’m not just satisfied with how the anime’s turned out, I’m incredibly grateful.
Let’s bring the discussion to Elaina, you mentioned in a 2018 tweet, that throughout the story, we see glimpses into Elaina’s personality that suggests she “isn’t simply a cute girl, but actually something of a shrewd, cunning person at heart who, among other dodgy personality traits, is quite greedy as well.” In your opinion, is this darker side of Elaina reflected properly in the anime?
Personally, I think the anime plays down that part of her somewhat.
There’s even one chapter, in which Elaina tries to earn some money, that was deliberately not put in the anime.
Although there were a lot of chapters that the anime staff probably wanted to adapt, with only 12 episodes, the chapters that were chosen didn’t focus too much on the darker parts of Elaina’s personality or her unscrupulousness with money.
You don’t see much of that in the anime, so people who discover the series by way of the anime then go on to read the novels will probably be surprised at how underhanded Elaina can be sometimes.
Was that the director’s [Toshiyuki Kubooka] judgment to omit the chapter about Elaina earning money from the anime? Or was there a specific reason why that particular chapter was difficult to adapt?
I’d say it was the latter. Compared to a chapter where Elaina’s darker personality is in full focus, there were other parts of the story that were higher-priority, or that we felt were more important to adapt for the anime.
I wasn’t directly involved in planning the anime series, but I believe that was the main reason.
Moving on to the topic of Elaina’s design, I’m interested in her broach. Was there anything that inspired the design?
Nope, absolutely nothing (laughs)
The design for Elaina’s broach was left up to Azure-sensei, who is in charge of illustration and character design. He began by reading the manuscript and creating the basic character designs.
From there, Azure-sensei submitted designs for clothing and other smaller details to myself and Jougi-san.
Together, we looked through the designs and discussed them, before deciding “Oh, this would look cute. Let’s go with this.” That’s how the process went for most of the details like the broach.
In other words, Azure-sensei essentially came up with the designs from scratch.
He had just debuted at the time we chose him to illustrate the novels, but he was already known for his excellent design sense when it came to costumes and accessories. Ever since then, we’ve given him a great degree of freedom in coming up with designs.
Jougi-san, would you say that’s accurate?
[Shiraishi-sensei]: Yes, thank you.
Let’s continue with the topic of clothing. In a recent interview with Web Newtype, Shiraishi-sensei, you mentioned that you had instructed the animation staff not to show characters’ panties or undergarments in the anime. Overseas fans were quite amused to hear that. Was there a reason why you specifically gave those instructions to the staff?
I also noticed the comment caused quite a reaction. I had given the idea some thought before speaking with the staff, and it really just comes down to my belief that I’d like things to look and feel as natural as possible.
In many anime that opt to show undergarments, they tend to be a sexual thing.
Like panty flashes, and such. It seems like there are a lot of series that do that. But I feel that if you make the decision to include things like that, you inevitably end up limiting your audience, often to a subset of the male demographic.
With more popular, mainstream works that are viewed by all kinds of people, regardless of age or gender demographics, it’s just natural not to show off panties and such.
Personally, from the beginning, I had always aimed Wandering Witch at a very broad audience as opposed to focusing on a certain group of viewers.
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Some fans of the series are interested to know whether Elaina will eventually become romantically involved or fall in love with someone later in the story. Wandering Witch includes stories in which Elaina meets characters who have their own romantic relationships, but will there ever be anyone that Elaina herself will fall in love with?
Personally, I don’t plan on introducing a romantic interest for Elaina.
For one, I feel it would be difficult for me to write from the perspective of a female character in love.
Regardless, I never wanted to take the story in that direction, because I feel that a romantic element isn’t really necessary for Wandering Witch.
So there probably won’t ever be a romantic interest for Elaina.
Aside from the main character, Elaina, are there any characters you’re particularly fond of or enjoy writing for?
I’m very fond of a character named Frederica, who appears in volume 8.
Her story is one of my favorite kind to write. Given the nature of her story, it would be unlikely for her to show up again later, but she’s definitely my favorite.
Another character who comes naturally to me would be Saya, who you’ve seen in the anime. She can be a bit reckless and unpredictable, but I find it’s easy to write storylines for her.
By “easy to write,” do you mean imagining events or scenes, or more along the lines of how she interacts with other characters like Elaina?
It’s definitely easy to picture the kind of dialogue that Saya would have with Elaina.
They naturally form a sort of “manzai” comedy team, with Saya being the goofy “boke” half and Elaina being the serious “tsukkomi.”
(Note: Manzai basically involves two performers: a straight person, known as a tsukkomi, and a funny person, known as a boke. The two trade jokes based on puns, misunderstandings, and other wordplays, avoiding controversial topics such as politics, sex, or current affairs.)
Originally though, Saya was just a one-off character I wrote for volume 1, and at the time, I wasn’t planning for her to be a regular part of the story.
But since then, especially with the drama CDs and anime, I’m glad that I have her character because she’s so much fun to write for.
How about locations in the story? Do you have a favorite town or country that appears in the series, or somewhere you’d like to visit if it were real?
The country I would like to see most is actually one that Elaina visits in volume 13.
There’s this inn that sits on the back of a giant dragon, which travels around the world, and visitors can jump on and stay at the inn as the dragon floats along. I love the idea of a hotel where you can stay while it moves on its own, traveling the world.
That’s my ideal way to travel, and it makes for an interesting setting in terms of story.
As for the ending in general, did you already have an idea of how you wanted to end the series when you first began writing the novel?
I have thought about how I plan to end the series, including setting the ending in Elaina’s hometown.
When I started, I was funding my own publishing, so I wanted to end the story in a way I personally would think is ideal.
But now that things are different, I realize that it can’t be as simple as that, so I’m considering that as I write.
In Wandering Witch, fledgling witches are mentored by more experienced witches, and Elaina even guides her own “student,” Saya. As a published light novelist, do you have any advice or mentorship you can give to viewers who also aspire to write novels and create stories?
I’ve felt this way since before I got into the industry, but with a lot of works that get adapted into anime, most of them are fairly mainstream popular titles.
You wind up with a lot of repetition. But it’s different with light novels, because it’s such a vast, expansive genre, and you can write about whatever you want.
That’s true. If you focus on anime series, you’ll often find some overlap. Nowadays, with novels, anyone can post their work to the internet, so they have the freedom to write whatever kind of story they want, right?
Don’t go chasing the latest trend or fad.
Instead, what’s important is that you focus on what you personally want to write.
To finish our discussion, do you have anything you’d like to say to overseas fans of the Wandering Witch series?
As a writer, I’ve been greatly influenced and inspired by all kinds of content from outside Japan, such as TV shows, movies, or books.
So for someone overseas to pick up one of my books and enjoy it makes me incredibly happy, both as a writer and as a person. Although there are only a few more episodes of the anime remaining, I hope you all will continue to enjoy and support the series.
Thanks again to Shiraishi-sensei for his revelations about this extraordinary anime. As well as SB Creative for publishing the light novel, the source material of the anime.
And of course, thanks to KADOKAWA for letting us interview Shiraisei-sensei and their continued efforts to make the anime industry more accessible to the overseas audience. Arigatou gozaimasu!
Also, thanks to Funimation, Anime Corner, the Mipon community, and r/majonotabitabi/ for the questions suggestions.
Wandering Witch is dominating overseas and domestic popularity rankings, don’t miss this fantastic anime.
Wandering Witch is one of the most popular Anime right now and is streaming on Funimation. Watch it! It also has a dubbed version.
Interview and Translation: Karl Bruder.
DISCLAIMER: All the images above were used with the permission of KADOKAWA. Thank you for always being cool KADOKAWA.
© JougiShiraishi-SB Creative Corp./The Journey of Elaina Partners
© Jougi Shiraishi / SB Creative Illustration：Azure