Witches Take Center Stage in These Manga for Tweens and Teens

In these seven manga works for grades five and up, affable characters cast gentle spells.

Witches and magic are perennially popular topics for all readers, young and old, and Japanese readers are no exception: There are many, many manga series that put witches front and center.

Manga witches often appear to be directly lifted from American and European images. They wear pointed hats and black gowns, ride broomsticks, and often have a familiar—either a cat or another creature. Beyond that, there’s a lot of variation. Some live in the quasi-medieval worlds familiar to fantasy readers and RPG fans. Others live in the modern world and use their powers to make life easier. Many witch manga, such as “Wandering Witch” and “A Witch’s Printing Office,” are episodic, with stories that last for just a chapter or two: A problem occurs, the witch solves it, and everyone moves on. Others, such as “Witch Hat Atelier,” build up a lengthy, detailed story over many volumes.

In these seven manga, the witches are good witches who want to use their magic to help others, whether by making office life run more smoothly, or by slaying dangerous dragons. Some think deeply about the ethics of what they are doing; others simply enjoy looking down at the world from a broomstick. And all are a lot of fun to read about.

Yoshinari, Yoh. “Little Witch Academia.” Illus. by Keisuke Sato. JY (Yen Press). 2018–19.
Gr 5 Up–Akko, a student at Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy, has freewheeling adventures with friends and classmates. Akko has always dreamed of following in the footsteps of her idol, a witch named Chariot. But her sparkly-eyed enthusiasm and lack of magical ability mean she gets off to a rocky start. She earns the respect of classmates through escapades that involve a lot of flying and spell casting. The series is adapted from the anime of the same name (on Netflix), and while there’s plenty of action, it can feel like story bits are missing. That’s unlikely to bother the target audience. Cute characters and a magical-school setting will make this three-volume series a hit with fans of magical-girl manga.

Mochida, Maka. “Daily Report About My Witch Senpai.” Illus. by author. Seven Seas. 2022–23.
Gr 7 Up–This charming, wholesome office romance has some serious points to make beneath its comedic storyline. Misono, an ordinary human guy, and Shizuka, a witch, are coworkers. Shizuka is Misono’s senpai, so she has more seniority than him, but he feels protective toward her because she goes all out to be a good coworker, sometimes stressing herself. Misono has a crush on Shizuka, but in the course of the first volume, must contend with her overly protective brother and a selfish former boyfriend. Fortunately, her pet lizard seems to approve. What sets this book apart from the average romance manga is the characters’ self-awareness and frankness about their situations. Shizuka’s manipulative old boyfriend, Hiwatari, encouraged her not to hide her magical abilities. When he reappears and tries to get her back, Shizuka has to find her voice to tell him how she really feels. Misono, on the other hand, is caring and thoughtful and reminds Shizuka to take care of herself and not try so hard to please others. The characters are adults, but are drawn in a simple, rounded style with strong facial expressions. Cute details like how Shizuka uses her powers to make her tea and iron her clothes make this a fun read. The series is ongoing, with two volumes currently available in English.

Kubo, Tite. Burn the Witch. Illus. by author. Viz. 2021.
Gr 8 Up–Tite Kubo, the creator of Bleach, shows off his cartooning and character design skills in this manga about two witches who chase dragons. The story is set in Reverse London, an alternate London where dragons are a part of daily life. Some are useful to humans, but others are dangerous and must be exterminated. Two witches, Noel and Ninny, fly around in tartan uniforms and wrangle dragons as needed. They also end up wrangling some humans, who are forbidden from having contact with dragons. When Noel’s admirer, Balgo, along with Ninny’s bandmate, Macy, get mixed up with them, the witches run interference. Kubo’s art focuses on movement and action—mainly witches flying around and fighting the dragons; there’s a cute dog in the mix as well. But the plot isn’t always easy to follow. The manga is currently just one volume, though a second was announced in Japan, and it has been adapted into anime.



Mochinchi. “A Witch’s Printing Office.” Illus. by Yasuhiro Miyama. Yen Pr. 2019–22.
Gr 8 Up–This fun, complex story is best suited to older, more experienced manga readers for several reasons, the most important of which is that it’s deeply rooted in otaku (serious manga fan) culture. Mika, the lead character, was on her way to Comiket, the massive fan-comic convention in Tokyo, when she was whisked away to a fantasy world filled with witches, dragons, other magical creatures, and a quirky group of humans. Mika has one magic power, the ability to replicate written materials, and she decides to hold a magic fair, Magiket, in hopes that someone there will have the spell she needs to return home. In between fairs, she runs a printing business with a motley crew of loyal companions. Much humor refers to manga culture, particularly the controlled chaos of Comiket (familiar to anyone who has attended a comics convention) and the obsessiveness of the true amateur. The art is detailed, with complicated page compositions, which can make it hard to follow for those new to the medium. Also, there are several provocatively drawn, scantily clad women who are either cast members or show up unexpectedly. The creators provide information about the spells and characters in text boxes, and the translator’s notes explain references to Japanese culture. The series is complete in six volumes.

Shirahama, Kamome. “Witch Hat Atelier.” Illus. by author. Kodansha. 2019–23.
Gr 8 Up–This starts out as a magical-school story: Coco, a girl dabbling in magic, accidentally turns her mother to stone. To reverse the spell, she must train as a wizard’s apprentice, along with three other girls. Their teacher, Qifrey, is a solid and reassuring presence, but it’s clear from the start that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Anyone can cast spells, but the witches keep that a secret, allowing magic to be practiced only within a small group who use it ethically. In the past, widespread use of magic led to wars and abominations, so many forms of magic are forbidden, including any that change a person’s body, even to heal them. The Brimmed Hats, rebellious witches who use forbidden magic, try to entice Coco to their side. Shirahama fills the story with thought-out details, from the way the magic works to the history of the witches. The art is detailed without being fussy, with every line contributing to the sense of flow; Shirahama seems to delight in drawing elaborate pleated garments and billowing fabrics. The gorgeous, detailed art includes two decorative images of nude women in borders but no anatomical detail. The series, which won Eisner and Harvey Awards, is ongoing; Kodansha will publish Volume 11 in September 2023. A spin-off, “Witch Hat Atelier Kitchen,” launches this month, and an anime adaptation is in the works.

Shiraishi, Jougi. “Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina.” Illus. by Itsuki Nanao. Square Enix. 2020–23.
Gr 8 Up–Elaina is a newly minted witch who has chosen to travel through the world in this episodic series. Each of the first three volumes includes several complete stories. While the artwork is light and quite lovely, some of the stories are dark, with a whiff of the Brothers Grimm: Elaina helps a young boy show an enslaved woman happiness, and she ends up stabbing herself; in another story, a princess wreaks bloody revenge on her father, who killed her lover and her unborn child; in a third, a child keeps her murdered sister in her house, refusing to believe she is dead. That said, the stories are well told, no more violent than many shonen manga, and often provide food for thought. As she travels, Elaina tries to maintain a neutral stance toward people she meets, and while she usually gets drawn into whatever drama is going on, she knows she will eventually leave. The manga is adapted from a series of light novels (published by Yen Press) that have also been made into an anime (available on Crunchyroll). The manga is ongoing; Square Enix published Volume 4 in June 2023.

Ishizuka, Chihiro. “Flying Witch.” Illus by author. Vertical Comics. 2017–23.
Gr 9 Up–Makoto, a 15-year-old witch, moves from her Yokohama home to stay with cousins in the countryside as she continues training to become a full-fledged witch. This is mainly a slice-of-life story centering Makoto, her cousins Kei and Chinatsu, and Kei’s friend, Nao, but the cast expands as the story goes on. Chinatsu, much younger than Makoto, decides she wants to be a witch, too, so Makoto begins to train her. This is a laid-back, immersive story with gentle humor and likable characters. Ishizuka’s simple art with minimal backgrounds makes the plot easy to decode visually. Volume 7 has a scene in a public bath where characters are shown nude but without any details. The manga is ongoing, with 12 volumes out in English so far, and it has been adapted into an anime.

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Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, editor of the “Good Comics for Kids” blog, writes “Stellar Panels” SLJ’s graphic novels column. 

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