Manga and Anime - Creative Arts

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Manga and Anime
Creative Arts

Manga are Japanese graphic novels; anime are Japanese animated films. They differ from American-style comics and animation in terms of style and artistry; aficionados of either genre may find that appreciating the other requires some adjustment.

American-style comics and Japanese manga both fall under the category of sequential art. The traditions arose independently: the roots of manga stretch back to medieval Japanese woodblock prints. The term manga (usually translated as “whimsical sketches”) was first coined by the renowned artist Hokusai in 1814 to describe his sketchbooks filled with drawings.

Fans of the Japanese genre bitterly resent having manga defined as “Japanese comics.” The schism between fans of manga and comics can sometimes be almost as profound as that between magical illusionists and magical practitioners. Because many, on both sides of the divide, passionately feel that the differences between these closely related genres are extremely significant, comics and manga have been categorized separately in this book.

Although manga can be devoted to anything, as with comics, a good percentage features occult, mythological or folkloric themes including witches and other magical practitioners. What is listed below is, once again, only a snapshot.

Manga is a vibrant, vital genre; once exclusive to Japan, it now has global popularity particularly among young readers. As fans outside Japan began to create their own manga, the genre continues to evolve: Korean-style manga is technically known as manwha. Under the Glass Moon, for example, listed on page 299, is technically a manwha, as is the popular Demon Diary.

This is an extremely fluid genre; it can be very difficult to separate manga and anime. The same story or its characters may appear in manga form, as a televised anime series, and also sometimes as feature films. Characters from one series also sometimes pay visits to other series, as do American-style comic-book characters.

The following are some of the more significant manga and anime featuring witches or witchcraft. All are available in English translation. Like comics, this is a genre devoted to fantasy and entertainment; while some elements may derive from authentic tradition and reality, don’t expect realistic depictions of witches, witchcraft or many other things for that matter.

Manga are created by artists and then published. Each publishing house has its personal specialties, artistic vision, and flavor, in the same way that DC Comics, Harvey, Vertigo, and Marvel comics each possess distinct flavors and visions.

Card Captor Sakura

Creator: CLAMP; Publisher: TOKYOPOP

CLAMP is a popular all-female mangacreating team comprising Nanase Ohkawa, Mokona Apapa, Mick Nekoi, and Satsuki Igarashi.

Once upon a time an English sorcerer, Clow Reed, combined Western and East Asian magic to create a magical deck of cards, the Clow Cards. For decades these cards lay hidden inside a big, dusty book until one day a young Japanese girl named Sakura was poking around in her father’s library. She picked up this curious book, opened it…and all the cards flew out! Sakura managed to catch only one.

A strange-looking creature also emerged from the book (he’s supposed to be a winged lion), identifying himself as the book’s gatekeeper and guardian. Cerberus, or Kero-chan as he is affectionately known, informs Sakura that, having opened the book, she is now the Cardcaptor and it is her responsibility to retrieve the missing cards. The cards, which somewhat resemble tarot cards, bestow magical power. Eventually, after many adventures, Sakura collects them all, becoming the powerful Master of the Clow. (Kero-chan serves as her familiar, as well as Guardian of the Clow. Another familiar in the series sometimes takes the form of a winged black cat and sometimes of a panther.)

Card Captor Sakura was extremely successful: there is a series of manga as well as an animated television series and two feature films. There is even a Card Captor Sakura board game. Card Captor Sakura was also briefly featured on American television, debuting on July 20th, 2001, where it became embroiled in controversy. In January 2002, Taco Bell proposed giving out replicas of the magic Clow Cards as a prize-promotional included in a children’s meal. This promotion was terminated when the Christian organization American Family Association protested, complaining that it encouraged children to dabble in tarot and the occult.

Tokyo Babylon

Creator: CLAMP; Publisher: TOKYOPOP

Subaru Sumeragi is the 13th Head of the Sumeragi Clan, although he’s a mere youth. Subaru describes himself as just an “ordinary Onmyoji” but there’s no such thing. The Onmyoji are Japanese magical practitioners; the term is sometimes translated as “yin-yang magician.” Part shamans, part exorcists, part wizards, the Onmyoji magical tradition is extremely powerful and Subaru is the current master. Subaru is a hereditary magician; his grandmother was the last Head of the Clan and helped train him in the art. Subaru keeps Tokyo safe from magical harm.

Assisted by a revolving cast of fellow practitioners from various magical traditions, including his twin sister, Subaru solves supernatural mysteries. Although Tokyo Babylon is frequently classified as an “action-fantasy” series, it is perhaps the series most strongly rooted in traditional, realistic occult practice. Constant reference is made to magical traditions; Subaru’s wardrobe and as his magical methods resemble those of the historic Onmyoji practitioner.

Tokyo Babylon appears as a manga series; two anime episodes were also created.

See DICTIONARY: Onmyoji.

Under the Glass Moon

Creator: Ko Ya-Seong; Publisher: TOKYOPOP

Luka Guillaume Reinhardt is currently the world’s greatest Dark Wizard; he and his sorcerer brother live next door to a witch, Madame Batolli and her young witch-apprentice daughter Nell. Luka has his own apprentice; having all these powerful magical practitioners in such close quarters encourages not only magical battles but also some love triangles. Because the male characters are so androgynous (as they tend to be in many manga), trying to determine exactly who is interested in whom and the nature of the relationships can be dizzying. Madame Batolli periodically saves the day; she dresses for action in traditional, albeit sexy witch garb including pointy hat and a very short black dress. She flies an industrial strength broom-thruster capable of speeds that break the sound barrier.

Under the Glass Moon appears as a manwha.

Witch Hunter Robin

Creators: Sunrise and Bandai Entertainment

STNJ is a covert government operation that captures witches. They used to kill them but new methods have been developed to deactivate their power, rendering the witches harmless, and so capture is now preferred as the more humane method. Anyone familiar with historical witch-hunting may find the title and premise of this anime chilling, although the plot is somewhat more complicated.

The witches aren’t exactly witches; the finest witch-hunter is a witch. Witches, as defined in Witch Hunter Robin, seem like normal people but possess special supernatural powers. These powers are usually hereditary, which helps the organization keep track of witches: they know who to watch based on ancestry. Not every member of these lineages develops into a witch; often individuals aren’t aware that they are “witches” until their powers suddenly awaken. There’s nothing particularly magical, witchy or shamanic about these witches: they’re more like rogue humans with supernatural powers. There’s nothing metaphysical or spiritual about them.

The mysterious STNJ captures these witches, deactivates their powers, and sends them to the mysterious Factory—although for what purpose or fate is unknown.

The witch-hunter of the title is Robin Sena, born in Japan but raised in an Italian convent. At age 16 she returns to Japan where she joins the STNJ as their newest witch-hunter. Robin is a genuine witch although she initially keeps this fact secret; to distinguish her from her quarry, she is described as a “craft user.” Her character is intended to at least superficially resemble a young practitioner of Wicca, although nothing really resembles Wiccan tradition. Robin’s methods are vaguely like those of an Onmyoji. She is considered the most powerful witch in the series, able to exert considerable powers over fire.


Creator: CLAMP; Publisher: Delrey/Kodansha

Watanuki Kimihiro is haunted by visions of ghosts and spirits. He can see them but is unable to control these visions, turn them off when they threaten to overwhelm him, or put his innate powers to practical, positive use. His most fervent wish is for these visions to cease. One day, pursued by nightmare visions, he feels compelled to enter a mysterious building, where he discovers Yuko the Witch awaiting him.

Yuko, the “Time-Space Witch,” is the proprietress of a wish-granting store. She is poised, beautiful, serene, and mysteriously omniscient. She asks the boy his name and birthday, only later cautioning him that if someone knows your name, they can control your soul and that astrological information allows someone to plot another’s life path. Without being told, Yuko knows of Watanuki’s powers, his predicament, and his secret wish. She promises to help him. Of course, Watanuki must first pay for her services that he hasn’t exactly asked for by laboring in her store. XXXHolic is related to those fairy tales where the protagonist must labor in the witch’s kitchen as a form of initiation, like Vasilisa the Wise, Mother Holle or Hansel and Gretel. (See FAIRY-TALE WITCHES.)

XXXHolic appears as a manga and anime.

Yu Yu Hakusho

Creator: Yoshihiro Togashi; Publisher: Shonen Jump

Yusuke Urameshi, a 14-year-old juvenile delinquent, spontaneously saves another child from being hit by a car but in the process is fatally run over himself. No one in the Spirit World ever expected Yusuke to behave so nobly and so his demise wasn’t anticipated: there’s no allotted space for him in the after-Life. Yusuke’s ghost is sent back to Earth where after a complicated, convoluted plot he emerges as a supernatural detective solving mysteries involving demons, ghosts, and spirits.

He’s not the witch although there is one in the series: Botan, Yusuke’s compatriot and assistant as well as the ferry-girl responsible for ferrying souls over the River Styx. (Old Charon from Greek mythology must finally have retired, or maybe Botan is in charge of the Japanese division.) Botan rides an oar rather than a broomstick and possesses some magical healing powers.

Virtually all the female characters in Yu Yu Hakusho display magical inclinations, and Yu Yu Hakusho exists as manga, anime, and as a feature-length animated film.