Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #4)
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: November 12, 2019
Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4
Summary: The ruin of an ancient nation’s pride is stage for three apprentices to prove how deftly their concealment abides, for stealth and honor both a witch behoove. But Richeh bridles at the test’s constraint, preferring magic of her own design, and Euini finds expectations faint, a student by his master oft maligned. In prying from despair a shadowed grace, now Euini has seized a slender hope, but triumph with creeping dread replaced as from the dark a fearsome evil gropes. Forbidden magic’s nightmares come afresh in shadow-shrouded horror freed from flesh.
My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½
My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier Volume 4 delves a little more into the world of the series! Agott, Richeh, and newcomer Euini attempt to complete their next trial, while Qifrey delves into a history lesson for Coco and Tetia. However, a mysterious force may be lingering to cause chaos on Cape Romonon! This fourth volume delves more into the mysterious Brimmed Caps, while also exploring prominent themes and messages!
Before getting into my review, I’d been thinking not too long ago how it’d been a while since I’d read this series and how much I’ve really missed it. No matter what I can always count on Shirahama’s whimsical, magical series to immerse me in a fun, witchy adventure that’s also filled with hope & wonder! Its comforting and feels like home! If you’ve read any of the other Witch Hat manga, has it felt that way for you? Definitely let me know in the comments! I think its just how the author is so brilliant at storytelling that even if it takes a darker turn, I’m always excited to be back with Coco, Qifrey, the other witches, and their latest adventure! ♥♥
As soon as this volume opened up with Agott talking about the Scalewolves (in a rather figurative way), I knew Vol. 4 would be one of the more symbolic and metaphorical books of the series!
As Agott examines one of the wolves scales, she says: “If they didn’t feel the need to form pairs, they could keep their armor on all the time.” That quote told me exactly what I needed to know about Agott. Though its pretty obvious each of the girls longs for deeper connections with their fellow atelier witches, this volume took the chance to delve more into the psyche of 2 witches in particular! Not only Agott, who comes from a prominent house but also Richeh, who has secrets of her own that we learn a bit more about in this volume!
As shown with the previous books, each one takes time to delve into a specific character’s journey and this time its Richeh. She’s a serious girl who can conjure crystal ribbons and longs to show she doesn’t need to copy/paste spells to prove her worth. She wants something she can call her own.
However, in order to show her the skills she’s potentially missing out on, Qifrey signs her up alongside Agott in the “Sincerity of the Shield” test, which takes place on the ocean side valleys of Cape Romonon, more specifically in the Serpentback Cave.
Led by senior witch and friend of Qifrey’s Alaria, she proctors Agott, Richeh and Euini’s test to safely lead myrphons through the serpent-shaped road towards the cliffs on the opposite side of the cape. However, the catch is they have to use special cloaks to disguise themselves as a myrphon to lead them to breeding grounds.
The world-building as with all previous volumes has been fantastic! With this one though, its definitely more specified to the location of the story which made it feel much more contained, but I enjoyed that! We learn about the history tied to the Serpentback cave, Myrphons which are penguin-like birds, and early in the volume I loved learning about the Scalewolves too!
Its very much a test of knowledge, skill and applying all of those things well under pressure.
That theme is very much explored through Euini! I’ll be honest, based on his design I thought he was going to be a more serious, no-nonsense kind of kid, I’m glad my theory was wrong! In reality he suffers from anxiety and struggles to find the confidence within himself, thus leading him to over plan and later collapse under pressure (this plot thread broke my heart, there were moments I related to his inner thoughts and felt for him).
His master, Kukrow, is very much an absentee type of mentor and never really supports Euini in the way that he should, even as he’s prepping to take his test for the third time. Their dynamic was surprising, but definitely added a different layer as it contrasted the more comforting witch & apprentice dynamic with Qifrey and the girls!
Back with Qifrey, he delves into the history of the Cavern Nation Of Romonon which soon fell under the weight of its ignorance. But the only thing that remained, was the serpent road. This was one of my favorite sections because although they mostly stay in 1 location for most of the volume, there’s so much detail and importance to the setting. You can sense the wind blowing through the cliffs, the expansiveness of the cave, and the emptiness of what’s been left behind.
With this volume in particular, I also loved how it highlighted the difference between Coco’s enthusiasm vs. Richeh, even Agott and their struggles to hold onto that child-like wonder again, its a nice juxtaposition that was more obvious in this book, but it was a nice plot thread!
Also, let me just say that you can really see their friendship starting to grow with Coco, especially Agott, she was phenomenal in this volume! When confronted with the Brimmed Cap, she doesn’t waste a second to defend Coco and back outside, Qifrey tells Coco that Agott’s held onto her spelled shoes that she made during one the earlier volumes! ❤
There were also such prominent themes to this volume such as learning from the past, but more especially from failure, even the struggles that come with doing that! That’s a message that I feel isn’t often explored much in fiction, but Euini’s arc explored it in such an inspiring way!
Euini was so wonderful and I just want him to be a happy, anxiety-free apprentice after what he went through in this volume!
Shirahama explores anxiety and confidence subtly through this journey in the cave with the girls and I loved how Euini really grew throughout the exam (learning there’s more than 1 way to do things, never giving up, finding the confidence within yourself and avoiding that negative voice in your head). Also, his friendship/foil to Richeh was so wonderful and I can’t wait to see where its headed in future volumes!
The writing in volume 4 was easily one of the more symbolic and allegorical of the series so far, in my opinion! From Euini’s fate at the end, the history of the cave, even delving into Richeh & Agott’s inner thoughts. There were so many inspiring quotes I wrote down while reading this volume, it kind of brought me back to how I did the same thing during Volume 1. I also felt storytelling wise, it came full circle from beginning to end, making this a really self-contained volume like Vol. 3 and it was beautifully done!
The Brimmed Cap makes more of an appearance and there’s definitely more secrecy around who they actually are, but their desire to unleash more forbidden magic is getting very interesting! I need to know more!
Witch Hat Atelier has some phenomenal artwork and the paneling is presented in an even more dynamic way with this volume that showcases Shirahama’s brilliance with storytelling (especially through action scenes), there’s more horizontal panels that really show the scope and depth of the cave/cliff setting. There’s one particular full-page spread of the serpent cave (56-57) which really immerses you into the location. There’s detailed lines during the action scenes, so they really bring to life and capture the moments within the actions themselves. Also, its tough to explain but the way the paneling was presented in this volume really did the story justice–not one panel felt underused or out of place, Shirahama is brilliant when it comes to artwork.
Though I’ve rated all the past volumes 5 stars, I think Volume 4 for me personally felt a little slower than previous ones! However, I will say that this is such a plot/character-driven volume that never has a single dull moment! I think it just boils down to how I felt the story progressed for me personally…but I still loved it!
Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 is just as captivating as previous volumes and the ending will leave you wondering what’s next for our group of apprentices and Qifrey! Filled with action, beautiful character arcs, and important underlying themes, this volume does take on a slower pace, but its worth it as the phenomenal story continues to develop! Shirahama once again, will leave readers needing the next volume right away!