Most reincarnated characters granted a second life in another world take the opportunity to start over completely, no matter what their issues were back in ours. But Sena is different. During her first eighteen years in Japan, she suffered from agoraphobia, with the implication that bullying at school made it worse, to the point where leaving the house wasn’t something even her guardian angel thought she could, or would, do. When she musters her courage to go to school on her eighteenth birthday, said angel isn’t paying attention, and the result is a run-in with our old pal Truck-kun, killing her. To make up for the mistake, Sena is reborn in a different world (Medieval-inspired fantasy, of course), but…she’s still Sena. And that means that issues like agoraphobia and social phobia don’t just go away.
Along with setting A Reincarnated Witch Spells Doom apart from a lot of other isekai stories, this is also a very nice acknowledgment that magic can’t solve all of your problems, and being given a new life doesn’t erase the mental health struggles you may have had in the first one. Sena is frustrated with her agoraphobia, but she also accepts it as a part of her, and it’s clear that she’s doing her best to cope with it better than in her first go-round. She has a radius around her house in the forest that she’s comfortable exploring, and she interacts with an elderly peddler who comes by every couple of months to bring her supplies. When she is forced out of her comfort zone by the arrival of a handsome young man who collapsed at her gate (just beyond the boundary of her proscribed comfort zone), she pulls it together and begins to branch out. Sena isn’t incapable of change, she just has to work up to it, something that the circumstances leading up to her first death show as well. That’s a definite dose of reality to a genre that largely deals in power fantasies, and it’s a major plus to the volume.
Sena, of course, has another problem that makes her reluctant to venture into town. In her new world, magic is a regularly occurring thing, and she’s one of the people who have it. But she can only use two spells: “explode” and “perish.” Sena, being generally down on herself, believes that these are her powers because that’s how she used to express her anxiety back in Japan, by wishing that the world would blow up and people would just go away. By the end of the volume, it looks like she’s gotten that completely wrong, but as a ten-year-old, she had an experience in town with her “explode” spell that scared her away. Again, this is largely due to her mental health issues from her first life; she’s primed to assume that people will think the worst of her, and when combined with her dissatisfaction with her magic skills, she retreated to her house in the woods. It simply felt safer than exposing herself to others and, in her mind, exposing others to her.
The arrival of Keith, filling in for her regular peddler friend, is what begins to change things for her. Keith (whose real identity is pretty easy to figure out) isn’t afraid of Sena, although he is a little baffled by her lifestyle and unusual magic powers. He’s also been tasked with figuring out a major problem the kingdom is facing involving a dragon or two, and Sena’s skills may be just what he needs. That’s at least part of his motivation for asking her to join him when he leaves, but we can also see that he’s worried about her. Her mother died a few years before the story proper, and Sena’s extreme isolation seems to concern him. She’s not the rumored witch in the sense that “witch” is a negative term (although that may all be in Sena’s head), and she’s got a lot that interests him, like strange new seasonings from her former life. There’s clearly a romantic subplot being set up between them, and it’s off to a decent start because both of them have things to offer each other emotionally, especially given that Keith’s family life has some major issues.
The major problem here is that much of the exposition and world-building is very, very clunky. Keith spends pages explaining the magic system, and while it is interesting and at least a little unique, it’s also not well integrated into the story. Since the rest of the explanation is much more smoothly incorporated, such as the incident that made Sena stop going to town and her relationship with her parents (in both worlds), this stands out as a fairly serious storytelling flaw. Oddly, the dragon fight explanation suffers from the opposite problem of being just a bit too scanty, so clearly, this is a series that’s still trying to get its feet firmly underneath it. But the art is pleasant and the translation smooth, so this very well may be one of those titles that gets better as it goes on. It’s certainly worth at least a second volume to see where things go.
A Reincarnated Witch Spells Doom is off to a decent start. Sena’s character is probably the strongest element of this first volume, and it’s easy to want her to succeed as she works to cope with her issues. It may not appeal if you’re thoroughly sick of isekai, but that element of the book seems to exist solely to ground Sena’s mental health. It’s worth checking out, at the very least.
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