There may be spoilage ahead!
Elaina is the youngest ever to pass the witch’s exam. But when she goes on her search to find a master witch to apprentice under, nobody wants her. Door after door is closed on her as soon as people find out who she is. Elaina’s assumption is that nobody wants her because she’s too talented.
Personally, I think her parents had a role in getting her turned down. In a city brimming with witches, they’re telling me no one wanted the bragging rights to training the hottest new witchy sensation? But that isn’t canon, I guess.
Finally, her parents hear of a witch in the woods. Maybe you ought to go check her out, sez Mom and Dad.
Our protagonist heads out to meet up with the Stardust Witch (Fran), the witch in the woods and her last chance. Fran reluctantly takes her on. For several months Elaina did nothing but housework and was taught nothing of magic. Finally she announces, I am fed up with washing dishes and would you please teach me something or I’m leaving.
Fran then challenges Elaina to a duel and Elaina is defeated. No surprise there. You expect someone without advanced training to lose to someone with a lifetime of experience. Still, Elaina did her best.
Now Fran takes pity on her. The whole thing was a charade. Her parents had hired the Stardust Witch to specifically teach Elaina about frustration and defeat – and Fran was done with it.
I’m not sure of the utility of the lesson. Rigging something to produce despair doesn’t make the victim a better person. It makes an angry person if they find out about it or a crushed person if they don’t. Nobody wants me except Fran and this one just wants a cleaning lady and beats the crap out of me when I finally complain.
Kino’s “Master” in Kino’s Journey was worse than Elaina’s parents. Kino is sent out without any foreknowledge to meet up with the woman who’s son died protecting her. The son whose name Kino took for herself. The woman is nuts, killing people who stop by and visit out of grief for her son. Kino is poisoned and very nearly dies at her hands. Turns out “taking out” the crazy old lady was a contract master had taken on and was intended as a lesson in the cruelty of the world. But it was just a roll of the dice that Kino survived.
Luckily the Stardust Witch relents. That’s all the failure and frustration you need. Fran goes on to teach her what she needs to know. Years go by, Elaina turns 18 and heads out into the world to pursue her dream of being a wandering witch. Just like Kino headed out to be a traveler.
Neither Kino nor Elaina show any resentment for the ordeal they were put through. Kino is paying homage to the traveler she owes her life to. Elaina is copying the lifestyle of a witch in a book. Both are following role models.
Elaina is a prodigy in magic. Kino is a prodigy with a gun.
Elaina rides a flying broom instead of a talking motorcycle. So far she has appeared to be aromantic, just like Kino. Sexual and gender preferences don’t matter for either one. It never becomes important to the character’s motivations.
Episode 2 gave Elaina an opportunity to develop a love interest with a taste of yuri, but she moved on. Kino always moves on as well. Regardless of friendships established, she doesn’t want to spend too long in one spot or she might get attached. Episode 4 brings her back to her teacher and a chance to be a member of a witch school faculty with her.
Episode 3 shows us two different stories. Neither one bodes well for the people involved. One hints at what harsh end might be in store for a side character while the other shows horror descending on the good people of a city.
Neither Kino nor Elaina feel obligated to “fix” the places they visit. They will get involved when it involves them directly. They will make friends along the way. But it isn’t their job to make everything right. If there is a bad future in sight, it will just happen.
The structure for both anime is slice of life. Visiting seemingly unconnected communities and then moving on. Each community is another experiment in human behavior to be explored by the visitor. Haven’t seen it yet but I suspect Elaina can use her magic just as effectively as any gunfighter’s pistol.
Let’s see how they are different.
Artistically, “Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina” is gorgeous. Occasionally dazzling. Lots of bright primaries in pleasing combinations. I haven’t seen this much color since Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Very much in keeping with a beautiful Ashen Witch in a beautiful world with disquieting truths underneath. Kino was never a show to dazzle with color. It is always subdued in keeping with its deeper philosophical nature.
If you think Kino’s master was bad, Kino’s parents were about to chemically brainwash her into becoming a perfect adult, as was the custom of the country. Failing that, they tried to kill her and instead killed a traveler who would protect her. Elaina’s parents weren’t quite that hostile.
Elaina is quite aware of her physical beauty. She mentions how beautiful she is regularly. There’s never any question of her femininity and she dresses to display it. Kino is a bit different. Androgynous in appearance. Her bio-gender is not obvious and she can be mistaken for a boy though at other times characters recognize her as a pretty girl. (It is pretty obvious Kino is female once you’ve seen the origin story or the OVA, Kino no Tabi: Life Goes On.) There is nothing frilly about her traveling garb which is entirely utilitarian.
We have the original Kino, 3 OVAs, and the reboot to draw from for her and only 3 episodes for Elaina. I’m still getting a Kino-ish vibe about this show. And I like it.