Ririka Kirise is a gyaru (gal) with a problem; she’s not very good in school. She’s so bad, Ririka is in danger of failing chemistry, a class that she desperately wants to pass. Desperate for help, she goes to see the chemistry teacher after school, and inadvertently steps into a world of magic, a world for which she might have extraordinary talent. After-School Bitchcraft is released both digitally and physically in the west by Yen Press. Is it worth reading? Find out in our After-School Bitchcraft volume 1review!
Ririka is a gyaru (the Japanese spelling of the English word “gal”). Gals are part of a subculture of Japan, who typically colour their hair, tan their skin, wear revealing clothing, and generally act the opposite of the demure, reserved way expected of Japanese women.
Ririka’s chemistry teacher. He’s a new hire and seems unapproachable most of the time.
The story begins with Renji casting a spell inside an alchemy transmutation circle, a la Fullmetal Alchemist. He’s in the chemistry lab and believes he is safe, as there is no one inside and has put up a magical barrier to prevent anyone from coming in. His casting, however, is interrupted when Ririka walks through the door as if the barrier isn’t there.
Shocked, Renji shuts down the spell. He suspects that Ririka is an agent of the “association”, an unnamed entity that governs magic users. He decides to watch her for a few days but ultimately concludes that she’s not a spy.
Ririka, however, is hopeless with chemistry. After a few fruitless study sessions, Renji asks why Ririka cares so much about chemistry. She can graduate without passing the class, and her gal friends are off having fun while she’s beating her head against the wall. Why suffer?
Ririka reveals her reason: she wants to be a veterinarian. She loves animals and believes she has a special connection with them, so she wants to help heal them. Renji admires the reason, but questions whether she can watch animals suffer and die, which is an unfortunate part of being a vet.
Crushed by his words, Ririka leaves. She runs into her friends, and they happen upon a cat on the ground that seems to be near death. Her love of animals is now sorely tested. Her friends say to leave the cat alone. Ririka wants to save it, but what can she do? Where can she take the poor thing while there’s still time?
After-School Bitchcraft volume 1 spoilers
With no clinic nearby, she takes it to the only place she can think of: the chemistry lab, She sees her teacher’s magic power for the first time and gets a taste of her own power as well. Renji binds the cat to her, using her life force to save it. It’s an impressive spell, but even more impressive is the fact that Ririka seems to be utterly unaffected by the procedure.
The binding ceremony completely exhausts most people for a short while, but Ririka seems fine. Renji begins noticing that there is something exceptional about this girl, especially when he sees her true eye colour and deduces that she must have Irish ancestry. Ireland, not coincidentally, is the birthplace of Druidism.
Renji quickly deduces that Ririka has tremendous natural magic ability, and asks her to be his apprentice. The rest of the book becomes a fascinating dive into alchemy, druidic sorcery, and the occult, as Renji begins teaching her to become a sorceress, even though he realizes that her natural power far exceeds his.
This book is full of fan service, as the story finds several opportunities to take Ririka’s clothes off and put her in all sorts of compromising positions. Here’s one of the milder examples.
I usually don’t care about fan service one way or the other, but some of the stuff in this book bothered me. I can look past it because the story and characters are so good, but some people may have issues with what they see.
The art in this book is absolutely positively gorgeous. The characters are beautifully drawn and expressive, and the backgrounds – especially late in the book, which finds our characters in a dense forest – are well done. I think this is one of the best-drawn manga on the market. I’ll be surprised if any 2020 release surpasses it in terms of visual quality.
Is After-School Bitchcraft, Volume 1 worth reading?
It is. Despite the odd title, the seemingly shallow premise, and the fan service, this book may be one of the best manga to be released this year. After-School Bitchcraft is an extremely well-researched manga. Author Yu Shimizu did a lot of reading on the history and practice of alchemy and other types of magic.
It’s also evident that she put a ton of work into the characters. Both Ririka and Renji are layered, multi-faceted characters with their motivations. Ririka isn’t the dumb gal she appears to be in the book’s opening chapters. And Renji isn’t the stereotypical mad scientist, either. It’s refreshing to see his attitude towards her: he realizes that she’s unique, and he takes his responsibility towards her seriously.
When I first pre-ordered this book, I was expecting Gal Gohan, with a little Harry Potter mixed in. I didn’t think I’d be getting a contender for the year’s best new release. Bitchcraft is a surprise in every way. I can’t wait for volume 2.
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