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Sometimes I come across a character that isn’t quite what they seem. Maybe they act harsh on the outside but are actually sweet on the inside. Maybe they seem cruel in their actions but do them for the good of others. Not every character is black and white.
That’s how the real world works as well. We just don’t see it as much in fiction. Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things all the time. The actions people take are rarely dictated by one or two things or a personality trait, those actions are born from all the conflicting craziness that is a human being, and oftentimes they don’t make any damn sense.
Anime characters are probably the worse when it comes to being walking character tropes. They’re so bad that we can often describe them in a single trope. Oh, there’s the tsundere, there’s the yandere, oh, there’s the calm, collected, quiet guy. Hell, it’s so bad we have names for a lot of them.
Still, that’s not really a terrible thing. It’s just to tell a certain type of story, you need certain types of actors to do it, and tropes are generally ideal, though they get bland once and a while. The story may be good, but the characters won’t stick with you. The characters that leave an impression are generally the ones that break away from the norm, but those are often the most misunderstood.
Case and point, Elaina, the Ashen Witch/Wandering Witch/Selfish Narcissistic Witch! I mean, can you believe people call this girl selfish? And a narcissist? Really. People need to choose their words more carefully. Words can hurt. I mean, it’s not like she would marry herself or anything.
Is Elaina a little too into herself? S-sure. I mean, she does call herself beautiful quite a lot. I mean, not that she’s wrong, but that’s besides the point. And yeah, she really only cares about money and her own interests, so she is selfish and narcissistic, I agree with you on that, but there’s a lot more to her character.
She has subtitles. She looks one way, but when you start to understand why she’s the way she is, everything makes a lot more sense. She’s got class.
This girl that comes off like a narcissistic (rightfully so) selfish witch is actually a girl who wants to travel the world and be like her hero, carving her own path in life, purposely ignoring truths that could make her whole life meaningless.
She’s a kind girl who needs to continue to forge ahead to fulfill her dream, despite all the horrible things she’s seen in her young life. She’s pretty damn intriguing, and that’s something that I’ve even seen people who don’t like her admit. The difference is, I believe her character actually goes somewhere, and she actually grows, while some don’t.
I see her as a meaningfully written character that grows from the very second we see her all throughout the story to fulfill her role perfectly and with purpose. All jokes aside, I absolutely love Elaina. I can see while people feel the way they do about her, but I also think that she’s a lot more than that, and I’d like to share why.
Hopefully, by the end, you’ll at least understand her a little more and maybe find a fun series to watch or read, because while I love my girl, Elaina, that’s largely because I love her series as well. And damn, is the anime beautiful!
And there will be some spoilers in this post, so if you want to avoid them, watch the series. Still, it’s not like this is some deep, intricate story, so you should be fine.
So Elaina. She’s fairly simple on the surface. She’s a witch that was inspired at a young age from her favorite book, The Adventures of Niche, Nike. However the hell you want to translate it.
Nike was a witch that traveled the world and wrote about her travels, which made Elaina choose to become a witch and write about her travels. It’s the only thing she ever desired for herself, so she worked at it every day. Because of that, she was incredibly skilled and had passed all her magic exams at an incredibly young age.
It seemed like Elaina could do whatever she set her mind to, which she could, but that led to a deep-seated cockiness in her since she never truly experienced failure in her life. That led to every witch that could train her to become one herself being very off-put with her, and she was left alone. Left alone because she was determined to follow her dreams. It’s cruel, really.
Eventually, Fran, the Stardust Witch, takes her under her wing and treats her like literal garbage, and beats the crap out of her until she finally breaks down in tears because of how poorly everyone’s treating her when she’s just trying to work hard and do her best. All of this because her mother told Fran to more or less give her a taste of reality. So the one person who finally accepted her for her ended up being paid off by her mother. Remember that for later.
So, understandably, Elaina doesn’t like that, nor Fran, really, but after they embrace and share a moment together, they get along fine, Elaina learns magic and becomes a witch, and she cries for Fran once again, but this time because she has to say goodbye to her and not from the horrible pain and scars inflicted on her.
All ends well, Elaina goes home, and her mother allows her to go on a journey, to the dismay of her random unnamed father. Well, her mother is somewhat unnamed too, kind of. Her mother leaves her with three rules: that she must think of herself first, not think of herself more highly than others, and that she must return home one day.
Those set of rules imposed by Elaina’s mother, mind you, are one of the biggest reasons I like her character. It creates an almost contrast in her personality. You can tell she takes what her mother said to heart; she worries about herself and doesn’t go about spouting how much prettier and better she is than anyone else, but on the inside, nothing about her has really changed with age.
She’s kind, polite, and fair to everyone, but almost all of her monologues involve praising herself, insulting others, or getting pissed at people. Her actual personality hasn’t changed all that much, but it’s been trapped behind these imposed, albeit logical, rules her mother set on her.
So when Elaina ignores groups of people being led to their demise by some flower demon or ditching a crazy queen that murdered her entire country to continue her travels, you can see that as her being selfish as hell, not being tied down by others to fulfill her own desires, or you can see it as her mother tying her down from what her heart is telling her. And in truth, it’s likely a combination of both.
Elaina has a good heart, despite the fact that she’s willing to swindle people for cold hard cash occasionally. Elaina helps people at many points throughout the story, even if there’s usually something she gains from it, she doesn’t have to agree to go back in time to help a desperate which. She doesn’t have to do these things, but she does, even if they end up hurting her in the long run.
Elaina works in a very specific way. She is not selfish, she is determined. There’s a difference. Elaina is almost an anti-hero in her own way, and like most anti-heroes, she’s very misunderstood. She is not a protagonist that wanders from town to town, saving the day, she’s a traveler on her own journey, unrelated to everyone else.
It just so happens that her path sometimes crosses with others. She does occasionally butt her way (against her will) into things, but for the most part, she’s a bystander, much like we are. Their stories aren’t hers, she’s passing by. Wandering, you could say.
If she lets herself get involved and stay in one place for the sake of others, then her journey would be over, which is the last thing she wants. She’s desired this for most of her life. She worked for years and years all by herself to go on this journey she chose. She won’t let that end no matter what she sees out there.
That doesn’t mean that she just charges blindly ahead, either. Living life constantly on the go, broke, never knowing where you’ll sleep next isn’t easy, and she knows that, but she doesn’t allow herself to get complacent because she wants to continue her journey more than anything, even her own well being.
Look no further than the final episode of the anime. Elaina stumbles across a country that can grant wishes. She and all her counterparts from alternate universes all wish to see how she would have turned out if she made different choices in her life.
Yeah, it allows funny comedy about Stupid Elaina and Depressed Elaina 1, 2, and 3, but look a little deeper, and it shows Elaina’s fear about her choices in life. She wants to know whether her decisions were the right or wrong ones and where she ended up in a different world.
And through Violent Elaina, you know, the one who became depressed and ended her journey after watching a small child get murdered by her best friend, we get to see how Elaina would be if she didn’t stay strong if she didn’t continue on. If she didn’t seem “cold” or “selfish.” Our Elaina, Protagonist Elaina, is the most put together for a reason. She’s continued on through all her struggles and has become a complete person because of it.
They all joke about her lacking a personality, but she’s the only of them that isn’t a trope and is instead a cohesive person. She is all of the other Elaina’s in one.
Elaina is not some selfish, narcissistic witch throwing caution to the wind and ditching everyone she meets for the sake of her journey, she’s a selfish, narcissistic witch determined to see her desires through to the end no matter what she has to do or who she has to get past (including herself) to do that.
In that way, she’s really the exact same as she was when she was younger, and that’s the way she should be. She didn’t change overnight, she just suppressed those traits a bit to survive.
Throw all of that in with the fact that she chooses to consciously ignore the fact that her journey might not have been her choice at all to keep herself from falling apart and admitting that her life could have been a lie, and you have one hell of a deep character there, you really do.
I won’t say why that is, but I’ll leave you with a side by side of Nike and Elaina, and you can piece the rest together yourself, including some of the hints I threw in earlier. Elaina is already a hell of a dark story at times but adding this fact really changes the tone of basically everything. It’s a fantastic twist and an amazing bit of storytelling that I never would have expected from some cutesy story about a wandering witch.
Because, ultimately, that’s not what Elaina is at all. It isn’t about some cute witch going on a journey, it’s about some badass, cute witch going to fulfill her hopes and dreams, not letting anything in her past, present, or future tell her otherwise. She’ll lie to herself, others and do whatever it takes to see things through to the end, and if you ask me, that makes her far more than some selfish, narcissistic witch, wouldn’t you say?
Thank you very much for reading
I don’t know, or maybe not. Opinions are a thing.