Author: Er Mu
Genre: Seinen, Fantasy, (transmigration) Isekai, Drama, Action, Adventure, Romance
I first came across Release That Witch via a webtoon adaptation last year. Given how much I enjoyed that adaptation, I was intrigued when I discovered that it was based on a web novel. It was a no-brainer to check out a series that reached its conclusion after nearly fifteen-hundred chapters that range between a thousand and two thousand words in length. Yep, that is a LOT of instalments. In any case, here are my thoughts on the first twenty-five chapters.
Chen Yan is a hardworking engineering that finds himself transmigrated into the body of fourth prince Roland Wimbleton who is currently overseeing a backwater border town (aptly named Border Town) as part of a competition between the royal siblings to prove themselves worthy of the throne. As the loser prince, he has one of the worst starting positions. However, the newly reborn Chen Yan sees an opportunity to turn this seemingly bad situation around. He saves a young woman named Anna sentenced to be execution for being a witch and employs her. With her abilities as well as his management skills and knowledge of science, Chen Yan begins to shore up the defenses of the region ahead of the hibernal raid of monsters. This soon leads to him making contact with the enigmatic Nightingale, a member of the Witch Cooperation Association.
PLOT & CONFLICT
This series begins with Chen Yan about to oversee the execution of the young woman who he will later employ. Delaying the execution in order to grow accustomed to his new body, the young engineer begins impersonating Roland using merged memories in order to avoid discovery. He is also curious about the world with his innate scepticism about the nature of a witch and his lack of trust in a church dragging people off to be executed on weak allegations informs some of his decision to employ Anna. The desire for justice and to follow the line of evidence makes for a compelling reason to butt against the system. This inevitably puts the entire region at odds with the kingdom that enforces discriminatory laws as well as the church in the midst of an inquisition.
The first twenty-five chapters put in place several ticking clocks. The first is the five-year deadline for the competition for the throne that pits each of the royal siblings against each other. The second is the upcoming raids of tainted creatures upon Border Town and other nearby communities. The third is the change that occurs to most witches when they turn eighteen years of age – something that will soon affect seventeen-year-old Anna.
The competition for the crown provides its own share of possibilities for future storytelling and I really look forward to seeing how the four candidates compete with each other. The conflict has already affected the lives of many, with something as simple as an egg having a huge impact on those living under Roland’s jurisdiction. A lot of authors take these small details for granted. However, these tell us very human stories in the harsh reality that is the wretched world that Chen Yan has transmigrated to.
The male lead Chen Yan / Roland 2.0 is a lot of fun to see in action. Chen Yan is essentially trying to “stay in character”, whilst staying connected with his identity as the modern-day engineer with a knowledge of science and progressive ideas such as “three meals a day”. He is a character that follows the evidence rather than being led by the nose. This simple trait makes him an admirable trait because he is appropriately sceptical. He is also a character that looks for solutions rather than wallows.
The female lead of Anna (a flame witch with an eidetic memory) is so well-placed and we see how the little things that her employment offers impacts her life in major ways. Something as simple as a soft bed is a big deal. Chen Yan’s faith in her is rewarded by her trying to do her best. She is a character looking for a purpose and a place to call home. And yet, she is also somebody that tries to adapt to crap situations. Simply complaining won’t get you anywhere, after all. In addition to this is the obvious affection that Anna has for Roland and is becoming more irritated with him as he is treating her as a younger sister. Yep, a bit of an anime/manga convention, but it does a good job of showing rather than telling us that she wants to be his waifu.
The other cast members are impactful, providing information (sometimes flawed), expertise and advice without it feeling convenient or like an infodump. We also learn about the world through the eyes of various side characters. This ranges from the often-anxious finance minister Barov (suggests killing witnesses to Anna’s release early on) to the straight-forward yet just Knight Commander Carter Lannis, Anna’s sceptical teacher Karl to Iron Axe the valiant hunter. These characters have their own strengths and weaknesses that make them feel authentic.
We also get to meet the heavily-motivated (and murderous) third princess Garcia Wimbleton in the first twenty-five chapters. As a major rival to the competition for the throne, she focuses much of her efforts through investment into maritime fleets used for plundering, all the while working on ways to remove any rivals permanently. Whilst we saw a bit of this in the webtoon, there is a lot more detail in the web novel, which emphasises what she is willing to do to win the competition.
MVP of chapters one to twenty-five? If I had to choose then it would hands-down be the witch Nightingale, a woman seeking a safe haven for witches. This desire initially puts her at odds with Roland because she isn’t convinced that he can protect Anna and Nana from the church’s teachings. However, she is also willing to be persuaded, which makes her both a reasonable and caring leader of a witch association.
One thing that I did notice in the web novel is that Roland and Anna have different coloured hair from in the webtoon.
- Roland: silver / grey hair (Wimbleton family trait)
- Anna: “flaxen” hair
- Roland: brown hair
- Anna: light orange hair
Whilst not necessarily a big deal, it seems odd to change hair colour for the webtoon adaptation. *shrugs*
Another character that has been treated differently in the web novel is the witch Nightingale. In the webtoon, she is easily brushed over. However, we learn a lot more about her in the latter parts of the first twenty-five chapters of this web novel.
The worldbuilding for this series provides an expansive sandbox for storytelling, mixing science with magic. The mystery regarding the origins of the witches and conflict pertaining to their persecution offers plenty of room for future conflict. We also see the mystery surrounding how Chen Yan got transmigrated as well. Will this have wider implications for the world setting? I suspect that it will, but I will have to wait and see.
On another note, this series also places great importance on lineage. Whist the more blatant example of this is with the royals, characters such as the hunter known as Iron Axe show how much family history plays a part in how the inhabitants of the kingdom are viewed. It is subtle but it is there nonetheless.
Any issues? I only detected a few typoes in the English translation I have had the pleasure of reading. It is well within acceptable levels, not enough to hurt my enjoyment of the story. Apart from that, I haven’t noticed anything else of note.
So far, this series is proving to be an entertaining read that blends mystery, smarts and good character development in an interesting fantasy setting. I’d best describe it as “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court meets Game of Thrones” but with more science, magic and romantic elements. If you are looking for a fantasy setting and/or are Isekai trash such as myself, then this series will be right up your alley.
If you are interested in checking out this series, I’ve been reading it over at NovelFull (series page). I chose this site as it is easier to navigate compared to several others I found the translation project on. Also, the group that originally translated this series no longer has it on their website otherwise I would direct you to them instead.