Presumably one of the first things to cross your mind upon reading the title of this book is, “This is an adaptation of a light novel, isn’t it?” That is, in fact, correct, although the novel’s title was translated slightly differently by Cross Infinite World when they released it: Hello, I am a Witch, and My Crush Wants Me to Make a Love Potion!, as opposed to Yen Press‘ less enthusiastic and more casual Hi, I’m a Witch, and My Crush Wants Me to Make a Love Potion. In terms of the character presumably speaking the title, Cross Infinite World‘s version makes a bit more sense, because Rose is an awkward and stilted enough character that she’s more likely to use old-fashioned phrasing. Raised by her grandmother, the previous owner of the title Witch of the Lake, Rose rarely interacted with anyone else. She saw the occasional clients her grandmother served, the father-and-son trader duo who popped by, and sometimes accompanied her granny into town to buy additional supplies, but that’s really about it. The result is that the shy child has grown into an awkward adult who isn’t quite sure how to handle unexpected guests.
She’s even less likely to deal well with them when they turn out to be Sir Harij Azm, a royal knight. Rose knows who he is because she saw him once four years ago, on a rare trip to town after her grandmother’s death. Rose fell hard for Harij, not just because he’s remarkably handsome (because of course he is), but also because he was the only person who stood up to the villagers saying unkind things about her late grandmother. Rose was well aware that people viewed the Witch(es) of the Lake with a jaundiced eye, but to actually hear people badmouthing her grandmother, the only family she really knew after her mother’s death early in Rose’s childhood, is another thing entirely. She’s afraid to say anything because the men don’t realize that just because one Witch is dead doesn’t mean that there isn’t a new one, but she’s nonetheless hurt and confused by the situation. Fortunately for her, Harij is at the same café, and he not only tells the men off, but also storms out because he’s so disgusted with their behavior. If ever there was a good case for insta-love, this would be it.
So imagine Rose’s upset when not only does Harij show up at her door one evening, but with a request for a love potion. Rose’s immediate thought is that he wants it for himself to give to the object of his affections; seasoned readers will guess that this may not be the obvious case she assumes it is. But rather than delving right into a romance blossoming between Rose and Harij, the story allows Rose to bumble her way through her interactions with her crush while Harij begins to realize that there’s something a bit amiss with the Witch. Although we’re fairly firmly in Rose’s head for all but the start of the last chapter of the book, Harij’s reactions to what Rose takes for granted are very well depicted. We can see that Rose’s hut is an unholy mess, but because Rose isn’t bothered, we as readers are left to assume that that’s normal for witches…until Harij starts taking things in and expressing (both verbally and via body language) that normal or not, it’s very much not okay. When he realizes that Rose is basically living on lettuce because that’s what’s easiest, Harij is aghast. He may not be falling for her as quickly as she fell for him, but he’s coming to the realization that leaving her to her own devices may not be something he’s capable of doing.
And while I don’t love that much of this appears to hinge on Rose needing a man to take care of her (something that feels more emphasized in the manga than in Eiko Mutsuhana‘s original novels), the fact of the matter is that it’s less that she needs “a man” and more that she needs someone, because while she’s a very good Witch of the Lake, she’s got close to zero self-care skills. Why this is isn’t clear, although the implication seems to be that she simply is too lazy most of the time to bother with things like cooking and cleaning (she does bathe and do laundry regularly). All of the necessary supplies are shown to be in the house; she just hasn’t touched them since her grandmother’s death. This does raise the possibility that she’s still grieving her loss, and while that isn’t explored beyond us reading between the lines, it’s clear that Rose is lonely and feels that her status as the current Witch of the Lake means that she is barred from companionship and everyday happiness. Harij hasn’t quite realized that yet, but as he brings her food and insists that she cleans the table before eating it, he’s beginning to find himself feeling both protective towards and interested in the strange young woman on the island in the lake.
There isn’t a clear “better” version of this story. Both Mutsuhana’s light novels (two volumes) and Kamada‘s manga adaptation do a nice job of bringing Rose’s tale to life. Harij feels a bit more hard-nosed in this version, but it’s not really a make-or-break issue, and Mutsuhana’s words about the impressive level of detail in Kamada‘s art (especially the backgrounds) are very true. This is a case where your format preference should guide you on which version you want to pick up – and if you like socially awkward heroines, caring heroes, and a little bit of magic, it’s worth checking out at least one.
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