So here we are with a show that started off as “The little show that could”. From a pilot to a special, then Kickstarter and finally a PS4 game. Suffice to say people were really looking forward to a full length TV anime of this one. Question is whether it paid off. Let us find out as we take a look at the 2017 Little Witch Academia anime.
Genres: Action, Fantasy, Comedy, Magic
Themes: School, Witches
Number of Episodes: 1 pilot (Little Witch Academia), 1 Special (Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade), 25 episode TV show.
Plot Summary: In a time when magic is on the decline amid society, Atsuko Kagari, Akko for short, is a cheerful girl who enters Luna Nova Academy in order to accomplish her dream of becoming a witch like her idol, Shiny Chariot. Shiny is a famous witch who disappeared from public view many years ago. On her way to school, Atsuko meets the kind Lotte Yanson and the mischievous Sucy Manbavaran and the three become friends as they share a bedroom in campus. At the academy, Atsuko soon discovers she is in serious disadvantage compared to the other girls since she doesn’t come from a magical family and is required to learn the magical curriculum from scratch. Having found an item that once belonged to Chariot, Atsuko must discover how to activate and properly use the mysterious Shiny Rod as she hopes it might lead to finding out what has truly happened to her vanished idol.
I brought up the pilot and special because despite not being necessary to watch they are both enjoyable and help give newcomers an idea of what to expect as the TV show has similar setup to the pilot and borrows some elements from Enchanted Parade but ultimately does its own thing.
While watching LWA’s first half I had a similar feeling to when I saw the first half of Kill La Kill. What I mean is KLK’s first half to me felt like a love letter to Late 80’s to 90’s action cartoons whereas LWA’s first half felt like classic sitcoms or cartoons featuring a troublemaking young protagonist who often gets him/herself and his/her friends into shenanigans thanks to his/her crazy ideas ending with everyone either punished, on rare occasions doing good deeds, or simply getting away with their troublemaking. Akko, Lotte and Sucy’s shenanigans are a combination of the 2nd and 3rd examples: They get into trouble while helping each other and people nearby but often get punished for their troublemaking. I enjoyed the first half quite a bit as the shenanigans our heroine gets herself and others into were most delightful with a small dud or two like the skeleton pirate episode. Not one of my favorites. What is also really cool about each episode in both 1st and 2nd half is that each one has a moral/life lesson of some kind from the simple but often forgotten “patience is a virtue” to the slightly complex look at overall fandoms (comics, books, games, shows etc. That particular episode’s message applies to all fandoms) and even the economy.
The show overall is (as of 2017) the closest thing people are going to get to a Harry Potter anime, except not as dark in later chapters which I think is for the best as this show was never meant to go in a super dark direction in the 2nd half. The most prominent theme, besides the importance of magic in the show’s world is a debate between old-school and new-school. What I mean is that, like in real life, there are some customs/traditions that have not aged well and the question pops up on whether some of them are still worth following in the modern age. On the other side is the question of whether the old ways that can still work are worth forgetting in favor of strictly following the new ways of modern science and technology. As mentioned above the economy is also brought up a few times alongside the tried and true interpersonal and intrapersonal struggles. The show even adds politics to the mix…more on that later. Of course of this is dominated by the most important aspect, cute girls performing awesome feats of magic that are sugar for the eyes. As for the second half of the show I think it is equally as good and the main plot ended up being interesting with really one major twist as the other reveals are not meant to be twists at all. Like the first half it too has episodes with simple to complex morals. The “big bad” (heavy quotations) of the show is another one of those “modern villains” shall we say. I will not spoil anything else about the antagonist.
The feats of magic look great thanks to Studio Trigger’s trademark “over the top 80’s-90’s” style animation…that is how I can best describe it. The spells are all shiny and awe-inspiring. Again sugar for the eyes. The soundtrack is an orchestral score for all three media and it fits very well. The OPs and EDs are all nice to listen to as well.
As mentioned the show’s humor is so late 80’s to 90’s for me. Whether it is effective or not is subjective. I am not good determining what people find funny. I enjoyed most of the comedy.
Before we get to the ladies let us go over the “elephant in the room” known as Andrew. I do not speak for the mainstream audience but as far as the Nation goes he is an enemy. However, my issue with the lad is not his addition to the cast. It is his overall role and subplot. The aforementioned political element in the show. While I do see how the politics fit into the master plan of the show’s “big bad” (Heavy quotation marks) it along with Andrew’s presence can be argued as being semi-pointless. Again I get why the political subplot is there but that does not change the fact it is the least interesting aspect of the show. After all, who watches a show about magicians for political intrigue? Some will point to Izetta: The Last Witch having a similar issue with its politics but that one is an exception because of its “fictional World War inspired setting” but that was already discussed. As for Andrew himself. I will admit that I do not hate the character but I do not like him either. I mainly felt indifferent towards him. However, I will say his intrapersonal struggles and conversations with Akko were interesting. Having said that, I asked myself, was it really necessary for Akko to have those conversations with a guy? Another reason for this is one particular episode that takes place at the academy Andrew attends. This one mainly serves as a character developing episode for Akko and one of her gal pals. I will not spoil which one. What I am saying is that episode could have just as easily taken place in another judgmental all-girls school. I told myself that Andrew could have been replaced by another rich girl…but then I thought about Diana and concluded that having two rich girls with similar personalities would not work well. Basically some would say Andrew and his subplot could have been omitted and it would not have affected the show’s quality very much. I agree but at the same time still enjoyed the topics Akko and Andrew discussed. Still feel indifferent about guy. In short it feels like Big Band and Beowulf in the Skullgirls roster. Yes those two made the roster because of fan demand but to me it still feels off. I mean, the game is called SkullGIRLS yet there are two guys in it…I blame macho egos.
Anyway let us get back to the cool stuff and talk about the ladies. First off we have the main trio of Akko, Sucy and Lotte. Akko is a classic shounen protagonist: Loudmouthed, brash, short-tempered, pushy, not very bright…but also determined, kind, courageous, inspirational and for the most part having a “never give up, never surrender” outlook on life. She is as obnoxious as a typical male shounen lead but still very much likable. Think of her as Harry Potter with the temper and magic skills of early Ron Weasley and the luck of Neville Longbottom. Lotte is the more relaxed member of the trio who has her wacky moments but is mainly the voice of reason in the group. Sucy is…very special. At first glance she is a cynical prankster with a heart of gold but believe me, she is not that simple, which is what makes her so special. Unorthodox basically. She is more Dean Ambrose than Dean Ambrose, a lunatic fringe. Her character developing episode is a personal favorite. In short Sucy is…Sucy.
The second trio who do not get as much screen time as Team Akko but are of equal importance consists of Amanda, the rebellious badass tomboy with a heart of gold and the potential to steal the hearts of men and women everywhere. Constanze, a mute tech genius (The show also implements magitechnology as some readers figured out from the “old vs new” element I brought up) who is not very social except with her roommates. and then there is Jasminka. She is pudgy, adorable and is always eating chips of some kind. She does not have a character developing episode and serves as more of a mascot role…BUT I would argue her constantly optimistic attitude and the few moments she gets to show her likes and support of her friends make her equally as important as her friends…that or maybe it is my Jasminka bias talking. Either way she absolutely belongs on the show.
The last trio consists of Diana and her two stooges who I simply refer to as “Female Crabbe and Goyle”. Diana can be best described as a MUCH nicer Draco Malfoy who gives off a pompous and arrogant know-it-all aura and is uber talented but as it is hinted early on…it is not by choice. Apart from viewers who already like her from the pilot and special I would say to other viewers to give Diana time and she will grow on you. As for “Crabbe” and “Goyle”…they are Diana’s stooges and that is all. I am serious.
Let us now go over what I imagine many wanted me to discuss, Akko X Diana. Personally I did not notice “it” at all in neither the pilot or special and for the longest in the first half of the TV show I did not see “it” either. However, as the second half went on more and more little hints began popping up. I would say be patient and it may pay off. I certainly thought it did. While I think KLK did it better (for Studio Trigger from what I have been told) with RyuMako, I conclude that after watching the show DiAkko is close enough to be a thing. Oh and there may a second couple.
Overall Little Witch Academia TV was a lot of fun despite having some episodes and segments that did not knock it out of the park. The same can be said for the Harry Potter movies so it all comes together nicely. The validity of the political subplot and Andrew’s inclusion may be debatable but they kind of serve their purpose. At the very least I can say it is much more accessible than Kill La Kill was and will not irk certain people as much since there is little to no fanservice in LWA and hardly any sensitive content or subject matter. Most of the characters are likable while others fill their roles. The animation, magic and action scenes are all sugar for the eyes and the soundtrack is delightful. DiAkko is close enough to be a thing. Viewers just need to be patient. Not perfect but like most things in life it does not to be in order to be enjoyable. While I would like to say I highly recommend this show to any animeniac, fact of the matter is that is wishful thinking. Have to take into consideration how some people feel about Studio Trigger’s shows, reputation and the like. Also there are people out there who are not into magic shows. Basically whoever finds this show interesting based on my review can check it out.