Noriko HidakaReina UedaMinami TakayamaLittle Witch Academia
Little Witch Academia (TV)
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2017: L
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2017
Director: Yoh Yoshinari
Writer: Michiru Shimada
Actor: Arisa Shida, Asami Yano, Chinatsu Akasaki, Eri Nakao, Fumiko Orikasa, Ikuko Tani, Junko Takeuchi, Kazuyuki Okitsu, Madoka Asahina, Mari Okamoto, Megumi Han, Michiyo Murase, Minami Takayama, Naoki Tamanoi, Noriko Hidaka, Reina Ueda, Rie Murakawa, Rurika Yamamoto, Ryosuke Kanemoto, Yoko Hikasa
Keywords: Little Witch Academia, anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 25 episodes
Website category: Anime 2017
Review date: 12 December 2018
Little Witch Academia's first incarnation was a 26-minute short film, made as part of the Young Animator Training Project's Anime Mirai 2013 project. It got a 53-minute sequel in 2015, but this TV series is a complete reboot. Same cast, setting, voice cast and production team, though. It looks and feels the same. It's still got Akko, Sucy, Diana, Professor Ursula and all the others. It's likeable and fun, although you wouldn't call it heavyweight. There's some darkness and emotional weight in the last half-dozen episodes or so, but basically it's the adventures of a goofball trainee witch at Not-Hogwarts. Completely safe for children, but anyone should enjoy it.
Akko (Atsuko) is a super-energetic, reckless, enthusiastic girl who was inspired by the live show of a famous witch, Shiny Chariot. (The latter has since disappeared.) Unfortunately Akko's also terrible at magic and can't even fly a broom. She's a thoroughly likeable protagonist, but she's also a clueless trouble magnet who's utterly lacking in foresight and common sense.
Her friends are fun too, but arguably a badly integrated relic of the show's origins. The show's first half is lots of fun one-off episodes that don't really go anywhere, but you don't care. These star Akko and her friends Sucy (comedically evil) and Lotte (bland, nice, wears glasses). That's a pretty good trio and we'd have been outraged if they hadn't been retained from the earlier films. I particularly loved ep.8, in which Akko enters Sucy's mind and discovers that her friend's internal world is AMAZING. I was in raptures. Is that really how Sucy sees the world? That was deeply eccentric and full of weird stuff, e.g. the Devil vs. Angel Sucy where the latter's the good one because she's suggesting that they kill Akko mercifully. That's my favourite episode of the series, in fact.
To be honest, I think the show's first half works better than the second. It doesn't have a plot, but that doesn't matter in the slightest. When the show's just being wacky and fun, it's inspired. You'll see Akko vs. a mad dangerous broomstick (ep.3), Sucy being non-lethally evil (often), teenage schoolgirls in England using guns and rocket launchers (ep.5), a dragon with a high-tech security system who earns a living through online investments (ditto) and the Comedy Love Bee (ep.10). Akko ignores the school rules so blatantly that you'd be better off ordering her to behave improperly. Whatever you banned her from doing, she'd have done it by the end of the episode.
Halfway through, though, the show grows a villain and a plot. I don't mind, though. Change is good and this ends up being moderately interesting. The show's too fluffy to find a huge amount of emotional weight, but there will be some decent developments with Akko, Diana, Ursula and Croix. I liked it. It's not fantastic or anything (e.g. clearly being dependent on Ursula's ongoing communications failure), but it definitely has its moments and in any case the show's built up lots of audience goodwill by being so likeable and nice.
Unfortunately this sidelines almost all the important characters from the show's first half, i.e. Sucy (give me more Sucy, more Sucy!), Lotte and even their teachers (especially the strict one, Professor Finneran, and the headmistress, Miranda Holbrooke). Again, I don't mind, really. It's fine. However I'm not convinced you'd structure a show like this if you weren't following on from an existing hit.
It's set in the UK and I find it hard to convince my brain that it's not set in the Harry Potter universe. (They have many similarities.) It borrows from British folklore (e.g. the Wild Hunt) and can be surprisingly accurate in little details, although the show's not afraid to throw all common sense out of the window when it feels like it. The death penalty appears to be part of one school's discipline in ep.17, while there are a few gun moments. (Constanze has a realistically depicted submachine gun in ep.18, but then again this is a girl who can build giant mecha.)
Also, more prosaically, I had a bit of trouble with one of the show's basic premises. Magic is supposedly seen as old-fashioned and out-of-date. It's dying out. People aren't interested any more... BUT IT'S MAGIC!!! Suggestion: try flying a broomstick into Oxford University tomorrow and see how old-fashioned their reactions are. It's still an anti-gravity device, even if its owner wears a pointy hat. There's partial justification for this in the diminishing amount of magic in the world, but it still seemed pretty daft to me.
The animation is by Studio Trigger, i.e. it's full of energy and fun. Akko's faces could make me laugh on their own. Note also the Happy Face Explosion in ep.25. It's also worth pointing out that the show's being so family friendly that it avoids panty shots even when short-skirted schoolgirls are riding broomsticks. (The Japanese term for this is "magic skirt", appropriately enough.)
I like this show, but I don't think that quite reaches "love". The show's Plot Half is less special than its Pure Fun Half, but it's still a light, charming anime that's easy to watch. I was always happy to watch another episode. Natsuki enjoyed what he saw of it too. I don't know if you'd feel the need to rewatch it, but you'd almost certainly enjoy it if you did so.