Anime Review #40: Little Witch Academia

I usually don’t start my Anime Reviews by directly stating my opinions on a show, but for this one, I’m going to have to make an exception. LITTLE WITCH ACADEMIA IS ONE OF THE GREATEST ANIME THAT GOD HAS BLESSED ME WITH THE PRIVILEGE OF SEEING. It is objectively superior when compared to other shows that were released in the last decade. You thought Attack On Titan, Demon Slayer, Sword Art Online, Boku No Hero Academia, you name it, were masterpieces? Indeed, Little Witch Academia trumps them all when it comes to story, characters, animation, and the overall entertainment factor; IT IS THAT GOOD. So in this week’s post, I’m going to explore the greatness – I mean, I’m going to dive into this show, and explore it through its various parts.

LITTLE WITCH ACADEMIA

Little Witch Academia (hereafter known as LWA) was produced by Studio Trigger – yep, the same studio that produced such series like… the clipshow series Inferno Cop, as well as Kill La Kill and Darling In The Franxx. Based on the work of former Gainax animator Yoh Yoshinari (whose resume includes Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, and FLCL, to name a few), it was initially conceived as a half-hour long short film for the Japanese state-funded Young Animators’ Training Project back in 2013. Widely acclaimed upon its release, two years later Studio Trigger would release another movie for the franchise, subtitled The Enchanted Parade. As with the previous film, that one was also well-liked enough that it led to the 25-episode series that you are seeing before your screen now to emerge in 2017.

The promoitional poster of Little Witch Academia.

You might be wondering, how did the same studio that was behind some of the most vulgar, sexually charged shows get the green light to produce a show whose content and values were pretty much the complete opposite of those ones? I do not have an answer for that, but what I can assure you was that even on that line, they managed to accomplish such a feat, and proved that they were capable of making a story enjoyable and exciting without having to resort to fanning out sins against purity. Another thing of note is how many people refer to this show as the anime version of J.K Rowling’s widely popular Harry Potter series – a totally fair comparison considering the setting, characters and its premise, but in my opinion, a rather unfair one.

PLOT

Initially incompetent in magic, Akko turns to idol worship to help gain some confidence in her abilities. Needless to say, it doesn’t work.

Atsuko Kagari, who goes by the nickname “Akko”, is a young girl of 16 years who enrolls in the prestigious Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry Luna Nova Academy in England. While making her way to the school, she comes across the Shiny Rod, a magical item that once belonged to her idol, Shiny Chariot, a once-popular magician whom she wishes to emulate; and immediately comes into contact with its powerful abilities. The plot of LWA is divided into two sections; the first half, corresponding to the first 14 episodes, and the second half, matching to the latter 11.

In the first arc, Akko immediately faces struggles upon her arrival at Luna Nova: she faces scorn for her idolization of Shiny Chariot, whom she is shocked to have found out was not so well-liked among her peers, and finds herself lacking in magical abilities compared to her other magically specialist classmates. No one, however, gets on her nerves as much as English wizarding prodigy Diana Cavendish, who belittles her ideals and criticizes her general incompetence. Despite this, she does manage to befriend a couple of wizards, namely the soft-spoken faerie specialist Lotte Jansson, de facto potions expert and campus troll Sucy Manbavaran, the strong-willed broom-riding acrobat Amanda O’Neill, and Andrew Hanbridge, the son of a British duke who, despite his family’s objections, gradually admires Akko’s heightened passion for magic. She also falls under the tutelage of Professor Ursula Callistis, who gradually teaches her the secrets behind activating the Shiny Rod’s power known as the Seven Words of Arcturus, in the process helping her to realize her own magical and emotional capabilities.

Professor Croix, the new character introduced in the second arc, conversing with Akko while Ursula watches in the foreground of episode 14.

The second arc sees the introduction of Professor Croix, a former classmate of Shiny Chariot, who awes the school with her impressive display of science, technology, and magic combined to make one formidable magical force. It turns out, however, that this is merely a front for her own ambitions to control the world by harnessing the emotions fueled in the aftermath of a controversial FIFA game involving England and an unnamed country (Ireland? France? Germany?). With that, the story flips from the school life route and packs in the action as Akko and her friends rush to uncover her true motives and prevent the devastating consequences that can come from her work.

WHAT I LIKED

  • LWA was excellent in showing Akko’s story, of her struggles, setbacks, and her successes as she went from a complete newbie in the field of magic to the ultimate wielder of the Shiny Rod in a consistent and well-flowed manner. Overlaying them were great complex character interactions and meaningful scenes which carefully summarized her journey of unlocking the true meaning behind the Seven Words of Arcturus. It was a great, character-driven story where the actions spoke louder than the plot itself.
  • Believe it or not, LWA is a very Catholic anime too, notwithstanding the white magic parts that comprise it. Show components such as the Seven Words of Arcturus were more or less a good parallel to the truly Catholic Seven Virtues; namely temperance, patience, humility, kindness, charity, and diligence were keyed out in those Seven Words. Unlike Trigger‘s previous works mentioned above, this show was thorough at taking the Catholic virtue of modesty seriously – that’s chastity jotted down right then and there! The magic too is quite appropriate: it’s neither rooted in the occult, never used with the deliberate intent to harm on another, and is heavily regulated to prevent reckless use of them. Characters who are found abusing this magic will often face dire consequences and setbacks. If anything, it’s basically white magic, much like the ones used in C.S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia or J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings.
  • Behold, this is a show that is guaranteed to make you laugh at least once. Whether it’s episodes such as the Sucyland incident (episode 5), where Akko has to recover a comatose Sucy by entering her mind and approaches her various incarnations; her chasing down a love-inducing bee while her crush Andrew plays Flight of the Bumblebee (episode 10), briefly switching bodies with Diana via magical mirror (episode 12), and that time she became a flaming Marxist (episode 15), the funny faces she makes, or whenever Sucy trolls Akko with her various magic tricks, there’s plenty of humour to go around this show.
  • The action sequences were really well done, and as a result were entertaining to watch. LWA features episodes with exciting broom races, an episode taking place at a pseudo-Twilight convention, magic-powered Gundams, and to top it all off, an epic finale where Akko and her friends try to stop a weapon of mass destruction! Try to find another anime where all those components are nicely mixed in.
  • The themes within the show were wholesome – LWA taught us to work hard towards the things that we really want to achieve, the importance of knowing what your path in life is, and to see others for the good that is within them, rather than dwell on their negative aspects. One other theme that I felt was underwhelmed however, was the constant battle between tradition and modernity, pitting witches who wanted to retain the traditional use of magic for self-treatment purposes (much to the chagrin of the rest of the world), as opposed to characters like Professor Croix and Shiny Chariot, to a certain extent, who wished to revolutionize magic to meet with the demands of the times. Sounds like the ongoing battle between Traditionalist Catholics and the Modernists that Pope St. Pius X so envied with his 1907 encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis.
HAYA SUGIRU TOKI NO…? Oops, I think I stumbled into the wrong anime

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  • The setup with Professor Ursula, Akko’s mentor at Luna Nova, turning out to be Shiny Chariot in pectore was kind of weak – they gave out way too many hints to indicate that her character and the latter were related. Even before they made it clear in episode 18, I could smell it coming from 14 episodes away that something seemed off about Ursula’s reaction to any mention of Shiny Chariot from Akko.
  • Another weak point of this show was Episode 5, which involves the school headmasters trying to settle their financial debt with a dragon named Fafnir. For some reason, having an episode where the main characters try to resolve a business deal didn’t seem like a particularly interesting, eye-catching element to insert.
Ok, who hired George Lucas to do the special effects for this show?

CHARACTERS

The characters of LWA were easily the high point of the series, and deserve a strong amount of praise from my end for how well they were handled. Characters like Lotte, Sucy, Constanze, Amanda, Jasminka and Andrew were especially of this case; with personalities and their distinguishable quirks that made them all the more enjoyable to watch and absolutely likeable. Although their roles were quite minor, the show still managed to fit in some instances where their abilities shone through and gave them a significant role in the episode.

Little Witch Academia’s characters are sure quite a wonderful bunch of folks, according to the non-infallible thoughts of this blogger.

Of special note here, the primary characters – that is, Akko, Diana, Shiny Chariot/Ursula and Professor Croix are deserving of the most mention with their treatment. The amount of detail and depth that was put into their roles was very high, making them a lively bunch to follow the story with. Akko, for example, is boisterous, thick-skulled and easily triggered when things don’t go her way; but beneath is a kind, caring soul who wants nothing but the best not just for herself, but for her friends as well. Diana’s disciplined, hard-working yet humble attitude works as a foil for Akko’s own temperament, yet it does not change the fact that deep down, she also shares the same dream to excel at magic and follow in the footsteps of the same person that the former strives to be. In later episodes, we see their relationship becomes one that is a reverse of that between Professor Croix and Shiny Chariot’s conjoined pasts; wherein the latter started off as friends turned rivals, which end up nearly wrecking magic’s reputation on the world, Akko and Diana manage to bury their own hatchet, establish a friendship, and subsequently restore the world’s hope in the power of magic.

This leads me to their individual character development arcs. It was not just Akko, the main protagonist, who hogs the character arc stage this whole time; Diana managed to get some well-deserved screen time, with a three episodes dedicated to exploring her psyche, ambitions and her familial relationships, which helped us to understand her personality in the first half. Ursula, haunted by her past identity as Shiny Chariot, also gets some development alongside her friend turned de facto villain Professor Croix, and her relationship with Akko helps spur on the latter’s will to change and embolden herself to achieve greater heights – far more than she could have ever done back when she was a student. Their motives drive their characters to excel at what they do, and as the story provides more input to their interactions, we see them grow further into something that was beyond what we could have imagined for them at the start.

Akko and Diana’s personalities get shed on with more light as the series progresses, for the benefit of LWA’s story.

All in all, like any great anime, it is the characters that give LWA a high bar to sit upon. With dynamic personas, nicely settled backstories, and adorable attitudes, they helped to enrich the story and contributed to its all-around enjoyable, engaging presentation.

MUSIC

The OST of LWA can be described in my view as quirky and charming for the most part; however, one thing that the music did well was capture the magic (no pun intended there) of each moment. In that regard, LWA‘s OST gets a good score from me. The same can be said for the two sets of opening and ending themes from the show, sung by Yurika and Yuiko Ohara respectively. The first set, Shiny Ray and Hoshi Wo Tadoreba, were by far my favorite OP/ED sequence from this series because of their upbeat melodies and their great lyrical content. I don’t think any other song from LWA could have better described this show and what it was all about, other than these two. The second half of the show had Mind Conductor and Toumei Na Tsubasa to preface and conclude each episodes, which were more or less of the same quality as the former pairs, but nonetheless still an enjoyable tune for the series.

FAVORITES

Obviously the superior among best girls in this show

Favorite character: All in all, the characters of LWA were great in their own way. However, Lotte’s character was, for some reason, the most endearing to me. She’s sweet, understanding, rational and her personality really reminded me of myself at times.

Favorite episode: I found episode 4, where the main cast skips school to go to a convention for the Twilight knockoff Night Fall was quite entertaining. Not only did it remind me of all the times I went to Anime North or Fan Expo in the past, but it also featured a heartwarming moment where Lotte encourages the book series’ disheartened author to keep going, and write the stories to the best of her abilities – no matter how her haters respond to them.

Favorite moment: Aside from where Akko meets the various incarnations of Sucy, the last two episodes had everything that constituted how awesome the show was: action-packed, thrilling, and a culminating testament to the show’s great character arcs. Seeing Akko, Diana and their friends single-handedly take on the Black Rod and successfully beat it was a satisfying, exciting conclusion that was well-deserved and worked out. One thing I’d like to see is an AMV of this moment while Aerosmith’s hit song from the 1998 film Armageddon, I Dont Want To Miss A Thing plays in the background.

Kids, this is why you never do drugs, ever

Favorite Word of Arcturus: Mayenab Dysheebudo, which calls for patience, is one Word that struck with me because it’s a trait that I need to work on more, considering how reckless I can be at times. Sybilladura Lelladybura was another great one as well, because of how relatable it was to my own spiritual life, especially on being a Traditionalist Catholic in a modern world.

Favorite heartwarming moment: I’m not one to cry over an anime, but in episode 9 when where Luna Nova’s headmaster, Miranda, reunites with her deceased father for a brief moment, takes this spot.

Favorite OST: Anxiety And Determination was a really good piece that perfectly summed up the dramatic mood of LWA and its adventurous tale.

CONCLUSION

With all things said, is LWA the greatest anime to have ever been made? No. But does it deserve a spot amongst one of the greatest among this decade? Yes. Do I think it’s a great show? Absolutely! With a well-rounded plot, awesome characters and a story which deeply emits totally Catholic morals and themes (even if it was not the primary intention of the creators), this show is definitely one that I’d recommend for those who are longing for an epic, heartwarming, feel-good story to invest their leisurely time in. Take my word for it – once you finish all 25 episodes of this story, you’ll be wishing that you could re-watch this series like it was your first time hearing about it.

SCORE: 9/10

I BELIEVE I CAN FLY, I BELIEVE I CAN TOUCH THE SKY, I THINK ABOUT IT EVERY NIGHT AND DAY, HOIST MY BROOM AND FLY AWAY

16 thoughts on “Anime Review #40: Little Witch Academia

  1. I get the feeling we’d see some other Trigger series and anime series in general in very different lights, but this one does sound interesting. I have respect for a studio that can make quality shows that are so different from each other in style and tone. I’ll have to add it to the to-watch list if I can track it down.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, just that. For as popular as Trigger’s stuff is, I don’t guess it should be too hard to find.

        And definitely, I like to mix up what I watch, so something wholesome is nice sometimes. I can’t just watch the same kind of anime, listen to the same kind of music, gets a bit boring.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, so much to talk about! First things first: I, too, love this anime! It stimulates and soothes all in one pass, and does wonders for one’s sense of things. It’s about as close to perfect as you’ll find.

    Now, as for main/most important characters, I think Sucy and Lotte easily shoulder Ursula and Croix aside. Could Akko have gotten into and out of just as much trouble without those two particular teachers? Definitely. But without her two stalwart roomies? Not a chance! (She’d have never even arrived at Luna Nova.) At least that’s my take on it!

    But if one thing about this review makes me uneasy, it’s the ease with which you seem to interchange witches with wizards and witchcraft with wizardry. Witchcraft is grounded in natural magic[s], whereas wizardry is based upon ritual magic[s]. Sort of like the difference between a spring and a well–both provide water, but one is a natural phenomenon while the other is an artificial construct. Akko, Sucy, and Lotte are all very much witches, drawing (whether consciously or not) from their own knowledge of and connections with their surroundings to make magic happen. Diana, however, seems quite often to resort to wizardry, needing ritual to achieve magical results. And while we witches do indeed utilize rituals, we do not depend upon them to “switch on” our native powers in such manner as Diana so often seems to do. While she might be a talented witch, Diana seems to have been seduced by the comparative ease and focused power of wizardry. And that’s a shame.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your insight David! ๐Ÿ˜€ That’s awesome that we both find great things about this show! These days finding a show that’s plenty cheerful and warm-hearted as this one is a rarity to find, sadly.

      Don’t get me wrong – I do acknowledge that both Sucy and Lotte are great characters, and provide an excellent support for Akko during her time at school – be it lifting her spirits or accompanying her journeys throughout without hesitation. In fact, some of the more memorable moments from this show involved all three characters doing something! (Especially in the movies) The reason why I chose to single out Ursula/Shiny Chariot and Professor Croix was because I wanted to talk about how detailed they were with regard to their character elements like their relationship, contrasting values, and their general development arc, which I found to be pretty well-synthesized.

      On another note – you make a good point on the distinction between witches and wizards though. Thank you for that! At the time of this writing I used “wizardry” just in a broad sense to refer to the magic as a whole so I didn’t really think much of the distinction at the time. Perhaps I’ll re-edit for accuracy when I can. Again, thanks for bringing it to my attention!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I certainly understand the dichotomy represented by Ursula/Croix and why you would value it so much, particularly when given a good Catholic slant. They are immense characters–archetypes, even, if you will. And that’s the thing for me–their story could have fueled an entirely separate anime without difficulty, just like the girls’ adventures could have manifested without any input or interference from either Ursula or Croix. The main story–Akko’s story–really didn’t need them. Oh, it was much richer for having them, but it didn’t NEED them.

        As for the distinctions betwixt types of practitioners of magic, well, I guess that’s just a little tic of those of us who do practice. I guess that such distinctions must seem purely academic to anyone else, maybe even nit-picky. But the distinctions are real, and most practitioners whom I know are quite clear as to where they fall. (I went into the differences at some length when I reviewed The Ancient Magus’ Bride back when–LOL!)

        Anyway, a really great review! I’m always glad to see LWA get some well-deserved attention.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you for the kind words David, glad that you enjoyed the review ๐Ÿ˜ƒ You make some good points about their involvement in the show – and it’s always nice to see your insights around here!

        Interesting that you brought up The Ancient Magus Bride haha. That show’s been lingering on my mind since 2018, maybe I’ll get to it someday! ๐Ÿ‘

        Liked by 2 people

  3. This anime has been on my long time of bucker list but haven’t found the perfect to watch it.

    When I first saw LWA’s illustration from the internet before (along with its title), I got the initial impression that it might be a girl version of My Hero Academia or the anime version of Harry Potter. And I’m hyped to see the series soon. Hope to find some time for it to fit in my tight schedule.

    Grear review as always. Will be tuning in for more, man.

    โ€”Warfheim

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LWA is tons better than BNHA in my opinion. I find it kind of unfortunate that people overlook this show in favor of the latter – trust me though, this show will definitely be worth it once you can find the time for it, take my word for it!

      Thanks again for your kind words Warfheim! Looking forward to seeing more content from you as well ๐Ÿ˜€

      Like

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