Reviews

Jun 25, 2017
LIQfilms (All reviews)
Watching Little Witch Academia is like looking back into a portal to my youth. A time when Cartoon Network ruled the world! While I was born at the tail end of the nineties, and thus didn't experience what many people consider to be the golden age for the network, I did grow up watching re-runs of many of the shows that established the network and what made it so infamous during the early 2000s. Shows like Johnny Bravo, The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory and a plethora of others quickly became my favourite cartoons, and I still love them to this day, looking back on each with found feelings of nostalgia. Little Witch Academia evokes these similar feelings in me of nostalgia, and it's a sort of feeling that I honestly find hard to properly articulate since it is so raw and personal. The anime genuinely feels that it could have aired on Cartoon Network considering how fun, charismatic, and full of energy the entire show actually is, and with each passing episode, Little Witch Academia becomes even more charming and loveable, so much so, that this anime has become a personal favourite of mine! Through its wonderfully creative world, diverse and interesting cast, and bouncy animation, Little Witch Academia is easily the most fun I've had with a piece of media in a very long time, and despite some flaws in terms in its narrative, the entire show, in my eyes, is a wonderful representation of what can be accomplished in animation. With that all said and done, let's dive into why I believe this show to be as great as I proclaim it is!

Little Witch Academia is set in a world in which the use of magic is being used less as a viable means in everyday life, but, despite that, there are still a plethora of witches who wish to learn and study magic for themselves, keeping the world of magic alive. One such girl happens to be our main protagonist, Atsuko Kagari, or simply Akko, who, after seeing a live magic show by a witch named Shiny Chariot, inspires her to take up magic herself, with the ultimate goal of meeting her idol one day, and learning how to use magic in order to put smiles on people's faces and help them forget about their troubles and grief. However, there is only one problem. Akko is totally inept when it comes to magic, having come from a family with no lineage of witches, and performing terribly in her classes at school when it comes to magic participation. She can't ride a broom while everyone else can, finds basic spells difficult while messing up everything she attempts to do, while dragging everyone else into her mishaps and incidents. While we do learn the reason why Akko is so incompetent when it comes to magic in the twenty seconded episode, resulting in a great emotional plot twist, Akko's lack of ability and lack of knowledge for the magical world in general helps make her more relatable for an audience watching. She assumes the underdog role for this tale, and there is a general sense of cathartic pay off seeing her succeed in her magic studies and spells when others doubt her or assume she will never succeed, yet still proves them wrong. Much like how the audience doesn't know anything about this world, nor does Akko, and this allows the audience to experience the world through her eyes. As Akko learns and grows in this world, the audience does too, which helps the audience grow more attached to Akko as a person. It's the same emotions evoked in watching someone try their hardest and then eventually succeeding after hard work that makes the series incredibly addictive to watch, at least for me anyway.

Anyway, back to the plot, as Akko attempts to get to Luna Nova for her first day of school, she finds it impossible to get there since a broom is needed to go through a magical road, but she meets a girl called Lotte, who becomes a good friend of Akko, who then gives her a ride to the school. However, whilst travelling in this magical road, they are thrown off course and are transported into another area, where they meet up with Sucy, whom will become another friend of Akko's. They're attacked by strange creatures, Akko finds Chariot's Shiny Rod, saves the day by enchanting a magic word, and makes it to the school just in time. The next few episode sees Akko and her friends attending school will many different magical problems ensue, but the series begins to introduce a more central and focused narrative with Akko attempting to find seven magic words that she believes will bring her closer to Shiny Chariot, which will also activate the Grand Triskelion. A powerful magic that has the power of reconstruction, but, for the most part, the series is fairly episodic, which can be used as a critique against the show. However, each episode has enough energy and charisma, as well as variety to keep things fun and never feeling boring and repetitive. From a race on broom sticks, to reviving a skeleton, to building a giant ship that turns into a giant robot reminiscent of Gurren Laggen, the entire series uses its magical world in neat and creative ways, making the show an absolute blast to watch. Since anything is possible in a world full of magic, the show remains incredibly addicting to watch since we never know what the show may bring to the table next and each scenario the characters find themselves in is fun as all hell, and the character interactions never fail to put a smile on my face. The world of Little Witch Academia feels alive and vibrant, with so many things to discover and find intrigue in. One thing in particular that I always found interesting was Akko's journey to find the words needed to meet Shiny Chariot. As she searched for each one, she always ran into interesting witches of the past, and discovered several past secrets about the world of magic. There is a lot of care put into its world building elements and each one feels extremely memorable. Each event and scenario is tangential to this main idea of Akko growing, not only as a witch in regards to her improving her magical abilities, but also as a person too, and each one of the words, and their meanings, parallels this growth as well.

As the show moves into a more central narrative, and introduces a villain for the show, the story is filled with much more emotional depth and is genuinely heart warming in a lot of places too. One of the most interesting themes the show presents is the idea of old customs, such as magic, slowly being less needed in the world as it becomes more developed and technologically advanced. This theme of technology versus magic is integrated well, as if it were an issue in our very own world, and is explored in interesting ways to aid character development, especially in regards to Diana's characters, in which one of her arcs as a character is focused on her wanting to continue the proud lineage of her family, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do in this ever changing world. Another example where this element is done especially well is the relationship that builds between Andrew and Akko, after Akko sneaks into his party, where many upper-class witches and people gathered. Andrew, being incredibly sceptical of the world and potentials of magic, and Akko, being the loud person that she is when projecting her love for magic, initially clash upon their first meeting, but as the show goes along, Andrew warms up to Akko, and, in turn, the world of magic as well, and begins to slowly appreciate its potential use in society. This also results in some of my favourite movements in the show, seeing Akko and Andrew working together and their chemistry is genuinely great as well. Each episode is devoted to fleshing out a character or giving some them some time to shine, through the use of magic in creative ways. The comedy, and character interactions, feel organic and the show has such a wonderful charm about it that I found myself smiling a plethora of times, especially seeing Akko grow as a person. As the show goes along, Akko learns shape shifting magic, allowing her to change into various different animals, all of which are fun and are used in smart ways, while also looking absolutely adorable, especially the mouse transformation. This is perhaps best integrated in the twenty-first episode when Akko is rapidly changing between different animals whilst fighting against a large python.

While I have praised the story of Little Witch Academia a lot, it's still without its problems. For starters, the plot can feel a little too convenient at times, such as in the very first episode where Akko just so happens to come across Shiny Chariot's rod while in a forest and some of the moments can feel too silly or contrived for my liking, such as when Akko comes across a super fast broom that is legendary in the world of magic, in a simple magic shop rather than in a museum, or, better yet, in Nuva Lova itself. However, while there are a few of these issues, I never found it ever to be too intrusive on my immersion or enjoyment of the series nor is it necessarily a game breaker either. The episodic plot lines may be annoying to some people wanting an overarching story all the way through, but, as I said, I believe each episode to be fun and creative enough to stand by itself, so I had no problem in regards to this area. One plot line can feel a little too predictable if you ask me, but, again, is something that doesn't really take all too much away from the overall experience or narrative.

The characters are also pretty great too, with each one having a very distinct personality that bounces off each other very well, especially in regards to the main trio, Akko, Sucy and Lotte. Akko is a character I've already talked about in detail, but her development, and her character arc presented in episode twenty-two after learning something that changes her perception of her world are easily the best parts of the show, and seeing her grow into a more rounded person proves to be highly satisfying. She is a good lead for a show of this nature, taking into account her inquisitive nature, and she is often used for comedic, slapstick effect as well. While she can sometimes be a little too annoying in the early parts of the series, and some of her lines and dialogue and lines about dreams and passion can come across a little too corny as well, Akko's character is one that I wanted to see succeed; I became invested enough in her character to do so. Not only that, but she has a clearly defined goal in the series, which helps with plot progression as well as direction.

Lotte and Sucy are two of Akko's personal close friends who share one room together, and, as the series progresses, begin to bond closer to one another too. Lotte is much more simpler than the other characters, both in design and personality, as she is perhaps the most down to Earth and calmest of the bunch. She plays the typical nerdy sort of character, and while she does receive some development, she is kind of pushed out from the forefront in favour of Akko. She has her moments, but is far from being one of my favourite characters. Sucy, on the other hand, is best girl of all times. Her appearance alone can convey everything about her character, and her voice actress does an amazing job at enhancing it too. She is essentially a pessimistic mushroom magic user, who finds enjoyment in using Akko as an experimental guinea pig while laughing manically about it. However, in the eighth episode of the series, and one of the best in my eyes, Akko has to dive into Sucy's subconscious, and there she meets hundreds of different versions of Sucy, all of which have different personalities to that of the original, representing Sucy's repressed emotions. While in this world, Akko watches a bunch of movies, that are Sucy's memories, and we learn that one of Sucy's best moments comes from her first meeting with Akko, and the various adventures they had up to that point. It's a sweet moment, and gives us more indication that Sucy does care about her deep down, than what we were lead to believe from the start.

Diana's character also goes through a lot of development, as she begins to respect and grow fond of Akko more and more in response to Akko's improved magical abilities such as in episode thirteen, when Akko proves her magical capabilities in front of a massive audience while taking on, and even helping, a large, cursed creature. While Diana, in the early parts of the series is stuck-up and pretty bitchy, she becomes more bearable and likeable as the episodes come along, especially over the course of her own respective story arc in the nineteenth and twentieth episodes, which I touched on briefly before, but also in episode twenty-three when she is talking to Akko in a cafe and opens up her own childhood love of Shiny Chariot as well. It explains why her character acts and behaves the way she does and also adds deeper insight and depth to her as a person too. Andrew's character too, as I've touched upon too, also develops in the scene that he comes to understand and appreciate the world of magic a bit more, but his character is also a gateway to understanding the rest of the world's stance of how magic is used in the modern era, and, I've said, I really liked the relationship formed him and Akko. While it is nothing romantic, there are slight hints of it here and there, but it never comes to any surface level, or feels too intrusive on the more interesting aspects of the show.

Undoubtly, the crux of the show and its narrative weight is the relationship between Akko and Ursula-sensei, and while I won't get too much into the specifics why and what this entails, since I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible in this review, just note that this is the one that forms the back-bone for the series to rest upon. The other members of the cast are also very fun to watch as well, whether that be the various teachers with their odd eccentricities, such as professor Lukic, a mad potions teacher who's lines never failed to make me laugh. One of my favourites of the side characters was Constanze, who doesn't even utter a single word yet we can understand what she is thinking just from her body language and facial expressions alone. We don't really learn or understand why she doesn't speak in the series, but she allows us to understand that the world of magic is not all about wands, but also machinery, as she seems to merge both technology and magic together, adding onto the theme I was talking about earlier. She also has my favourite episode in the show in which she builds a giant ship that transforms into a robot, which is an obvious homage to Gurren Laggen, typical of Studio Trigger. Also, that little smile that Constanze delivers the end of the episode after being thanked by Akko is wonderfully adorable.

In terms of animation, this is probably the best (and most consistent) show that Trigger has made thus far. The animation is very bouncy, with lots of energy and pull and stretch for that cartoon-y esque feel. It genuinely feels that, while not as polished, it could be a show that someone like Disney would create, in regards to how colourful, creative and fun everything is. It's character designs are great and can tell you everything about the character's personality just from a glance and it can sometimes showcase some absolutely fantastic animation. However, there are some art issues here and there, but, for the most part, the animation is so bouncy that it doesn't really affect the show all too much. The music is also pretty damn good with two amazing opening tracks, "Shiny Ray" and "MIND CONDUCTOR". I especially love the opening animation to MIND CONDUCTOR too, and the music used in the show itself is also great, especially the main theme. It is catchy, memorable and damn well composed, adding onto the more heartfelt and emotional moments the anime attempts to convey.

If you can't yet tell from my relentless praise, I love this show. It is a wonderful reminder of why I love animation as a whole and the entire show has such an innocent, child-like wonder about it as well. From its wonderful characters, great narrative and creative world, this show ticks all the boxes for me personally in terms of what a show should have, and I do highly recommend this anime, as well as the two movies that came before it as well. Little Witch Academia has the luxury of being an original show, and thus also has one of the most satisfying conclusions I've seen in a long time, which only thuther cemented this anime as one of my favourites of all time. Everything about this show has a genuine sense of, well, genuineness about it, and it feels like the team behind it put their all into making it, and had a blast while doing so, which is all I can really ask for at the end of the day. With that, I thank you for reading my review, and I wish you all a great day!