by Darren Lignowski | staff writer
Of all the studios that could’ve made Little Witch Academia, Trigger isn’t the one that I’d have pegged as the culprit. Being recently formed by former Gainax alumni most famous for their role in Gurren Lagann, they only have two products to pin their name on: This, and Inferno Cop. Contrasting with the limited animation of the latter, Little Witch Academia is a more lushly animated affair with cohesive fantasy elements and a charm-factor that only grows with every passing minute, like a malignant, witch hat-clad tumor.
Little Witch Academia is one of this year’s two “Anime Mirai” pieces, made with funding from the government to train animators at various companies. It’s basically Harry Potter in an all-girls school where everybody has to wear witch hats, and nobody bats an eye when a student creates a corrosive acid strong enough to eat through a stone floor. Magic’s role in the world at large is left unexplained, but the flashier kinds are looked down on as a sort of faux-magic, even though there’s nothing really fake about it. Unfortunately, seeing a professional witch strut her self draws a young, idealistic Akko to enroll, despite having no magical aptitude whatsoever. Hilarity, near-death, and a suspiciously Hogwarts-like curriculum ensue.
From start to finish, Little Witch Academia is a treat to watch, melding slapstick comedy and super fluid animation with genuinely heartwarming moments. The main trio is unrepentantly adorable, each character hitting a different charm point: Akko is a klutz with a heart of gold, Lotte is her adorable passive-aggressive friend with glasses and freckles, and Sucy is a psychopath that likes melting minotaurs. Helping their appeal are the designs which, and I’m not exaggerating, are some of the best that I’ve seen in the medium so far. Simple, distinct and attractive, they exemplify everything that Little Witch Academia does so very right, and are its crown jewel. The style hearkens back to days spent watching Saturday morning cartoons while cutting gums into a bloody pulp with heaping spoonfuls of Captain Crunch, without relying on the nostalgia as a crutch to make up for any shortcomings. Its animation definitely has chops, supported by a competent script that simultaneously satisfies and leaves room for a possible sequel.
Most of the Young Animator Training Projects or Anime Mirai or whatever you want to call them are wholly self-contained stories that are satisfying enough to sate even the pickiest of appetites, but not really brimming with enough content to extend into multi-episode properties. Not that this is a bad thing, since Wasurenagumo and Oji-san no Lamp packed a surprising punch for only being half-hour anime goodies, but I couldn’t picture any of the projects adapted into a full series until Little Witch Academia reared its adorable, witch hat-wearing head. It’d definitely need retooling, but this is one of the rare things that I’ve been unsatisfied with by virtue of wanting more. Let that sink in—the only bad thing about Little Witch Academia is that there aren’t more witchy antics to consume.
Ultimately, it’s a feel-good story that doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking or spur a revolution. There’s nothing particularly deep to it, but the passion of the animators bleeds through every frame into the audience’s waiting eye sockets, and it’s tough not to be drawn into its world. For any readers who haven’t given it a chance yet, Trigger has it uploaded to Youtube and streaming on Crunchyroll, so you can watch it legally (and subbed!) while marveling at it.
[NOTE: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the SPJA.]