Three episodes in, Little Witch Academia is enjoyably bland.
One of the things I most look forward to when I decide to watch a work by Trigger is the bountiful amount of energy it typically puts into its animation and characters. Kill la Kill is a fantastic example of this, and Kiznaiver toned it down a tad but still gave off enough within its first two episodes to make me optimistic (until it burned itself to the ground). In this case, the series is a more fleshed-out retelling of a Special/Movie that Trigger had released some years prior. As of now, the series is a lot more like Kiznaiver than Kill la Kill, in that the energy is contained by individual scenes and characters rather than continuously all throughout.
What is the most disappointing aspect of Little Witch Academia, however, is the measure of predictability based on its storytelling. Now, I have never seen one Harry Potter movie or read any Harry Potter book, but I feel the anime takes a lot of inspiration from it, to the point where certain situations are almost homages to it. And again, I don’t know a lot about Harry Potter in general, but I do know the books are directed towards kids, so the writing is likely to reflect that demographic. What I mean by this is that characters are going to be incredibly one-dimensional, the narrative is going to appear whimsically up-beat at first, then turn dark as the plot moves along, and the execution of short-term conflicts will showcase the untapped potential of the seemingly inept main character. Oh, look, I just described the anime based on its first three episodes.
It’s a more controlled approach by Trigger this time around, so much so that I feel any studio aside from Trigger could’ve animated this and I wouldn’t be able to tell. Still, this is more of a subjective criticism than anything, as I’ve become expectant of the studio to be wild and bouncy with their animation skills. The way the story has progressed, it certainly has that Disney-esque vibe to it, something in recent years I’ve come to hold in disdain. That’s for another time, though.
Energy within Little Witch Academia comes in the form of the female lead: Akko. Her naive enthusiasm for magic and the antics she involves herself in because of it is the only remains of Trigger’s hand within. She’s played off like a combination of Ryuuko and Mako from Kill la Kill, with the straightforward confidence of Ryuuko and uncanny enthusiasm of Mako. However, her role within the story makes her likable only from her charisma, as her part as “inept dream-pursuer” has been done to death in many other mediums. Her friends (and rivals) are little better. Lotte is the booknerd nervous type. That’s it. Sucy is the ill-moraled occultist freak. That’s it. Diana is the rival character who’s good at everything and constantly shows up Akko by simply doing what’s natural to her. That’s it. Props to Diana, however, as the anime has shown some semblances of her being overwhelmed by the expectations placed upon her. Again, typical, but it’s something. I predict that a lot of these characters will eventually get solo episodes dedicated to expanding their characters, but for now, they’re just along for the ride.
The overall appeal of Little Witch Academia’s design makes a full return for those enamored by its movie counterpart. Though as mentioned before, the approach is a lot more controlled. There are individual moments that stand out from the rest, but are pretty scarcely scattered throughout each episode. Trigger’s distinct style of character design is still present, which I’ve enjoyed tremendously, but that’s all to really look forward to. Something of a random note, but I feel the anime goes out of its way to reference its own studios works. A random bout of fan service for fans of the studio’s other works. In the third episode, Akko will zoom through a family’s home as someone is flipping through channels on their TV. Before it cuts to the next scene, the screen will show MOTHERFUCKIN’ INFERNO COP! The way it gets to this point, however, is questionable, as it doesn’t make much logical sense in hindsight. I’m getting off-track. It has its moments of animated enthusiasm, but not quite enough to keep me consistently bedazzled.
Its predictability will probably bore me for a while. Seeing as it’s a two-cour series, it has all the time in the world to throw some curveballs at us. And while its narrative and characters do little (or nothing) to differentiate themselves from past stories, the clichés present aren’t a complete downfall to the show’s simple charm. I would say it’s the best show I’m currently watching this season, but only because it has the pieces in place to remain consistently entertaining, at the cost of being entirely impactful. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter or Disney, give Little Witch Academia a shot. If you’re a fan of Trigger, be wary.
4 thoughts on “Early Impressions: Little Witch Academia (TV)”
Wow, someone else actually agrees with me on this show. I genuinely thought I was a rare breed here. Even the harshest critics I follow seem to think this is some kind of masterpiece.
I mean, that’s their opinion obviously, but I’m glad I’m not alone in mine.
I have a feeling the show will eventually grow into a more unique experience. At least, I hope that’s the case, because narratively, I’m not getting much out of it at all. I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve both seen and read Harry Potter. Multiple times.
It’s a nice visual spectacle though. That animation is pretty nice.
But given that the first two episodes haven’t been all that amazing, I’ll be waiting til it’s over before I continue with it.
Great first impressions overall (and I’m not just saying that because I agree with you, seriously good job! :P)
I’ll go ahead and provide an alternative perspective just because I’ve been enjoying the show a lot thus far. I understand where you’re coming from when you call it predicable but I can’t really agree with the claim. The premise and general setting are quite traditional within our understanding of magic schools, witches, and so on but within this package I think many of the scenes unfold quite dynamically.
For instance, it’s obvious that Akko will have trouble riding a broom. She stumbles at practically every step of pursuing her own ambition and to see her randomly succeed in this area would break the mold that the show has established. So sure, she can’t ride a broom. Of course she enters her and her friends into the upcoming relay, and of course they end up losing anyway because Sucy explicitly cheats and cheaters never win. But you couldn’t tell me that Akko would use some sort of potion on her broom and begin hopping absurdly towards the finish line. Or that minutes later she would be zooming past a submarine, holding on for dear life. She also launches herself out of a cannon for what it’s worth.
I’m just taking examples from the most recent episode and maybe they aren’t the best but the point I wanted to make is that there is still a ton of creative vision within an overall conventional format. I think there’s a lot of value in simplicity and the fact that LWA never pretends to be anything it’s not and unfolds as conventionally as it does makes it all the more whimsical and endearing to me.
Thanks for sharing and it’s a good write-up but I wanted to try conveying some of my own enjoyment of the show as a counter-point. Maybe I’ll end up writing a full piece on why I think the show is as compelling as I do but I’m never comfortable writing analyses about ongoing shows because I fear my opinions become outdated quickly. Hmmm…
I completely understand, dude, and I agree with your stance to a degree. However, I can name just as many (if not more) points that I knew were coming before they happened. I knew the “ancient, foreboding” broom would become hers (Hell, it’s on the cover art), I knew Akko wouldn’t be able to fly whatsoever until that broom was brought into the relay (to be fair, though, I thought she’d have better control of it), and I’m pretty certain that teacher they keep showing either is or is directly connected to Akko’s idol, and I’ve held that suspicion ever since she pointed out the Shiny Rod. When I say it’s predictable, I was alluding more to general story points and outlines, rather than each individual moment in an episode. I didn’t expect Akko to use her broom as a frog, either, but I think in the bigger picture, that hardly matters. Of course, it’s a sort of balancing scale in my mind, so this isn’t always a set-in-stone thing. Thanks, as always, for the giant, juicy comment.