Thoughts on Little Witch Academia (TV)

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Oh, yeah. I was watching this at one point, huh?

For those who need a little refresher (I did, too), my Early Impressions post will be linked to fill in some context as to what made me put this on-hold for so long in the first place. Well, it’s not entirely the reason, but it casts a shadow much larger than what many would expect.

Its so-called “blandness” is a vast generalization of what the series entails. Its chaotic animation and the subsequent style it presents makes it a bouncy title well worth its fantasy premise. This is not, however, something of a Kill la Kill presentation, where characters are literally breaking the laws of physics and common sense. A “controlled chaos” sort of presentation, carefully picking its moments of whimsical rambunctiousness. More than the common series, it’s underwhelming for a Trigger-animated show. Not that I necessarily hold that against it, but it’s a thought.

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In all honesty, the “Disney-esque” quality of the series—that never goes away—is the primary fuel for my empty entertainment gauge. It feels standard, predictable, formulaic, and the characters are primarily one-note personalities that are only acknowledged as role-takers, save a few major characters. How everything splendidly fits into every detail, every affordable moment… when the moments only ebb sporadically as the writer remembers a character hasn’t been given an episode arc. Sucy’s a pretty cool character, huh? One episode of development. How about Lotte? One episode of development. How about Andrew, the formal son of the pride-obsessed Colin Firth look-a-like? About two episodes of development. He gets little squirts here and there throughout later episodes that accumulate into about two full episodes. Those with more than a glance of development are Diana, Akko, and Chariot; Akko’s the main character.

There was one time where I watched a video of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of South Park) explaining the specifics of good storytelling. They mocked the idea of linearity in a story—this happens, then this happens, then this happens, and so on. What they felt was more important in an immersive story was how the behavior of one character affects another, and the situation of the narrative as a whole, while another character goes through various circumstances of their own in the same timeframe (essentially how most South Park episodes are structured). Little Witch Academia, as I’m sure many could assume upon me telling this small aside, falls into the former category of their argument of “This happens, then this happens, then this happens…” In this case, it makes the continual production of Akko’s time as a witch and the misadventures along the way feel too isolated from one another, and wholly too inconsequential as her character barely develops along the way. Not until the last three of four episodes did I feel at all caring towards the ever-passionate characters involved, and even that is vanquished by the final episode’s horribly uncreative example of THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!

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One could make the guess that at this point in the post, I’m leaning towards a negative score for the series’s overall quality. That is incorrect. Despite how ordinary I find the process, it is a process filled with spirit and strangely humorous tidbits. Chum Lee is in this anime. What the fuck is Chum Lee doing in this anime? Why are there so many random references in this anime? What kind of drugs is the production staff on to think up some of the things that take place in this series? I make it sound insane, don’t I? Unfortunately, most of these are very small in weight, and do little towards the serious aspects of its story or characters. They are, in some respect, little bones placed within the meat of the steak.

At the same time, its technical qualities are fairly good, whether it be animation, vocal performances, or the validity of the events that transpire. True, some leniency is involved with fantasy, but nothing within the series felt too much like the carpet effectively being yanked out from one’s skinny jeans. Only extravagantly ordinary in its execution of high-octane emotional fervor. Giving this series a negative score would require me to almost hate this series, which I don’t by any means. Doing so would imply that this series has any drastic flaws—ones aside from personal preference and occasionally formulaic clauses.

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What can one expect going into Little Witch Academia? The unexpected, when it comes to humor and the manner in which a situation is “resolved” for the structure of a specific episode. Otherwise, a toned-down animation explosion by means of Trigger Studios, with a heavier focus on fulfilling the basic evoking of human passion and dream-chasing. This kind of thing seems up my alley, and yet the series is one I can’t help but find myself disappointed with. When all’s over with, it does little to distinguish itself from others, who similarly provide the same mission of bombarding one with gleeful enthusiasm, though admittedly with half the charm. Trigger can produce some wacky stories, but it may be a while before it can make anything as incoherently amazing as Kill la Kill again.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Early Impressions: Little Witch Academia (TV)

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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.

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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.

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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.