Binge or Purge?: Little Witch Academia
We hop overseas for our next TV offering. Little Witch Academia is sweet without being treacly, and should scratch your Harry Potter itch delightfully.
While the focus for the next few weeks is going to be the slate of American TV on display, their is plenty binge-worthy prospects coming from abroad. An extended illness had me laid up, which is the perfect time to turn health lemons into cute, Anime-Lemonade! This go around: Little Witch Academia, which has two seasons currently running on Netflix.
Little Witch Academia (2017)
Atsuko Kagari has always loved magic. Enraptured by the stage presentations of her idol Shiny Chariot, Atsuko (Akko to her friends; which is just about everyone she meets) vows to go to Luna Nova, the alma mater of Ms. Chariot. There’s a catch, however. Luna Nova is the magical world’s equivalent of an Ivy League, and admissions cater exclusively to the children of renowned magic families. Also, Akko can’t do magic. At all.
Luckily for her, Luna Nova is facing a severe financial crunch, as technology is steadily replacing magic as the popular way to get things done. As such, they admit Akko as the school’s first student from outside. She even runs into two girls who “help” her along the way: Lotte, a kind yet shy girl whose family can speak to the spirits inside objects; and Sucy, a mischievous, mushroom loving girl who’s decidedly more Wicked Witch of the West than Glinda Good-Witch. Together these three navigate school life, adolescence, and magic. Somewhat successfully.
Friendship is Magic!
Little Witch Academia feel very much like two genres: one very western, one very much Japanese. The first, and most obvious is Harry Potter. The other is the Shonen genre, which has had a jump start (post Bleach/Naruto) with the super-hero themed Boku No Hero Academia. The two genres dovetail quite nicely. Both focus on an outcast, an unlikely hero that has to earn their way in a challenging environment. Both focus on the day-to-day at first, and gradually branch out into larger concerns. Each reward hard work and courage/faith over natural talent. And both rely heavily on friendship and personal bonds.
Akko, Harry, and Naruto define themselves by the bonds they forge. Individuality is not the key ingredient for success in these stories, and each character gets by with a lot of help from their friend. Akko in particular. Naruto and Harry are orphaned thoroughbreds; each was the child of some of their universe’s most powerful people. Akko doesn’t get that conceit. As such, her bonds with Lotte and Sucy (as well as other students) are crucial. In that regard, her story is very much like Cinderella or Snow White: all the characters that they help and befriend end up being the key to their happy endings.
No Artificial Sweeteners
This story is mostly comedy, trading the misadventures of Akko and Co. It is also a wink and nod to many different pop-culture/supernatural franchises. such as Twilight and Sailor Moon. It also has a cast of adolescent girls. All of this places the demographic for this show with one foot in children’s shows, and the other in young adult territory. To pull this off requires sugar, spice, and chemical X. Yes, I’m referencing the PowerPuff Girls.
The original run of the PPG was my favorite example of “aimed at kids, written for parents”. Disney has gotten this right a few times, most notably with The Incredibles. It allows the writers to pull the best from both age-groups: prat-falls and sight gags get married to word play and entendre. Little Witch Academia largely pulls this off.
Akko is a bonkler, but she is hardworking, earnest, and courageous. Lotte and Sucy aren’t one note jokes, as much as the writers could probably have gone full Sheldon from tBBT with Sucy. Diane is the rival, a prodigy student from magical royalty. But even then they don’t caricature her: she’s not a prig or a cad; she’s her own character, and she’s believable and almost always likeable.
Some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other.
Little Witch Academia was a really enjoyable time. The animation is solid, the comedy is fine, and the characters are above average. If you liked Harry Potter, you’ll love LWA. If you like anime that isn’t all about violence or panty-shots, LWA is for you. I binged 8 episodes without even looking up at the clock once. Pull up a broom, grab your wand, and take Little Witch Academia for a spin.