What I Watched
I recently had the distinct pleasure of watching one part of Anime Mirai 2013 (formerly the Young Animators Training Project) called Little Witch Academia (LWA), animated by Hiroyuki Imaishi’s Studio Trigger. This is a short film, about twenty-five minutes in length, and it is one-shot with no prior tie-ins or continuity.
LWA is the story of the witch Akko Kagari. Inspired at a young age by a performing witch, Shiny Chariot, Akko decides to join a school for witches. However, she finds herself bored with class and disadvantaged by not being from a witch family. Plus, the other witches, even Akko’s friends, belittle Shiny Charriot. One day, the class gets an assignment to explore a ruin and retrieve rare treasures. The catch is, there are mon(NNNNN)sters inside. While in the dungeon, events unfold that will change the lives of all the witches in the academy, especially Akko.
Suggested Soundtrack for Reading – The Lovin’ Spoonful “Do You Believe in Magic?”
What I Expected
A good show. Or, at least, an interesting one. This was my first foray into any Young Animators/Anime Mirai production. I expected a well-animated magical girl show, yes, but also one rife with otaku bait. Looking at the promo image, and also noting the words “little witch” in the title, I assumed that LWA would serve up a heaping helping of camera shots lingering on the absolute territory of underage (or underage-looking, the trick used by Vampire Bund) mahou shojos. The presence of these elements do not make a show unwatchable for me; they are simply part of the package I was expecting.
What I Got
A GREAT show! LWA is no trope-heavy otaku piece; rather, it actually has quite a bit of broad appeal. I’d even go so far as to say it is a pretty family-friendly little short film, and I was certainly not expecting that. The production values were off the charts. Not only was the animation great, but the music stood out as being of exceptional quality.
The thing that surprised me most about the show is that it actually isn’t a magical girl show. Sure, it’s about girls who use magic, but mahou shojo as a genre has stricter criteria, as we know. The transformation sequence is an element that I view as being essential to the genre, and LWA lacks precisely this core element. Characters just are who they are (which precludes the secret identity trope which, though not essential to magical girl anime is nevertheless something many magical girl series have in common). They are witches who wear witch-clothes and carry witch-stuff and do witch things. In public. All this being the case, LWA seems like light fantasy and not magical girl.
But, really, what matters is that this movie is as entertaining as anything I’ve seen in a while. You get wrapped up in the grandeur and splendor of the world presented before you. There is a real sense of place about LWA, and the show really benefits from having a concrete idea of where it wants to transport the viewer. And transport you it does. The color design is vibrant and pleasing to the eye, and the stuff (of which there is a lot) in the academy is really unique-looking. Spell effects are beautifully animated, as are the character models. Speaking of characters, LWA‘s are likeable, though simple. Its short story is also executed just wonderfully. The strongest impression that I am left with, though, is the sense of fun and of wonder that Trigger infused into the tone of this movie. They made something that pretty much anyone can get invested in. It kinda makes me want to believe, you know?
Also, this little movie made me laugh out loud. At one of its jokes, no less. This is not a frequent occurrence with me and anime, and I consider it a decent accomplishment that, among all the other stuff it is trying to do in its short run time, LWA managed to illicit an lol in addition to lots of smiles.
LWA is only 25 minutes, so go watch it.