Little Witch Academia
If you had told me a month ago that I would willingly watch — and enjoy! — an anime about schoolgirls going about their day-to-day lives at a magic academy, I’d have laughed right in your face. Especially if you’d added that said anime was made by the same folks who brought us the fanservice-heavy Kill la Kill.
As it happens, I do so love to be pleasantly surprised.
Little Witch Academia is a 26 minute OVA produced by Studio Trigger for Anime Mirai 2013, an event meant to develop and showcase the talents of young Japanese animators. Director Yoh Yoshinari brings his distinctive art style to a lovingly drawn and animated feature full of cute characters, colorful magical explosions, and the occasional fearsome beast. From start to finish, the OVA is a vibrant tour-de-force. It really looks and feels like the production staff had great fun putting this project together, and luckily audiences responded in kind. Little Witch Academia received enough positive reception to justify the release of a followup OVA, Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade, in October 2015. This in turn led to the announcement of a full-length anime series currently in production. There is no word yet on a release date for the new series, but it will take place in the same world and feature the same characters as in the OVAs.
In the original OVA feature, we are introduced to main character Akko, a young girl who desperately wants to become a witch like her idol Shiny Chariot. Despite the fact that she is not from a traditional wizarding family, she begins attending the eponymous academy to realize her dream. To Akko’s disenchantment, however, most of her classmates find Shiny Chariot too flashy to serve as a good representative for witches in general. Even her friends, mischievous Sucy and bookish Lotte, scoff at the ostentatious Shiny Chariot and urge Akko not to be too influenced by her exploits – especially since Akko herself did not grow up with magic as they did.
Life unfolds at the school in Harry Potter-esque fashion as the students attend magic history lectures and broom-riding lessons. These lessons culminate in a final dungeon foray to search for rare treasure, during which Akko’s rival classmate Diana accidentally releases a fearsome dragon capable of absorbing magic. It’s then up to Akko and friends — with the help of Shiny Chariot’s magical Shiny Rod, uncovered by Akko during the dungeon crawl — to defeat the dragon and save the school.
Little Witch Academia packs a surprising amount of content into its short runtime. In the span of 26 minutes, we get an illuminating peek into the world, a good idea of the main cast’s personalities, and a hint of where things might lead in the future. It’s all very tightly put together to be sure, but the premise itself isn’t groundbreaking — you’ve got your spunky female protagonist with her quirky friends, the Mean Girls-esque rival with her sycophantic lackies, an evil dragon to conquer, and that all-too-familiar clarion call to believe in yourself. There is no complexity to the magic used in Little Witch Academia, either – just wands, flicks of the wrist, and showers of colors, explosions, and various other effects – but that’s not too surprising for such a short OVA, especially one seemingly geared toward younger viewers. Basically, if you’re looking for a detailed magic system on par with some western fantasy novels, you’re not going to find it here. It’s possible the writers might expand on spellcasting and such once the anime series hits, but I still wouldn’t expect anything particularly robust, since the focus falls mostly on fun magical exploits and the trials the characters face. In this sense, the OVA feels more like a western children’s fantasy story than a magic high school anime, which works to its benefit and makes it more appealing overall.
It strikes me that anime as a medium could use a stronger supply of “all ages” shows. While Little Witch Academia does indeed fall squarely into the shoujo category, its whimsical world has the potential to catch the eye of children and adults alike – moreso than one might expect for a show of this type. All things considered, the subject matter and the all-female cast could have easily led to another provocative “little girl” anime targeted mainly toward the otaku crowd, but Little Witch Academia is blessedly fanservice-free, and I sincerely hope it stays that way. As long as the same people continue to work on the anime series, I imagine that it will continue to deliver with endearing stories and quality animation.
If it weren’t apparent enough already, I greatly enjoyed my time with this charming little OVA. It’s undeniably cute, and the fluid animation and colorful character designs make it a joy to watch. It might not hold your attention for long if you’re not already drawn to stories about witches and magic, but it’s hard to deny that this is certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to more widely-appealing shoujo shows. I for one will certainly be checking out The Enchanted Parade, and I look forward to revisiting the world of Little Witch Academia in earnest upon the release of the full-length anime series.
- Well-animated with a colorful and vibrant cast
- Has the potential to appeal to both children and adults
- Fun story more in the vein of western children’s fantasy stories than magic high school
- Premise is not particularly revolutionary