Little Witch Academia is by far one of the best TV animes of the year.
My criteria for what constitutes a ‘great’ anime go a bit beyond simple pros and cons. An anime can be ‘perfect’, without any narrative flaws or technical issues, but still be only ‘good’ because it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, or doesn’t have its own identity.
A truly great anime not only succeeds narratively and technically, but also gives you an amazing idea or set of ideas to latch on to. Thus, we come to what I now see as the crowning achievement of Studio Trigger thus far: Little Witch Academia.
Atsuko Kagari, or Akko for short, is a young girl who just enrolled at Luna Nova Academy, a prestigious school for witches. Unfortunately, she doesn’t come from a magical family and has to start her magic training from scratch, on top of being naturally bad at magic to begin with.
But Akko has a dream: To perform for others like her idol, Shiny Chariot, and bring happiness and hope to all who see her, and nothing will get in the way of her dream.
In all honesty, it’s much easier to describe what Little Witch Academia isn’t than what it is.
There are so many different conceptual and narrative facets to this series that it’s practically impossible to cram it all into one review, so I can safely say this is not your run-of-the-mill magic anime.
Instead of unnecessarily complex magic systems, Little Witch Academia takes more of a Harry Potter approach: magic exists because magic, and you can do really cool stuff with it.
With Trigger being a naturally inventive studio, this premise lends itself to an impossibly large well of creativity for episodic storytelling. One minute Akko is infiltrating a boys-only school searching for the Holy Grail, the next she’s traveling through someone’s dreams in a 1920s-esque cartoon fantasia.
Creativity is one of my biggest check boxes when watching a fantasy series, and LWA is easily the most creative show I’ve watched this year.
And yet it’s also not content to stop at just being a great episodic magic series. The overarching plot threaded throughout the series makes use of the technological boom of the past decade.
By episode five, we discover that magic is slowly being edged out by science in terms of making progress for humanity. The world of magic is slowly receding into irrelevance, thus it falls on the shoulders of Akko and the others at Luna Nova to keep interest in magic alive.
Little Witch Academia explores the idea of beloved traditions fading into the background and how we can keep “the old ways” alive, while also growing to coexist with new practices.
While the climax of this arc is a bit more simplistic that I would have liked, the simplicity does have a charm of its own that fills me with hope and joy.
Putting Akko at the centre of this story makes it all the more enjoyable.
Though she follows the “bumbling idiot” archetype to a T in the beginning, her limitless optimism and refusal to give in to self-doubt make her incredibly endearing.
She reminds me a lot of the typical shounen protagonist, which makes sense because Trigger loves shounen. And yet the fiery passion she breathes into her training is unlike any shounen protagonist I’ve seen thus far, making her one of my favourite main characters of the year.
The secondary cast is nothing to scoff at either. From the bashful Lotte and sinister Sucy to the tomboyish Amanda and aristocratic Diana, this series is brimming with lively characters that are all incredible to watch.
For those who remember the original LWA short film, the Shiny Chariot plot line is included here as well, but presented with infinitely more details that make her feel like a real person rather than just Akko’s inspiration.
For the animation, Trigger pulls out yet another fantastic display of artistic talent.
With some of the best colour and character designs this season and a plethora of intriguing settings, Trigger earns their “saving anime” moniker once more.
The animation itself can be simply breathtaking as well, with some of the best-animated action set pieces this year, possibly this decade. Variety is present in both form and style in Little Witch Academia, and the different animation styles and techniques that make up the show’s aesthetic make it a truly awe-inspiring production.
As for the music, Michiru Oshima (Snow White with the Red Hair) provides yet another fantastic fantasy score imbued with pomp, hype, and emotion. One moment in particular actually caused me to tear up with how warm and nostalgic the score was, and this is definitely a soundtrack I’ll be picking up soon.
Little Witch Academia is the culmination of nearly every amazing facet of anime. Creative stories, wonderful and endearing characters, and stellar animation that you can just gaze at in awe combine to create a phenomenal series. On top of that, it’s a series accessible to all ages, a trait very few TV anime possess, and I would recommend this show to my nieces and nephews just as much as I would a Disney film.
What started as a project to bring new animators into the industry has blossomed into a near-masterpiece worthy of everyone’s attention. Don’t you dare miss out on this truly magical experience.
My Rating: 9.5/10