Hello everybody and welcome to our final look at Little Witch Academia. The cute show about cute girls going off and saving the world for a mad scientist who just wanted to be the chosen one.
Having given the show a couple of days to mull over, I've come to realize that I've had a few issues with the show. Mainly it's second half than it's first half, but it's nothing terrible, like with a certain season of the otherwise enjoyable Symphogear. Huh, I wonder when that season is coming out?
But enough about lingering thoughts, what about the show itself? Well, like any good Trigger show, it takes what would be considered the normal genre conventions and changes them up in different ways. First, the show is very much their own take on a Harry Potter type series, with magic and fairies and dragons and the like, but one major difference between HP and LWA is that, in LWA, the magic world isn't secretive at all. Magic exists and is well known, but has also been on the decline thanks to science change our perspectives in how the world works. This is considered a bad thing to the old guard, who are very traditionalist, but most believe that for magic to continue to thrive, it must change and adapt, which is something we'll get into a bit later when we talk about a certain character. Heck, some of the old guard also believe that change is inevitable, but creating that change is difficult. Though it would have been interesting to see Luna Nova go over a massive modernization of it's campus. Less reliant on magic and it's precious Sorcerer's Stone and more reliant on technology, like electricity.
Then we have the supernatural or fairy creatures. Most of them tend to work as custodial or support staff, doing the cleaning, cooking, maintenance, and so on. And they seem content for their work, except for one particularly funny episode, but that may have been the exception due to what was going on there. The only supernatural creature we meet that could be considered mean is Fafnir, but he's more of a sharkloan dragon than actually being mean.
Of course, having the setting and worldbuilding is nice, but it won't do you any good if your characters aren't good and if your plot isn't compelling. This is where I have issues with LWA, mainly in the treatment of both of these aspects. They do some good things with them, but at the same time, there are some questionable decisions involved.
First, let's start with the star of the show, Akko, aka, the chosen one, who just wants to make everybody smile because she saw a popular witch do just that. She's not that much different from her OVA counterpart, but the main difference between those two characters is actually a plot point in the LWA series. Akko isn't what I would call bookdumb, but easily distracted and rather selfish at times. While she is kind and wants to help out her friends, she's usually projecting herself onto her friends instead of realizing that they have their own goals and wishes they want to do. This is a flaw that she comes to realize rather early on, though she kind of switches between remembering some lessons and forgetting others.
Her task as "Person to gain access to the Grand Triskelion" isn't made known to her until the second half. For the first half, she just kind of stumbles into completing part of the task without realizing it at all. It does occasionally make me wonder how much of the show was planned and which parts were added in at the last minute. You could actually make an argument for both, but we'll get to that later.
Now, what makes Akko different from your typical main protagonist is that she is neither the book dumb hero who's able to do things thanks to luck and overwhelming power, nor is she the kind of character what is just so overwhelmingly good at everything she does. She's more of an average type of protagonist. She's not smart, nor is she dumb. She's just easily distracted, but she is quite capable, when given enough time and practice, as well as shown great insight when it matters. She's motivated in her goals, kind to her friends, but is also flawed in that she can be selfish at times and unintentionally hurt her friends. She's actually the type of protagonist we don't get to see much these days, but that depends on how you can handle her flaws.
Next we have Akko's main rival, Diana. She's the typical foil to the main protagonist, except, for a twist, she actually isn't. Diana is the type of character who has everything Akko wants. Mainly, popularity with the students and staff, exceptionally gifted in magic, and just seems to know what she's doing all the time. The twist is that A) She's not actually mean to anybody except to Akko, but that's because Akko has a way of getting under her skin, and B) she doesn't take anything for granted. We find out later that she had to work for a lot of her own strengths and abilities, especially when she lost them for a time, and her dislike for Akko stems more with herself than anything else, and she never goes out of her way to try to sabotage or hurt anybody. She wants everybody to have a good school experience, even with Akko.
Now, one particular instance where her "know it all" attitude comes back to bite her in the ass, and it happens very early on, in episode 2, where her attempts to resolve a matter end up having the opposite effect, requiring Akko to correct it. She receives credit, but from this episode we can see that Diana is very reluctant to accept any credit that she doesn't earn. This shows up again at the end of the first half, where she's named the Moonlit Witch, even though she thinks Akko would be more deserving. It's something interesting to see in rival characters, where they're only antagonistic to their rival is because the rival is actually the one that gets under their skin. It's rather rare in most media.
Of course, a main character needs a supporting cast to help them get into trouble, out of trouble, and point out their flaws. Enter Lotte and Sucy, Akko's friends and roommates at Luna Nova. Lotte is what you would call your stereotypical supporting protagonist. She's friendly and supportive of Akko, and while she has her own motivations and wishes, she typically puts other people ahead of her. This is actually a bit different from how she's portrayed in the second OVA, where she and Akko have a very nasty fight that leads to a massive crack in their friendship. This is something that I don't recall seeing in the show, and I think it's something that should have been included in, just so that their friendship can be rebuilt as stronger than before.
Sucy, however, is not what you would consider the stereotypical supporting protagonist for the main protagonist. At least, not one where the main character is very much on the good side of the spectrum. Sucy is pretty much chaotic incarnate, usually ranging from chaotic neutral to chaotic evil. Which is funny given that we get a look at her mindscape, and at one point, she actually appears as a Star Wars fangirl, and shockingly enough, as a Jedi. She's also rather mean to Akko a lot of the time, usually snarking at her in one way or another. But, like Lotte, she will support Akko in her endeavors, but usually it'll end with her being able to test her potions on her.
What's rather disappointing with Lotte and Sucy is that a good chunk of their development happens in the first half of the show's run. When the second half starts, they're pretty much pushed to the sidelines as the series starts focusing on the plot more. This is actually where a lot of my problems for the second half come in. Characters who look like they would have more agency or be more involved in the plot disappear for good parts of the series. Which is very odd for Lotte and Sucy, who should appear more frequently.
This is more glaring with one other character, Professor Finneran. She's the hardliner of the Luna Nova Staff, and early in the second half, when things starts to change, she becomes concerned and skeptic of the changes being made. You'd think that would mean she would show up more often, but nope, she doesn't reappear again until the final two episodes. It makes me wonder what she was doing all that time. Matter of fact, the staff outside of two character's don't show up again for the second half of the series' run, which is kind of bad as you have some interesting story elements that could be told here.
The two that don't get sidelined are Professor Ursula and Professor Croix, who's own past and rivalry take center stage in the second half. Professor Ursula, who is actually Chariot, a character Akko admires, takes a on-hands approach to helping Akko, who is struggling magically compared to everybody else, but in her case, it's because she had a direct involvement in crippling Akko's magical abilities, thanks to Croix providing her with a spell that actually robbed people of their talents. This is a major different for Akko between her OVA self and her series self, where in the former, she just didn't come from a magical family, while in the latter, it was actively stolen from her, though unintentional.
Croix, who appears in the second half, is a former friend and longstanding rival of Chariot's, and their rivalry is what you would normally expect in shows like this, which can get rather murderous at times. It also mimics a lot of the rivalry between Akko and Diana, though unlike their seniors, those two girls have completely separate motivations for coming to Luna Nova and doing magic. Though it is interested to say that, if Akko and Diana were closer, or if Akko ran into Diana before Lotte and Sucy, the series might have taken a different turn.
But I think that's where part of the problem lies. The first half was a semi-slice of life magical school series that did have something of an underlining plot, which showed up in bits and pieces, which really revved up in the second half when Croix is introduced. It was clear that she was suppose to be involved since the very beginning, but because the plot really revved up in the second half, it makes me think that either Trigger couldn't pace themselves properly here or didn't have a firm grasp of what they wanted to do with the story. Clealry, it was to do something different from the OVAs, but was it really the right call?
Honestly, I think people would have been happy with a semi-slice of life magical school show. While the main plot in the second half wasn't terrible, I feel like it would have been better if it was happening throughout the entire show's run instead of being compressed like it was in the second half.
Now, that's not to take anything away from the show itself. The show is well animated, with great character designs all around, creative use of spells, as well as having strong characters with good characterization all around. After all, if you can get good characterization out of a character who doesn't speak, you're doing it correctly. And this is why Constanze is best girl. I also like how the series took the standard tropes, but instead of flipping them around too much, worked with them to make a different kind of show. It's familiar, but at the same time, does things differently where it doesn't feel stale.
So, would this be a show I would recommend? Yes, yes I would. I would also recommend the OVAs, though I would add that the OVAs are pretty much in a different universe from the TV series, so it's best to keep that in mind. While I do have my issues, it doesn't deter from a show that, in my opinion, was strong from beginning to end. Especially when Best Girl Constanze was involved.
And that wraps it up for Little Witch Academia. And thanks to that, the show I originally planned to do is now available, and is also on Netflix. It's a show that was released this year, but we Americans didn't get it until a couple of months ago. So I hope you join me this Friday as we take a look at the Kyoani series, Violet Evergarden. Until next time.