Little Witch Academia on inspiration (again), Panda and the Magic Serpent, and Episode 22

“There is the story about Hayao Miyazaki entering the anime industry because he was moved by Panda and the Magic Serpent.

Then he watched the movie again afterwards and was disappointed by how bad it was. Yet, even if it’s actually not enjoyable at all, it can be irreplaceable for that person. What’s important is the feelings you got from watching it, and the fact that you had admiration for it. That’s the theme we were looking for.”

Yoh Yoshinari, creator of Little Witch Academia in an interview with AnimeStyle (2013)

I’ve never personally felt betrayed by by a piece of media, but I can identify with the feeling of being inspired by something that just isn’t good.

Most recently, I experience this feeling after returning to Digimon Tri.  Disappointed, the latest episodes prompted me and a friend to return to the original series, where we made a shocking discovery as lifetime Digimon fans.

The first two episodes of Digimon . . . just aren’t good.

There is barely any animation, and what little animation these episodes do have — along with still frames themselves — is often recycled within that same episode. No, this isn’t an English dub or fault of U.S. distributor Saban Entertainment, it’s a reflection of how low-budget this series was when it first aired.

This is to say nothing of the story’s merit — and Digimon will always have a special place in my heart as the first online fandom that I really became involved with — but the actual animation is awful. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed how bad it truly was when I first watched it, and I’m not certain that I’ll be able to watch it again.

Little Witch Academia‘s emotional narrative is centered around the strongest iteration of this exact feeling.

If the rest of Little Witch Academia displayed Akko Kagari’s blind idolization of Shiny Chariot because of one magic show she saw as a child, this episode is the fall, the realization of your inspiration’s excellence, or lack thereof. The series’ stakes are much more serious — Akko lost at least some of her inherent magical aptitude, Diana Cavendish also lost her magic due to it and only regained it through sheer force of will, similar to Akko’s own progression throughout the series, not to mention the dwindling enrollment at Luna Nova — but the parallels are present.

When Hayao Miyazaki returned to Panda and the Magic Serpent without that same moment of inspiration, he reportedly found his feelings of esteem irreconcilable with the movie’s actual quality.

Interestingly enough, Panda and the Magic Serpent (The Tale of the White Serpent) was Toei’s first animated film, Japan’s first full-color anime film, and is still remarkable in Japan for its merit, despite paling in comparison to what Disney offered at that time. Miyazaki was likely but one of the people who saw the film and was inspired, just as Akko was one in an audience of many, who was inspired by Shiny Chariot. Now faced with the truth of Shiny Chariot, Akko feels betrayed by her source of inspiration.

What does one do when faced with this sense of betrayal?

Little Witch Academia has already offered a solution, one that places the feelings of betrayal almost squarely on Akko’s handling of the situation. It’s also one that plays into the metaphor for art inspiration more than the actual events caused by Chariot du Nord’s mistake the end result of which had a grave and seemingly irrevocable nature on the world of magic, not to mention Akko herself.

Previously in Episode 4, Lotte Jansson demonstrated perfectly how someone can recognize that what has inspired them may not be the best, but you can draw from that inspiration regardless. Annabel Creme’s night fall series is hardly high art — Annabel Creme isn’t even one person, and the entire story is a multi-volume mess — but Lotte owns this and embraces it. This acceptance is something that Akko needs to learn in order to move forward.

Most likely, Akko’s path will involve forgiving Chariot — especially since it’s hinted that Chariot did have understandable intentions, although that shouldn’t excuse her behavior — and accepting that what Chariot did doesn’t negate the feelings inspired by her magic show.

Imagine a world where Akko retained her magical aptitude, but never learned much of magic itself. Would she have even attempted to get into Luna Nova?

All that Akko needs to do now is recognize that her feelings of inspiration are still valuable and worth cherishing. What’s important isn’t Chariot herself but the emotions and enthusiasm that she fostered within Akko.

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3 comments

  1. Yes!!! Andrew mentioning how Diana lost her magic when she was a child, as well. Excellent spotting! I also wonder why Croix-sensei has to fly a roomba; she may have a long-standing grudge, beyond rivalry, as the reason for her feud with Ursula-sensi (de Nord). The plotting toward the resolution is moving along well.
    Your blog coverage has been great. Thanks! /M

  2. I am following this series. With all of its voice actors and wonderful story, I just love to watch it from start to finish. However, aside from the story itself, the thing that really hit me to following this series is its OVA from the anime festival or some sort way way back before the actual anime is released. The OVA is compact and filled with action, of course the voice actors are one of best part of it too.

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