Little Witch Academia

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.

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A look into the mind of Little Witch Academia’s Atsuko “Akko” Kagari

“Emotional pattern: yellow. Predictive ability: zero. Objectivity: zero. Traits: impulsive, selfish, pushy, simple, clumsy, carefree.”

-Croix’s personality analysis of Akko Kagari, Little Witch Academia, Episode 15

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Little Witch Academia and “a big bad” (or lack thereof)

“The show is getting boring. I still like it, but there’s no big bad.”

Naturally, this is paraphrased. Yet a common complaint of the first half of Little Witch Academia‘s television run was that there was no true antagonist. Akko Kagari wasn’t improving fast enough in her magic. Watching her fail episode after episode was becoming tedious. Diana Cavendish wasn’t Akko’s adversary as much as she was her rival. Even then it was a one-sided rivalry. Akko failed most of the time while Diana continued to garner acclaim from her peers and teachers alike.

Episode 13 marked the end of the series’ first half and the end of Akko’s complete failure. With her magic at the Samhain Festival, Akko stepped up and became the witch who impressed her peers and teachers alike. Even the visiting alumni were dazzled.

The series has now entered its second half and a presumed “big bad” — at the very least, a true antagonist — has appeared: Professor Croix.

Yet, I maintain that she too is not a true antagonist. And that Little Witch Academia doesn’t need a big bad to be compelling.

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Shiny Chariot the Guidepost

“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, interview with AnimeStyle (2013)

It’s time to talk about Akko Kagari’s Panda and the Magic Serpent: Shiny Chariot.

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The Many Faces of Sucy Manbavaran

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Every episode of Little Witch Academia reiterates the theme of inspiration. Protagonist Akko Kagari embodies this theme through her love for disgraced entertainer Shiny Chariot — which she shouts from the rooftops despite Chariot’s poor reputation in the magical world. School prodigy Diana Cavendish was also inspired by Chariot, but keeps her love hidden rather than face similar ridicule that Akko inspires.

When Lotte Yanson received her own, poignant episode about her love of night fall, a trashy and expansive novel series with a rabid fanbase, it became likely that Akko’s other cohort, Sucy Manbavaran, would receive her own episode as well. Although the main narrative focuses on Akko’s love of magic against the backdrop of magic as a dying art, supplementary stories involving other characters within the series are only natural, especially for a series that’s more episodic in nature.

I knew that a Sucy episode was on the horizon, but was also apprehensive about its execution.

Sucy Manbavaran is a deceptively tricky character. Her role in Little Witch Academia has been fairly one-note, and while that note is hilarious it also toes the line between lovably insane and genuinely awful. Giving her a sad backstory, or any backstory that explained why she is who she is, would ruin her delightful, occasionally evil, nature. Nothing ruins a joke more quickly than explaining the joke, and I was worried that Sucy’s episode would do just that.

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

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