hiroyuki imaishi

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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Little Witch Academia on “magic (anime) is dying.”

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“Luna Nova is reaching the end of its usefulness anyway. All I want is to collect on it before its value drops to nothing.”

-Fafnir to Akko Kagari, Little Witch Academia, Episode 5

How many times have we heard the phrase, “anime is dying?”

How many times have we heard its sister phrase, “anime was a mistake?”

Both of these memetic sayings have been repeated ad nauseam, accompanied by the latest screencaps or bits of dialogue from currently airing series, across various forms of social media. The latter is a misattributed quote to legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki, subtitled over scenes from the 2013 documentary on Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

Although “anime is a mistake” is a false line, Miyazaki has continuously and cantankerously expressed derision towards the modern anime industry — among many other things — in interviews and his own memoirs. His attitude is not a recent shift, but an opinion reiterated and repeated over time. “Almost all Japanese animation is produced with hardly any basis taken from observing real people, you know,” he said in an interview for Golden Time (translated here on rocketnews24). “It’s produced by humans who can’t stand looking at other humans. And that’s why the industry is full of otaku!”

Yet the inspiration of so-called lowbrow anime to a fledgling animator is what Little Witch Academia is all about. “There is the story about Hayao Miyazaki entering the anime industry because he was moved by Panda and the Magic Serpent,” Little Witch Academia director Yoh Yoshinari said in an interview about the original OVA. Then he watched the movie again afterwards and was disappointed by how bad it was (laugh). 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.”

This will be a bit of a stretch for some, but another framework through which to view Little Witch Academia is a continuing celebration of the anime fan.

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[Six] Your First Love is Useless, Precious, and Invincible — Space Patrol Luluco

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I didn’t expect to like Space Patrol Luluco all that much.

While it’s sacrilege to say this in front of the Studio Trigger faithful, I couldn’t really get into the antics of Inferno Cop. Studio founder and former Gainax star Hiroyuki Imaishi’s latest short, Sex and Violence with Machspeed did not interest me at all. I enjoyed Kill la Kill and, more recently, Kiznaiver, but neither of them are lasting favorites for me personally.

Until Luluco, the only Trigger properties that I truly loved were this short films of Little Witch Academia.

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Nothinglings: emotional connections in Space Patrol Luluco and Kiznaiver

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Hiroyuki Imaishi’s Studio Trigger have made a large name for themselves with admittedly few series produced — Space Patrol Luluco as a five-year anniversary celebration seemed a bit excessive — creating their own strong fanbase and distinct style rooted in Imaishi’s oeuvre and the studio’s first major project: Kill la Kill. Trigger’s Kiznaiver and Space Patrol Luluco easily invite comparisons, with the studio sometimes overshadowing both projects in the same way that series composer Mari Okada is brought up as a point of comparison between Kiznaiver and Mayoiga — her two series of the spring season.

Despite their different directors — Imaishi heads up Luluco while Kiznaiver is Hiroshi Kobayashi’s series debut as a director — the two properties find common ground in the way they address emotional connections with others.

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Don’t Lose Your Way: Fanservice and Space Patrol Luluco

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Let’s talk fanservice.

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