Building castles in the sky is a forte of mine. From a very young age, I immersed myself in books, reading everything I could get my hands on from local library recommendations to my mother’s romance novels (which I really shouldn’t have been reading at that age and definitely didn’t understand until I was much older). In junior high school I found anime through Sailor Moon and never looked back. This coming April I will have been blogging about anime here at Atelier Emily for six years. Anime obviously means a lot to me.
It was all too easy to become lost in the media I consumed. Walking down the street with a pair of headphones, I could suddenly imagine myself figure-skating an olympic-winning routine. At night, I could re-read one of the many books stashed underneath my pillow and imagine myself as someone who wasn’t cold, awkward, and ugly. Instead, I was gregarious, beautiful, and warm.
Winter has always been my favorite season, followed closely by autumn. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the northeast. Perhaps it’s because my parents love to tell an anecdote about how my father had to shovel nearly a foot of snow to rush my mother to the hospital on the day I was born. Perhaps I just love the holiday season. There’s something calming, comforting about chilly weather that invites warm food, soft ambient light, and the coziness of blankets.
Winter can also be bleak and oppressive at times, as the days blend into each other with what little sunlight available casting long shadows in the afternoon, the dull thudding of ice breaking, or the eerie silence of snowfall. One of the best anime examples of this winter atmosphere is The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, which portrays it perfectly through cinematography, lighting, and highly-specified attention to detail. The warmth of breath materializing in the cold air and disappearing, the city lights a backdrop to softly falling snowflakes that melt in Yuki Nagato and Kyon’s hands — even in the cold of winter, warmth can be found.
By contrast, summer is oppressive. The light and heat bears down with palpable weight as cicadas sing a constant, droning chorus in the background. In winter, you can escape the chill with a blanket, a crackling fire, or a warm mug of hot chocolate. In summer, you cannot escape the heat. It makes you lethargic, bringing with it doldrums that limit activity.
Viewers of Little Witch Academia the television series will inevitably hear “Metamorphie faciesse!” in Akko Kagari’s voice, even when reading the words on a computer screen. This spell is repeated countless times in the span of a single episode and then revisited upon multiple later occasions as a key spell in Akko’s limited inventory. Akko’s transformation into a somewhat capable witch is a slow process. So slow, that it caused a subsection of initial viewers to stop watching the show, with the complaint that her growth was too gradual.
The series penultimate episode and finale shed light on Akko’s magical struggles. It gives a concrete, physical reason as to why her development took so long — although her flighty personality certainly doesn’t help speed things up — that makes sense and even ties into greater questions the series hasregarding art and anime.
“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.”
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.
“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.