Little Witch Academia – 01
「新たなるはじまり」 (Arata na Hajimari)
“A New Beginning”
I always get the impression that I’m not quite as big a fan of the Harry Potter series as some of my peers. It’s not like I dislike Rowling’s works (and I don’t think I’m allowed to dislike them, anyway), it’s just that… I’m not as enamored? My theory is that the Harry Potter shtick—the urban fantasy, the magic school—was not quite as novel for me as some younger readers who had their imaginations captured. That’s not intended to be a patronising statement, and I fully encourage everyone embrace anything that fires up your imagination. It’s just that, I had been watching anime long before the first Harry Potter book, and ye olde cartoons had already been doing superpowered shounen and magical girls for ages. Thus, my conception of witches and wizards is more from—to throw out the ur-example—Kiki’s Delivery Service. In Harry Potter, magic is secret, exclusive, and forms its own dysfunctional society. In Kiki’s Delivery Service, magic is open, natural, and part of the everyday. More Shinto, I suppose, and the style I’ve come to prefer. Less, ‘there is magic in the world!’ and more, ‘the world is magical!’, one can say.
I’m hoping that Little Witch Academia, being something of the Japanese Harry Potter, can bridge this divide. For those of you who haven’t read our informative previews or watched the original OVA, Little Witch Academia started as something of a humble animation project before eventually ballooned into the TV anime we have today. And the strength of the original (and it’s Kickstarter sequel, to a similar extent) is that it has some of the Harry Potter magic—the wizard school, magic society, escapism—and some of the Ghibli magic—simple childlike wonder. It was all great fun, fueled largely by surprisingly high production quality. This TV series, thankfully, maintains that standard. Everything and everyone is highly animated—perhaps even over-animated. It’s not just that there’s action (and there’s plenty of action), it’s that every scene is packed with energy. That’s good, because it’s the spirit in every movement that really shouts out that we’re here to have fun. ‘Vibrant’, I think is the word.
The story side is probably not quite as strong as the animation. It seems that Little Witch Academia (TV) intends to retell its entire story from the very beginning, even beginning with a similar scene involving Shiny Chariot as we had in the first OVA. Which means it’s probably going one step at a time, with development on the slow side, making our protagonist Kagari Atusko (Han Megumi) trot through an ‘Only Muggle (But With Secret Potential)’ plotline that many of you may be far too familiar with. That’s sort of okay, though, as the ‘plot’, per se, has never been the main focus of what we’ve seen of Little Witch Academia. It’s always been, first and foremost, an excuse for the our characters to go on some sort of adventure, and to grow those characters in the process. There’s certainly plenty of room for that here. I mean, there’s no great plot reason to fight a giant fire-breathing chicken, but if it’s fun, then why not?
Of course, who’s to say what direction Little Witch Academia will go with a full TV series to work with? Considering this strong start, I think it can do all sorts of things well. Personally, though, I hope that it builds on its core strengths. More adventure, hold the angst, and just a great time all around. Not everything needs to be complicated. Let’s go back to childhood, and embrace the magic.
OP: 「Shiny Ray」 by YURiKA