Little Witch Academia – 02
「 パピリオディア」 (Papiriodia)
Finally, now, in episode 02, we’re putting the academy in Little Witch Academia and actually going to school. And it turns out, magic school is just as capable of boring and monotonous as Muggle school, just with a slightly higher chance of lung cancer. It’s good, I guess that Little Witch Academia starts of showing things this way instead of throwing the books out the window and try to turn its school setting into an action show. Often you’d see shounen anime aimed at slightly younger audiences with school settings just as a formality, where students are too busy goofing off/saving the world/playing card games to actually go to any classes. Not LWA! Being nominally a magical girl show, I guess it feels the need to at least be somewhat instructional to the younger generation and offer more than just escapism from the classes many of them no doubt detest. Every school has its constants: creepy teachers, boring lectures, hostile cliques. Rather than pretend they don’t exist because MAGIC, let’s have our protagonist deal with them so we can empathise with her struggle. I approve the undercurrent of realism to the fantasy, even if LWA is hardly the only story that does that. What I never see done, though, is these magic schools teaching anything that isn’t magic. This is still primary schooling, right? Do witches have no use for grammar or mathematics? Didn’t someone mention Pythagoras? Are these people too good for our Muggle geometry?
I suppose the actual lesson in all of this is about the nature of education itself. While it’s good to recognise that classes can be terrible, it’s equally important to stress that they don’t have to be terrible. Atsuko is, by all accounts, a poor student (she’s the protagonist, after all), but she’s capable of memorising all the text from her card game. Turns out, when you don’t just read from a textbook (which is the absolute worst way to teach history, by the way) and actually turn your information into something engaging, it sticks. I tell you, today I can’t remember how to do any calculus. Not even a little. Magic: The Gathering? No problem. When people want to learn, they’ll learn better. No duh, right? But why do we still expect to see teacher’s like the language professor who, knowing that no student has managed to decipher her scribbles since she started teacher, still starts her lesson with it? Why does she do it? To beat a sense of inferiority in her students? Why not try positive reinforcement instead? In world that can rely on literal magic there’s basically no excuse to have a lesson that can’t engage students.
Let’s not give the trading cards too much credit, though. There’s only, what, bloody twelve of those things but they’re still sold in random booster packs. That’s downright predatory monetisation. Anyone want to take bets on how much money Atsuko sank into this wallet trap? Sell all the merch you like, but baiting children with artificial scarcity deserves a special place in hell. Oh, I know why Shiny Chariot has disappeared for so many years. If I was her, I’d take the money and run, too.
ED: 「星を辿れば」 (Hoshi wo Todoreba) by 大原ゆい子 (Ohara Yuiko)