Little Witch Academia – 08
「眠れる夢のスーシィ」 (Nemureru Yume no Sūshi)
“Sleeping Dreamer Sucy”
Little Witch Academia (and a lot of Studio Trigger, really) has never made a secret of the influence of Western animation in its works, but it’s an episode like this one that really hammers the point home. I suppose anime, from Astro Boy up, has historically drawn a lot from the works of Disney, it’s just that LWA has decided to be explicit about it. These Western stylings seem to be something that LWA breaks out more the more off-the-rails it goes, and indeed this week packs all the unhinged crazy that one may expect from a drug induced reverie.
It was all hearty fun while it was running, but looking back on the episode, I do kinda wonder what it was all about. Journey to the centre of the mind stories do pop up now and again with fair regularity, and they’re usually direct ways to uncover hidden aspects of a character, maybe develop their relationship with the person who learns these secret things, and perhaps even make a point about humans and their quirks. Our dive into Sucy’s inner self, though, doesn’t really reveal anything that we don’t already know. That Sucy is something of a horrible person all the way down. That her relationship with Akko is one based on abuse and Stockholms. That unless we forcefully suppress the whimsies of our personality or they’ll, er, merge into a giant monster and devour our soul. Right. Oh, hear that? That’s Jung, rolling in his grave.
Obviously, little of this episode is supposed to be taken very seriously. But here’s where we once again bump into one of the great dissonances of Little Witch Academia. Does it want to be a coherent, progressing story with continuity, with character development and an overarching plot? Or does it want to be more akin to the just-for-fun Saturday morning cartoons that it adores, able to shake things up with whatever crazy thing, safe in the knowledge that when the episode ends continuity is reset and status quo is restored? The two approaches undercut each other, and striking a balance is a tricky thing. Ducking with ‘it was all a dream’ (or was it?!?!?!) at the end, for example, does let you burn the house down in the episode itself without repercussions, but also sabotages any chance of real development. What do our characters take away from this 20 minute escapade? Apparently, nothing.
Little Witch Academia is still heaps of stylish fun whatever it does, and a great watch, but I think it’s possible to be stylish fun and still, perhaps, aim a little higher. Flip Flappers, an even more stylistic magical girl show, for example, actually went out of its way to make use of its style in its storytelling, whereas for LWA the style seems to be more of something that ebbs and wanes by its own whims. Sure, it’s enjoyable enough still, but I’m not sure how much of my enjoyment comes from playing spot the reference and how much is from the substance of the episode. We know from, say, episode 06 that LWA does, on some level, want to be a full-fledged coming-of-age story, so perhaps spending and entire episode with zero pay-off on that front is an overindulgence. Don’t just be flippantly didactic then throw it all away, LWA. Just a tiny step further and you could have made something out of it.
Instead, I guess the moral of the story is, er: don’t do drugs. On a very special episode of Little Witch Academia.