Little Witch Academia – 09
「ブライトンベリーアンデッド紀行」 (Buraitonberīandeddo kikō)
“Brightonberry Undead Travelogue”
In this episode: the headmistress finally gives Ursula the boot.
Ahem. Back to seriousness. This episode, the pendulum swings away from the meaningless craziness and back to the coming-of-age story. It’s the familiar LWA structure, I suppose: Akko is incompetent => accident! => hijinks ensue => everybody learns a lesson from it by the end. LWA has stuck with this formula because it works; the cast is very bad at self-reflection as a whole, so the best way for any development to happen is for Akko to stumble her way through it. Of course, this episode is more about the headmistress than Akko, but it’s development overall, including history lessons about the Golden Age of magic.
I do hope that LWA pulls back from this formula gradually, though. For one, it makes for slightly clunky storytelling. Notice how this episode is actually two halves—hijinks, and exposition—stitched together? Skeletor would get into trouble. Stop. He narrates a bit of his story. He goes off and gets himself into trouble again. Stop. He narrates a bit more of his story. Hijinks/exposition/hijinks/exposition. LWA can and has done it better before (e.g. in episode 06, the OVAs) and it just shows more in this episode (just too much narration, really), and there’s still plenty of great moments to enjoy (I’m partial to the quiet ones, myself) but use a formula enough and the working starts to show.
The other reason I would like LWA to use the formula a bit less is because relying on Akko’s screw ups to propel the plot undercuts her growth. She’s only just started to turn her stubbornness into drive and commitment (i.e. actual redeeming qualities) and it would be a shame to see her regress. One day she’ll manage to more ‘the solution to the problem’ than ‘actually the problem’. I believe. For now, I guess she’s picked up at least two talents: talking to fish, and raising the dead. That sounds like a career path already.
Let’s talk about that raising the dead thing a bit more. Remember how, back in episode 07, we were told that raising the dead was the worst? The punishment was apparently a fate worse than death. The most horrible thing you can imagine! Even murder is just ‘eaten alive by mice’! And yet the only punishment for our three stooges is more menial labour. Where’s the justice here? Am I the only person paying attention in magic class here? Yeah, I know, the headmistress is nice and it worked out well, but that’s sort of the point, right? Why is necromancy the worst? What we see of it looks both rather easy and rather harmless. There’s a lot of little bits of lore and development here that is hard to determine the importance of. As another example, the witch hunts in LWA; whenever a setting has historical witch hunts and actual witches I’m not sure what to think about it. Remember, the lesson of the witch hunts wasn’t ‘killing witches is wrong’ and was actually ‘persecuting helpless women out of nothing but hysteria and paranoia is wrong’. Now that the witches are actually poart of the setting, how am I supposed to take a casually inserted comment on the history? I love worldbuilding, and I appreciate any change LWA takes to do it, so I want to know what details are throwaway that I don’t have to concern myself much with (like ‘how do they recognise each other?’) and which ones are important pieces of lore.
Yeah, I know every week someone throws out the ‘you are overthinking it’ but 1) no, you’re underthinking it *blows raspberry* and 2) LWA does want you to think about it. Big character defining question this week: what’s Akko’s real amulet? We’re asked what the card means (it could be Diana’s actually, in which case that cut was cheating and you know it, LWA). The very fact that LWA requires such symbolic tokens of its characters means it wants you to put thought into them. LWA aspires to more than just mindless entertainment. Let’s not sell it short, here.