Fictional stories about kids attending magic school is certainly a familiar premise. In fact, as you read that sentence, I’m certain that one specific franchise came to mind. Personally, I was never interested in stories about magic school, but my girlfriend, Patti, heard about a cute show, so we watched it. That’s basically how I’m exposed to new anime.
Little Witch Academia is set in a world where magic exists but is no longer as popular as it once was. Still, an all-girls school exists to teach and train the next generation of magic users. But just like any good magic story featuring teenagers, hijinks ensue. Beware bewitching spoilers, anime-niacs!
As a child, Atsuko “Akko” Kagari attended a magic show performed by the magic-using entertainer, Shiny Chariot, and has dreamed of becoming a witch ever since. As a teenager, Akko decides to enter the Luna Nova Magical Academy, the same school Chariot attended. Akko is extremely excited to attend the same school as her idol, although the other students seem to view magic as a prestigious craft – not something for entertainment. During Akko’s journey to the school, she inadvertently meets her soon-to-be roommates, Sucy and Lotte, and stumbles across an item once carried by Chariot, what Akko calls the “Shiny Rod.” (If everything is shiny there must be no dark arts)
Akko is very energetic and passionate about learning magic, but is unfortunately quite inept at the craft. While all of the other girls are able to fly on brooms, Akko cannot. Akko accidentally gives the son of a political figure animal ears and a tail as she tries to practice metamorphosis magic (she really cast a spell on that boy). Akko accidentally revives a dead soldier and spends an episode chasing after him as he tries to regain his memories. However, her shortcomings often lead to positive results – Akko saves a professor, who is a fish, from being trapped by poachers, saves her rival, the snobby Diana, from losing control of the family fortune by her backstabbing relatives, and releases the ghost of a princess from being trapped in eternal sorrow.
The first half of Little Witch Academia establishes magic as an unrespectable craft, Luna Nova possibly closing permanently, and Akko finding small victories as an underlying plot emerges. The Shiny Rod that Akko found and carries with her is an instrument of great power, and Akko’s mentor at Luna Nova, Ursula, is actually Chariot in disguise, unbeknownst to anyone, including the headmasters of the school. Halfway through the show, Professor Croix arrives, and brings a combination of magic and technology with her in order to help Luna Nova better control its magic output while also working on a secret, nefarious scheme to gain magical power via emotions. Obviously, conflict arises, especially since Croix knows that Ursula is actually Chariot.
Chariot realizes that Croix is plotting something sinister, but at no point does Croix threaten to tell the headmasters of the school who “Ursula” really is, nor does Chariot threaten to reveal Croix’s plans to them (communication is not a major at Luna Nova). Apparently, Chariot and Croix were very close friends when they attended Luna Nova, but Croix’s lust for power drove them apart. Clearly the women had leverage over each other, but at no point was this stated nor made a point of conflict. I wondered out loud why Croix did not threaten to expose Chariot and why Chariot did not try to alert the headmasters of a possibly evil scheme from within the school. This is really the single problem that I have with Little Witch Academia because it seems like enough of a plot hole that could have been fixed with only a few lines of dialogue. Still, I love Little Witch Academia so much.
This anime is hilarious, charming, and heartwarming. One of the overt messages Little Witch Academia conveys is to believe in yourself and follow your dreams regardless of what anyone tells you – that is exactly what Akko does throughout the show. Despite all of her hardships – the inability to fly, constant mistakes and setbacks, and some of her peers looking down on her, she does not give up. Although clumsy, naïve, and occasionally foolish, Akko is persistent and brave. However, there seemed to be another message within the show.
Croix introduces incredible advancements in technology to the magic school, yet she is a villain. Croix built a machine to capture negative emotions from ordinary people in order to fuel her own version of the Shiny Rod which she would have used to reshape the world. She feeds off of citizens’ anger, which is prompted by a social media platform similar to Twitter. Croix amplifies negative feelings and war nearly comes to fruition because of it. Perhaps the writer believes that magic, or imagination, is preferable to the negativity that is easily spread through modern technology and social media platforms (COUNTERPOINT…um…nevermind…).
The music is excellent, the art is excellent, the message and characters are excellent and Little Witch Academia is excellent. I would recommend this show to absolutely everyone; it is lighthearted and humorous enough that even children would likely enjoy it too. In fact, I watched this dubbed, and although I normally hate English dubs, the voice acting was actually fantastic. This would certainly make the anime more accessible to children. Seriously – this show is magic and I encourage everyone to watch.