Little Witch Academia (plus added commentary)

So! Studio Trigger. Gurren Lagann. First serious independent release. That’s all I’ve got, I’ve been waiting for months, let’s get this shit on.

Little Witch Academia

7:23 – Man, I’m really enjoying this, but I gotta pause or these thoughts are gonna vaporize.

First, I absolutely love this guy’s visual style and use of animation. Everything he creates feels like a living sketch, and the way he infuses a wide scattering of anime character designs (drawing back way further than the current standard of very similarly designed body types and faces) with divergences into Western-cartoonish exaggeration makes for an incredibly vivid visual feast. We need more stuff like this, or mainly things that simply diverge from the standard styles and embrace how anime can be wildly stylized and draw from a vast vocabulary of visual influences.

Second, the themes of this thing immediately remind me of Gurren Lagann, and paint a very strong picture of how this guy feels about art that is just so clear in the style of the things he creates. He revels in the absurd, the over-the-top, the gleefully melodramatic and the unabashedly pulpy. That first big line – “believing is magic” – says it all; he wants the viewer to embrace his vision without a hint of cynical doubt, loving it the way only a child can truly love a story. His art is an expression of that love of truly unquestioned, un-self-conscious, exaggerated storytelling. And the protagonist here clearly mirrors his own feelings, with her passionate defense of a showman widely considered gaudy and beneath serious magical (or, by proxy, artistic) consideration. Life is too short not to love what you love, or to start making apologies for it.

8:22 – Another point on that front – the value of childhood heroes in inspiring a lifetime of dedication and emulation. I think this is more than a little autobiographical.

13:04 – Normally it’s impossible to make an action story with a vaguely-defined magic system and still maintain actual stakes/tension in conflict (because the audience doesn’t know the actual extent of Our Heroes’ powers). This show neatly sidesteps that because it’s not at all interested in that kind of tension, and is just a visceral ride, so they can have fun giving the characters whatever vague, visually interesting powers they want.

20:08 – Sucy’s design is sweet. I love how her arms just fade into her wobbly profile when she isn’t using them, as well as the very tidy progression of her potion tricks.

22:55 – Dragon’s unhappy face is perfect.

And Done

Well! Not much to talk about in closing; that was just a really fun, well-constructed ride throughout. Trigger have successfully proven the world needs more of them; now please, fund yourself a full season of something. We’re all waiting.

That was my original post on the topic. However, an unrelated discussion brought the issue of this OVA’s “point” back into question, and so I clarified my positions there. I’m paraphrasing the person this discussion was with for clarity’s sake – I hope not to misrepresent anyone’s viewpoints, but this is primarily about explaining my own interpretation of the text, and nothing should be drawn from the prompts beyond their serving to prompt my explanations. Anyway.


Wasn’t Little Witch Academia just another cliched shonen success story? And why did all the other characters hate her idol, anyway?


Regarding Little Witch Academia, I read that show as a direct defense of that kind of exuberant, obvious, elevated storytelling. The entire episode itself was a mirror of what the protagonist loved about her childhood hero, and the fact that both of the rivals were inspired by her to go into that field was, in my opinion, the director saying “the ultimate defense of the cliched, exuberant, and absurd is that it will inspire future generations to strive to create that same kind of connection – and I’m living proof.” The hate the community had for her inspiration isn’t really about magic, though I think the metaphor works – it’s about the disdain shown in the real world towards so-called “low art” like Little Witch Academia. The story was standard but well told, the craft was vivid and very unique (we need more experiments like that art style), but probably my favorite thing about it was its strength as a metaphor and a very personal statement of purpose from those creators.


How can a show have a point if the main character does undergo any kind of emotional journey? The heroine of this show didn’t grow up in any way, or learn anything about herself. The only reason she wins is because she randomly finds an overpowered wand – what is it promoting, materialism?


I don’t think she actually learned anything within the actual adventure – there was no character arc there, you’re right. I think the point was that the spectacle of a crowd-pleasing entertainer inspired both her and Diana to follow that path, and the show as a whole is supposed to argue for the same thing regarding art and animation – that art as inspiring spectacle can be a noble goal on its own, and helps accomplish the critical task of inspiring the next generation of creators.

Her finding the actual wand of her role model seems like shorthand for “we are all held up and made greater by the passion of our influences” – it was discarded as junk (low art), but made priceless by the person it inspired to follow that path.


But how can this show say anything about the real world if it has no grounding? Everything in this show happens almost at random, or for plot convenience’s sake. Doesn’t the show need to have more believable stakes and narrative to actually say anything effective?


The events are not given weight or tension because it’s irrelevant to the point they’re trying to make – in fact, if the show had been anything other than an unrealistic spectacle, it wouldn’t have mirrored the role her childhood idol fills in her world (flashy, but without substance), and thus would not actually work as a metaphor in the first place. I’m not sure what message you’re talking about them trying to convey here, but her “earning” some narrative victory is not the point of the show – the point of the show is made as soon as she transitions from a child idolizing a vapid entertainer to a mage in training still inspired by that entertainer. The rest is just a fun, flippant adventure that maintains that symbolism (like the thing with the wand – it’s useful as a thematic symbol of her relying on the inspiration of her childhood to forge her own path, not as a marker of emotional growth) while essentially acting as an animated form of the performance that inspired the protagonist.

You keep picking at the narrative flippancy of the adventure they go on, but I’m saying all that stuff is basically unrelated to the thematic point of the show in the first place, and is in fact perfect for the kind of art the show is arguing has the right to be respected.

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