Review: Little Witch Academia’s First 13 Episodes Are Less Than Spellbinding

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Little Witch Academia, produced by Trigger, is a Netflix Original anime that follows an ambitious young witch-to-be named Atsuko Kagari and her adventures at the Luna Nova academy for witches.

From the start, Atsuko, or “Akko”, is a fairly stock protagonist who compensates for her lack of experience and skill with sheer determination, resourcefulness and a lofty dream to pursue (becoming a famous witch like her idol, Shiny Chariot). She can’t even find a way into the Luna Nova academy until another student, the bookish Lotte Jansson, gives her a lift on her magical broom. From there, Akko meets more students her age, like the crafty Sucy Manbavaran, and the prep-student Diana Cavendish.

Little Witch Academia’s whimsical, light-hearted narrative and writing is served well with a colorful animation palette and a relatively cartoonish drawing style for the characters. The magic spells are a visual treat, and the 3-D animation during a broom-racing scene is a highlight in the series. The characters are all voiced earnestly (the Japanese voices). Visual motifs of witches and paganism are well-implemented, from pointy hats, to magic brews, to monsters and deities in constellations and tarot cards. The series also has some meta-commentary, such as the clash of the romantic past (witches and magic) versus modern business and technology, and this clash is made more relevant when Akko defends the magical past, since it is tied directly to her dream.

Throughout the first 13 episodes, Little Witch Academia goes through a number of animation tropes, cliches, and conventions for the characters and plot, from the determined-underdog protagonist to the quiet, bookish girl who learns courage from the energetic lead to the lofty, superior girl who grows to respect the lead. The episodes’ material is similarly stock, and nothing resembling an overall plot emerges in the first 13 episodes other than Akko slowly improving her magical skills. Otherwise, there is little payoff, and the first 13 episodes fail to be more than the sum of their parts. Adventures like reanimating a soldier’s skeleton or visiting Sucy’s inner mental world are amusing at the time, but leave no lasting implications on the series. It’s all surface material, with the simple inner plot remaining unchanged.

Overall, Little Witch Academia could serve as an introduction-level anime for those new to Japanese animation, but otherwise, it’s just a filler series for a rainy afternoon.

Score: 5/10

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