When Little Witch Academia made its entrance first in 2013 then later in 2015, I never expected that I would someday consider the characters and their world to be one of the most satisfying experiences of 2017. In much the same way that Made in Abyss showed us a terrifying and exhilarating new kind of fantasy, Little Witch Academia took familiar conventions of magic and presented them in a masterful blend of old and new worlds.
If there was one message that was clear from the beginning, it was the creators’ love of magic and storytelling. We see this in the character designs and the settings, particularly in episodes like “Nightfall” where Lotte meets the name behind her beloved book series. LWA reflects its protagonist and her wide-eyed excitement for witchcraft. Like perpetual children, they share a complete lack of fear coupled with a bottomless optimism for the future.
It did seem like viewers were surprised at the rambunctious nature of the television series. We knew Akko was an impulsive and selfish girl because of the films; we didn’t expect episode after episode of her making the same mistakes with no resolution in sight. If you paid attention, you would have noticed the little details peppered throughout the episodic events designed to set her on the path towards confronting the evolution of magic and her own role in it. Her inaccurate transformations graded poorly, but also revealed her gift of imagination and quick action. I can’t count the number of times Akko and her friends were saved by her transformation into an ugly, but effective, mouse.
And though Akko, Sucy, and Lotte always faced consequences after their actions, they also grew stronger for them. They learned to consider the results of their decisions, as well as the importance of friendship and communication. This is what set them apart from their predecessors, and gave them the tools they needed to do what Chariot and Croix could not.
You can choose to enjoy LWA simply for its fantastical story and its marriage of old and new magics. You can also appreciate the not-so-subtle nod towards racial inequality, with pure bloods like the Cavendish family sneering at anyone of mixed or full human bloodlines. I particularly appreciated the discussions I read comparing these oppositions to the anime industry and the relationship between 2D and 3D animation. Whichever way you want to use to watch Little Witch Academia, there’s no denying that you will laugh and most likely cry by the end. This is a journey overflowing with the hopes and dreams of its makers and viewers, and one I sincerely hope you will consider watching if you haven’t already.