Anime production house Trigger has gained quite a bit of popularity since its founding back in 2011. Their biggest success thus far has been Kill la Kill, but they’ve also put out shows like When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace and Kiznaiver. But today, we’re going to talk about Little Witch Academia.
Since 2010, the Japanese Government has funded a program known as the Young Animator Training Project. While the project’s goal may seem pretty simple, (i.e. training young animators) it actually goes a bit deeper than that. Over the last few years, Japan has outsourced many animation projects to other countries, so the program’s true goal is to preserve Japan’s rich history and culture of teaching and producing animation.
In 2013, Trigger’s Little Witch Academia was chosen to be produced by the Young Animator Training Project. The roughly 26 minute short aired in Japanese theaters during March of 2013, and was later made available on YouTube with English subtitles.
The story of Little Witch Academia revolves around, you guessed it, a school that trains young, aspiring witches. The school is known as Luna Nova Magical Academy, and similar to the Harry Potter series, Luna Nova’s students must attend classes in various methods of wizardry such as spell casting, potion mixing and broom riding.
Our heroine is a plucky young girl named Akko. During her childhood, Akko witnessed a performance by a famous witch idol known as Shiny Chariot. After experiencing such a grand and flashy performance, Akko fell in love with magic, and dedicated herself to becoming a witch that could dazzle people just as well as the witch who inspired her.
Unlike most of Luna Nova’s student population, Akko doesn’t come from a magical family, meaning she never had any formal training in things such as basic broom riding before her time at the academy. This, in conjunction with her idea that magic can be used for fun, puts her at odds with Diana, Luna Nova’s best student, and one that hails from a prestigious family.
Little Witch Academia does a pretty good job of quickly and effectively establishing its world. It makes great use of its short run time by focusing mostly on its characters and story, allowing the amazing animation to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of establishing the setting and lore.
During her time at Luna Nova, Akko is joined by two other girls named Lotte and Sucy. The girls form a pretty standard trio, with Akko being the enthusiastic leader, Sucy being the creepy, weird one and Lotte being the smart but awkward one, but I wouldn’t say that they’re at all trope-y. Each girl has a really infectious personality, and I never once got bored with them, Sucy especially. Her personality led to some of the short’s funnier moments, and if I wasn’t extremely biased to chipper, happy go lucky characters like Akko, I’d say she’s definitely the best character.
While I adore the breathtaking cg films from Disney and Pixar, I will always prefer traditional 2d animation, and Little Witch Academia is this at its finest. Trigger has an art style that I’m totally in love with, but the only word I ever know to describe it with is “expressive”. It’s the exact way that I feel about Tyson “Boxer Hockey” Hesse’s art style, especially his work for Sonic Mania.
Before Little Witch Academia, my only experience with Trigger’s work was the entirety of Kiznaiver, and one episode of Kill la Kill. But in spite of them being such a young studio, Trigger displays exceptional talent with animation. Little Witch Academia is definitely not an action anime, but it definitely catches your attention when things do get a bit more tense.
The short culminates in a sky battle sequence between Akko, her friends and a dragon. Traditional magic spells don’t work on the dragon, so Akko attempts to reach the Sorcerer’s Stone, the source of all magic, in order to defeat the dragon in one shot. This entire sequence amazed me, and it was a genuine treat watching the girls narrowly avoid fire breath attacks and tail swipes while atop their brooms.
Little Witch Academia was extremely enjoyable for me. It had great characters, amazing animation and a genuinely interesting story. I’m sure Akko will come across as a bit generic to some people, but her enthusiasm and passion for witchcraft made her really endearing to me. All in all, I can give Little Witch Academia a really high recommendation.