Note: This is a review of Little Witch Academia’s first 13 episodes, of which there are 25 in total. The show’s original Japanese release was considered one season, but I’m watching the English dub on Netflix, and the streaming service decided to split the first 13 and the remaining 12 episodes into two seasons. At the time of this writing, the second half has not been released.
Little Witch Academia and Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade were both widely well received by anime fans across the globe. As such, Trigger saw it fit to produce an entire tv series about Atsuko “Akko” Kagari’s adventures at Luna Nova Academy.
The original films aren’t required viewing for the show, as Little Witch Academia features a totally fresh start. In the same fashion as the first film, the series begins with Akko watching a magical performance by the famous witch idol Shiny Chariot. This event sparks her dream of becoming a witch that can show the world what makes magic special.
From here, we are introduced to an older Akko as she prepares for her first day at Luna Nova. To her great surprise, Akko finds out that the only way to reach Luna Nova is by riding a broom along a special path, something that she is unable to do. She eventually runs into a girl named Lotte, and in an act of either kindness or pity, Lotte allows Akko to ride with her.
As a whole, Little Witch Academia’s first two episodes hit many of the same beats as the original film. In introduces us to our principal characters, establishes Akko’s journey and shows her finding Shiny Chariot’s Shiny Rod, and getting a taste of it’s power. Only this time, she uses it to fight a giant chicken instead of an ancient dragon.
The first part of this season in general is fairly episodic in nature. One episode features Lotte’s obsession with a young adult novel series called Nightfall, while another shows the girls participating in the annual broom race. But while the majority of these episodes don’t contribute to what is going to become the overarching plot, they do give us some fun and interesting character development.
For example, the aforementioned Nightfall episode shows Lotte meeting the author of the latest series of books. In a surprise twist, Lotte is given the opportunity to actually write the next Nightfall book, an offer which she declines. Lotte cites her reason as preferring to cheer on the people that do the amazing things that she herself can’t do, rather than try to be exactly like the people she idolizes. This serves as a nice lesson for Akko, who wants to be the exact image of Shiny Chariot.
Outside of Lotte, much of the supporting cast from the films return for the series, along with some new faces. Sucy, Diana, Amanda and her crew are all back just as they were in their debuts, and the most interesting newcomer is a young man named Andrew. Andrew and Diana were childhood acquaintances, and he represents the view of the world outside Luna Nova Academy.
Andrew and his father see magic as an antiquated craft, feeling that modern technology has far surpassed what magic is really capable of. As he is further exposed to various magical feats, mainly through Akko, Andrew develops a sort of appreciation for magic, as well as a distaste for his father’s rigid views.
As I watched Little Witch Academia, the one aspect that I felt would eventually get tiresome was Akko’s botched attempts at magic. While she has great passion for the pastime, she consistently fails at even the most basic spells. But much of this changes when she starts training under Professor Ursula. Ursula sees something special in Akko, so she decides to take her under her wing.
Akko’s improvement with magic is slow to be sure, but very steady. She may frequently doze off in class, but she’s serious about getting better at magic, and the latter half of the first 13 episodes do a great job at showing this, which leads quite nicely into episode 13 itself.
This episode is thematically similar to The Enchanted Parade in that Akko and her friends are forced to participate in a historical Luna Nova event that Akko deems as bad for magic’s reputation. As such, she works tirelessly to turn the show into something special and entertaining.
Thus far, Akko has been almost hopeless when it comes to magic, and that made her performance with Lotte and Sucy all the more tense. Their performance featured Akko facing off against a giant monster as the main attraction, with Lotte and Sucy playing a supporting role.
I was impressed with how far Akko’s skill with magic had progressed, and I was always scared to see her slip up as she jumped and dived to avoid incoming attacks, and transformed into various animals to entertain the crowd. It’s rare that I ever feel like the main character might not succeed, but I found myself genuinely worried that she might not come out on top, so I was really rooting for her to win.
As a viewer, I also found myself just as mesmerized by Akko’s performance as the actual crowd in the show. When she’s fully in the moment, Akko is capable of putting on a truly captivating presentation, and may actually end up changing the opinions on stage magic of both the modern world, and that of jaded witches.
Episodes 12 and 13 also give us a small glimpse into what I assume is going to be the plot of the season’s second half. Professor Ursula, who is revealed to the viewer to be Shiny Chariot in disguise, is shown that the power of the Shiny Rod is once again needed to thwart whatever evil is coming. In order to activate the Rod’s true power, the current wielder needs to chant seven magic words, three of which Akko has already activated by the end of episode 13.
I have no idea where the plot is going to go from here, but I’m really excited to see how it’s going to play out. The first half of the season can be pretty episodic at times, but the show uses these episodes to develop the characters, flesh out the world and set up the real plot of Little Witch Academia, and I can’t wait to join Akko on the rest of her magical journey. Oh yeah, and the animation is still an absolute treat.