Wednesday 1 May 2013

Anime REVIEW: Little Witch Academia

Little Witch Academia Akko Kagari Trigger Anime Mirai 2013

The Young Animator's Training Project was set up by JAniCA (the Japanese Animators Creators Association) as a means of encouraging studios to train new young animators rather than outsourcing the work overseas. Selected studios are given a sum of money for the year, and the end product is then showcased at an animation festival. At Anime Mirai 2013 among heavy hitter studios Gonzo and Madhouse was a newcomer by the name of Trigger. Trigger was formed back in 2011 by ex-Gainax employees Hiroyuki Imaishi (director for Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, among others) and Masahiko Ohtsuka and their new studio first feature is an enchanting little short that goes by the name of Little Witch Academia.

Little Witch Academia Shiny Chariot Trigger Anime Mirai 2013
You'd fit right in a Gainax production...

Akko Kagari has joined an academy for young witches to follow in the footsteps of her childhood idol Shiny Chariot. Despite having two good friends, Lotte and Sucy, Akko struggles with class, can't ride a broom and longs to explore the showman side of her magic powers. This makes her come to blows with many other of her classmates, who believe Chariot gives the wrong impression about witches.

When the class is instructed to explore a labyrinth and bring back a rare treasure, Akko stumbles upon the find of a lifetime when she discovers the Shiny Rod, a magical item once used by Chariot herself. But things take a turn for the worst when smug top student Diana releases the seal on a dragon, which constantly grows in size as it absorbs the magic used against it. Whilst finding a way to stop the dragon, Akko must tap into the magic power lying dormant inside of her.

Little Witch Academia Akko Lotte Sucy Trigger Anime Mirai 2013
Sucy, Lotte and a rather angry looking Akko

With only 26 minutes of running time, Little Witch Academia doesn't really have time for back story. Akko's inspiration to become a witch is dealt with quickly and effectively as the short's intro, and following that everything is pretty much what you see is what you get. The plot is fairly predictable, but this is a short that's far more about the ride. This is the first opportunity Trigger have had to strut their stuff, and they use it to the best of their ability. The character design is superb, and there are excellent contrasts between the colourful school grounds and dark, dingy labyrinth. It's only short, but you get the sense this could easily be part of a bigger world with plenty of other fantastic stories to tell.

Character types are also typical, but a lot of fun. Akko is headstrong and brave, but looked down upon due to her non magical heritage. Her "rival" is Diana, top student who in typical Mean Girls style comes with her own entourage. Lotte is the typical sidekick, not particularly interesting but a valuable asset to the main character and always willing to follow. My favourite character however was Sucy, who not only had the best design (she's the pale goth girl) but the best personality. A prankster and potion master, Sucy provides some of the best moments of the short. So while none of the characters are likely to become anyone's favourites any time soon, you'd have a hard time finding anything to dislike about any of them.

Little Witch Academia Diana Cavendish Trigger Anime Mirai 2013
Bitch central

Of course, being set in a school full of witches there is some pretty obvious Harry Potter inspiration going on.  However Little Witch Academia doesn't stay comfortably within the realms of the boy wizard, and features plenty of reference to other mythologies and general magical folklore. It has labyrinths, minotaurs, dragons, a sorcerer's stone, potions, wands and plenty of other stereotypical magical things. Harry Potter will always be what everyone thinks of when they imagine a wizard school, but the additional of moe blobs is always welcome. And even though they're free of the Gainax label, the styles that made Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking so enjoyable are right here, albeit presented in a new and exciting way.

Little Witch Academia Trigger Anime Mirai 2013
Dragons. Because everyone loves dragons.

Though it might not be as fleshed out as some might like, Little Witch Academia is a magical (teehee) short that could have easily been made into a series. With gorgeous animation, beautiful scenery and unique character designs, the staff of Trigger have taken what they learnt from their time with Gainax and proved themselves as a studio to keep an eye on in the future. And with the whole thing freely available and subbed on Youtube, you don't really have an excuse not to be checking this out.

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