Type: Short Film
Genre: Fantasy / Comedy
Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 03 Jul 2013
revised 09 Jul 2013
If you’ve been waiting for the anime answer to Harry Potter, this might be it.
Akko Kagaro’s childhood hero is a witch named Shiny Chariot, so once she reached school age, she attended an academy for witches to learn magic for herself. When a dragon is let loose during a class assignment, Akko will find out just how much magic she has really learned.
Little Witch Academia has a unique history. It was created as part of something called the Young Animators Training Project, which is an initiative to cultivate animators in Japan to stem the increasing trend of animation being outsourced, and keep the industry alive and well in Japan. Studios bid to produce these projects, and relative newcomer studio Trigger, which was founded by former GAINAX members, was selected to develop a project, resulting in Little Witch Academia.
If the GAINAX association has you wondering about the style of Little Witch Academia, it’s more of a frantic comedy like Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi; there is no Evangelion here. Still, this is not a GAINAX work. Its creator happens to be an alumnus of that studio, but Little Witch Academia is one of the first works from the new studio Trigger.
Being a twenty-five minute long one-off film, there isn’t much time to do anything in the way of character development for Little Witch Academia. This is a case where that actually isn’t a negative, as the film is a short story where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We learn a little bit about Akko, but she’s about the only one who is not a stock character.
As for the story and setting, there are some very obvious Harry Potter references, not so much in specifics but in general: the classroom layout, the broomsticks, and a teacher who looks suspiciously like Minerva McGonagall are just a few. These are more shades of Harry Potter than blatant copying, though. This is a film about students at a magic school after all, so some comparisons are probably inevitable.
The animation isn’t as refined as what you might see in a high-budget, well-known studio’s work, but remember that this is a project made to help train new animators. Character designs are good and consistent, though the animation has a bit of a “cartoonish” quality to it at times. The overall aesthetic is what you might think of as an “independent” work; something like early Makoto Shinkai. Little Witch Academia’s score is excellent, composed by none other than Michiru Oshima.
Little Witch Academia is a fun little show. According to studio Trigger, if there is enough interest, it may even become a series in the future. I certainly hope that this project picks up enough fans that we do get a Little Witch Academia TV series; there is a lot of potential packed into these twenty-five minutes.
09 July 2013 Update: Thanks to a crowdfunded internet campaign, Studio Trigger secured the financial resources to produce a second OVA! The fans have spoken, and we will be seeing more Little Witch Academia in the future!