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Interview: Masahiko Otsuka and Yoh Yoshinari of Studio Trigger

by Bamboo Dong,

Earlier this year, in celebration of the upcoming Little Witch Academia Blu-ray, ANN and the folks at Studio Trigger and Good Smile Company asked fans to come up with questions for script writer Masahiko Otsuka. We're pleased that in addition to Mr. Otsuka's insight, we also received some answers from director, creator, and character designer Yoh Yoshinari.

Produced for Anime Mirai 2013, Little Witch Academia centers around young Akko Kagari, who joins an academy for witches. She has a difficult time in school and prefers just hanging out with her classmates, but dangerous, unforeseen events require her and her friends to put their bravery and knowledge to the test. The Collector's Edition will come with 1 Blu-ray disc that includes the 26-minute episode of Little Witch Academia, a never-before-seen 66-minute making-of video, an original soundtrack disc, and a collectible 112-page art book. It will ship to international customers from Japan this September. The release is available for pre-order now.

Editor's Note: The questions for this interview were collected before the announcement of the Little Witch Academia 2 Kickstarter.

Do you think Little Witch Academia could succeed if it were a full-length series? If funding were readily available, is this something that you would be interested in pursuing?

Little Witch Academia was originally conceived as a 30-minute short. However, our director believed that this title would also be able to resonate with the general public. That's why we would love to have the chance to make this title into a full TV series one day. Realistically speaking, if this were a 30-minute episode in a TV series, we would not have been able to deliver as high a quality experience as we did with Little Witch Academia.

Were there any struggles or challenges that you faced in writing Little Witch Academia due to it being only 26 minutes long?

Indeed, there were several struggles and challenges. The director and writing staff came up with so many different ideas for the story, so I struggled a lot to organize and seamlessly weave them all into a 30-minute story.

I noticed a laptop in the main characters room. What role does technology play with magic in this world if any at all?

Magic can only be used by select people, and modern technology is slowly turning magic obsolete. Therefore, the general public has been losing interest in magic and has started to forget about its very existence.

Both Little Witch Academia and Trigger's upcoming project, Kill la Kill, have female leads. Could you tell us why the team has chosen to create action-oriented anime that center around female leads?

Hmmm, there's no specific reason for having females as the protagonists in both titles. It just happened.

There are aspects of the show that are very reminiscent of RPGs, or popular works like Harry Potter. Was there anything in particular that inspired the team in the creation of this story and atmosphere?

We believe that we have been inspired by various pieces of media, but no particular title or thing inspired us specifically during our creation of Little Witch Academia.

You mention that the academy lies on a "ley line" argued by Alfred Watkins. Why did you chose to throw in this real life tidbit? If you were to continue the story out beyond this 26 min OVA, would the academy's location have some relevance later on?

We wanted to incorporate a pseudo-magical and well-known mythological place—somewhere fit for a renowned academy to be established—into the title's world setting. That's why we decided to use the commonly known St. Michael Alignment. We also thought that would be perfect for this setting because St. Michael is also known for defeating dragons.

Did the concept of Little Witch Academia come before Project Mirai 2013's announcement, or was it the result of announcing you were participating? What were some of the difficult hurdles you faced getting this project proposed?

We came up with the concept of Little Witch Academia after we decided to enter Project Mirai. The most difficult part of this project was that we did not have a lot of time to work on it.

What hopes do you personally have for the Anime Mirai program, and how do you think Little Witch Academia has pushed them?

I personally hope that they will continue the program. If we are able to develop Little Witch Academia further thanks to Anime Mirai, I hope that our title can serve as an example of how a short from Anime Mirai can be expanded on from the original entry.

Trigger has decidedly embraced western fans, offering official streams of their content with English subtitles and interacting directly with western fans on Twitter, among other gestures. This is a bit of a contrast compared to other studio's more exclusively domestic focus. Considering that, does Trigger make anime with a global audience in mind, or are you still primarily focused on narratives and animation meant to appeal to domestic fans while simply also making it more available to western fans?

We always want to create something “interesting and fun,” but “interesting and fun” tends to rely on what we think is interesting and fun. At this stage, we are not really considering much about whether a title is suited for Japan or other regions of the world. What we want to do is support and communicate with the fans who enjoy our titles and cheer us on, no matter where they are from—Japan or otherwise. We would also like to fulfill what our fans would like to see from us as much as we can.

Many of you are well-known alumni of Gainax. What prompted you to leave such a famous studio to start your own? What were some of the challenges that came with that? Were you nervous?

We believe that we might have been too spoiled at such a well-known studio like Gainax. In fact, we were able to create titles with a lot of creative freedom while at Gainax. However, we came to the conclusion that if we wanted to do things surrounding our titles, such as communicating directly with fans in the way that we want, then we shouldn't rely on the studio. We concluded that we had to take responsibility for such things ourselves. Things were tough at first, and the most challenging part of this journey was money-related. We still worry about money, but we also want to keep creating new things. That being said, I don't think we will have a single worry-free day going forward!

Lastly, a message from TRIGGER team: We have been working full throttle on a TV series, Kill la Kill, which will air starting this fall. This title is full of our creators' energy, and it is turning into a very exciting title! Please look forward to it!

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