Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Little Witch Academia
Episodes 14 - 25 Streaming
As Akko's quest for the remaining Words continues, bringing her closer to discovering the truth about her idol Shiny Chariot, a new teacher arrives at Luna Nova: Croix. Like Professor Ursula, Croix a former student of the academy, but her focus has switched to modernizing magic through technology. There's something sinister lurking behind her gadgetry, and as her past with Chariot becomes clearer, Akko will learn some things that may change her view of magic forever.
If the first half of Little Witch Academia was about introducing the colorful characters and the zany adventures of Akko, this second half tries to put all of that development to use through a culmination of the main story. Unlike the first thirteen episodes, these twelve follow a more consecutive plot, as Akko pursues her quest to recover all seven of the Words of magic and meet her long-lost idol, Shiny Chariot. That doesn't mean there aren't still plenty of crazy adventures and goofy moments, but the overall feel of this half is much more serious, with the future of magic at stake.
Although this new focus can make these episodes heavier, the series is still brisk and engaging. This is partly due to the ramped-up use of mythology – canny viewers will immediately notice that the new opening theme begins with the image of three girls linking arms to form a triskelion, a pre-Celtic symbol found all over the world as a mark of power. This joins with the repeated use of the numbers three, seven, and nine in the show – the triskelion is a three-armed symbol, there are seven lost Words represented visually as the Pleiades constellation, nine old witches gathered in the Forest of Arcturus, and ultimately seven witches arrive to stop Croix's plans when they go awry. This is an interesting shout-out to a variety of mythologies, from the notion of a trinity to the nine worlds linked by the Norse tree Yggdrasil to the repetition of the number in Shakespeare's Macbeth. All of these symbols add grounding to the show's world, even while it pits the old world of magic against modern technology – Croix's “Sorcery Solution System” seeks to wed apps and routers to traditional magic, and unlike in The Irregular at Magic High School, this isn't a happy marriage. Croix's inability to appreciate the true form of the Triskelion feels like a direct stab at the difficulties of combining two worlds.
Despite this more in-depth use of mythological symbols and events (like the Wild Hunt), this half of the show plays out more like a traditional magical girl series, despite the fact that Akko and her friends are magic-using girls rather than actual magical girls. Croix's appearance and her use of evil pixel monsters gives the series a monster-of-the-week flavor, and her ultimate plan is something right out of Sailor Moon's Dark Kingdom. The source of her motivations in jealousy calls back to tried-and-true shoujo themes, where the “bad girl” character is typically overwhelmed by her envy of the protagonist. Regardless of how Croix and Chariot's relationship turns out, Akko's gung-ho nature has allowed her to bridge the gap with Diana over time, and her pure love of all things magical is ultimately why she was chosen to recover the Words.
This leads to the theme of working together, which is also fairly typical for this sort of show. Little Witch Academia does a good job of keeping things from getting corny, however, and Akko's infectious happiness works its own magic unobtrusively. We see this best in the character of Andrew, who moves quickly from “fascinated by” to “crushing on” Akko. Although he plays a fairly minimal role, his actions and words prove that he's really taking in her perspective and beginning to realize that life does not have to go as he assumed. Diana learns this lesson from Akko too, and while her basic personality never changes from being the cool older girl, she allows herself to once again learn to love what she does. This sets Diana apart from the majority of mean girl characters, as she comes to understand her own problems and recognize her role in perpetuating them.
Ursula/Chariot is probably the most difficult character in this second half. The too-obvious parallels between her and Akko don't help, but more at issue is the way she goes from being a strong character in hiding to a wounded character who's barely able to cope. While it makes sense, and she still gets her moments to save the day, her inability to be honest with Akko causes quite a few of the plot's problems. There's a strong likelihood that this is all in service of showing us that Akko doesn't actually need her hero to be perfect, but something about the character just doesn't quite work. The same can be said for her English voice provided by Alexis Nichols, who does a wonderful job as Professor Ursula but doesn't quite bring the same game to her Chariot scenes. Both Ursula and Chariot do steal the show whenever she's charging into battle, providing some of the most impressive sequences of animation.
Little Witch Academia's second half isn't quite as delightful as its first, but it's still a truly excellent show. Despite Croix's monster-of-the-week patterns and the heavy-handed parallels between Croix/Chariot and Diana/Akko, the series still manages to be consistently entertaining. With its well-constructed world and fun characters, as well as its interesting use of mythologies, this is a series well worth watching to the end.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A-
+ Great characters, engaging plotline, beautiful art and animation, nice use of multiple mythologies
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