by Rebecca Silverman,

Little Witch Academia

GN 1

Little Witch Academia GN 1
Ever since Aktsuko Kagari saw the witch Shiny Chariot perform when she was little, she's dreamed of becoming a witch. She's not from a witch family, but because the school that trains witches, Luna Nova, is beginning to see a decline in students with the rise of technology, Akko manages to get herself accepted. She's got more enthusiasm and heart than anyone else there, but will that be enough for her to truly become a witch?

Based on the anime of the same name from Studio Trigger (the TV series, not the original short films) Little Witch Academia is trying to be a companion piece rather than a strict adaptation or a totally new retelling. That means that while the story follows the same basic trajectory – Akko sees Chariot's show, can't find the school, etc. – it skims over some of the events of the anime and shows us the surrounding happenings that the TV series skipped. While there is some overlap, it makes for an interesting way into the story's world.

The baseline narrative is very much the same as the TV show. Atsuko “Akko” Kagari has wanted to be a witch ever since she saw Shiny Chariot perform when she was a little girl. Despite being told over and over again that she couldn't possibly make this dream come true, Akko believes in the words Chariot spoke during her show: “Reach out your hand and your story will begin.” While she may not be book-smart, Akko is full up with hope and determination, and this results in her getting admitted to the witch academy Luna Nova. Just getting in appears to be the easy part, however: witchcraft is a long and noble tradition dating back centuries, and it does not run in Akko's family. Under normal circumstances Akko wouldn't have gotten a foot in the door at Luna Nova, but times are changing and technology is beginning to occupy the place magic once held. This means that Akko's presence (and tuition, presumably) is badly needed at Luna Nova, a truth that not everyone is willing to recognize.

This may well be linked with the disdain for Akko's hero, Shiny Chariot, something she's even more unprepared for than the broom stop to school. With its potential obsolescence looming, magic needs to find new and different ways to survive in the world, but Chariot's magic shows seem to be regarded as vulgar. That's a word that is applied to Akko as well: most of the students don't think she belongs at Luna Nova with her common heritage and wholehearted embrace of Chariot as a great witch. While there are a few girls she wins over, not the least of whom is her roommate Lotte, the Queen Bee of the school largely treats her with disdain, and other girls seem set to follow her example. In an interesting mild change from the original, Akko's other roommate Sucy seems to fall more in the disdaining, or at least disinterested, party; she doesn't seem to actively dislike Akko, but she acts like she doesn't have time or effort to waste on her. While anime Sucy is certainly not a warm and fuzzy character, this one comes off as colder and more distant, as if she's hanging around with Akko and Lotte simply because she has to.

Artist Keisuke Sato does a credible job capturing the style and energy of the characters and world, and if it lacks the dynamism of the original, that's more likely due to the fact that this is a still medium. Sato seeds little Easter eggs throughout the book for those who are familiar with the story, such as the titles of books or background characters, which makes for a fun hunt while reading and encourages you to pay attention to the artistic details. There's little to no fanservice, with heavy shading employed whenever we might see up Akko's skirt, which really does make this a good all-ages title. The only thing that doesn't quite work is the tone in Diana's hair, which isn't quite as subtle as it could be.

The content of the book covers Akko's arrival at Luna Nova to the theft of the Sorcerer's Stone, and while it does feel a little rushed at times, it largely keeps up an engaging pace. While it isn't quite as polished and charming as its original, Akko is a character who can stand on her own no matter what format she's put in, and her unbridled enthusiasm and refusal to give up when the odds are against her shine through. Lotte's quiet appeal also comes across decently, which makes Sucy the biggest disappointment of the volume. Something of her cunning is lost in translation, which is a major shame, since she's such a fun character in the original animated format. On the whole, however, this is a decent companion to the series or a good way to introduce someone to the world and the characters. It isn't the anime, but it does manage to stand on its own two feet despite that.

Production Info:
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : B

+ Akko is still a dynamic character, interesting companion aspects. Art has some good details.
Not quite as exciting as the original, Sucy's fun is lost. Feels a bit clunky in terms of pacing.

Story & Art: Keisuke Sato

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Little Witch Academia (manga by Sato)

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Little Witch Academia (GN 1)

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