A fantastic OVA with a wonderful sense of adventure.
The Young Animator Training Project launched in 2010, designed to help push younger animators to stretch their muscles a bit and put their skills on display.
This year's program, dubbed Anime Mirai 2013, featured entries from Trigger, Gonzo, Zexcs, and Madhouse. I've only had the chance to catch one of them thus far, but I'm really looking forward to checking out the rest.
Studio Trigger's contribution, a 26 minute OVA called Little Witch Academia, is a fantastic watch, and well worth your time.
Little Witch Academia
Akko Kagari is a young witch who has aspired to be like her idol, Shiny Chariot, since she was a small child. Not being born of witch blood, she struggles with learning the same techniques that come so easily to her classmates. One day, the class takes a trip to a dungeon below the school, filled with monsters. Their teacher instructs them to go on a hunt for treasure, with the team that brings back the most being declared the winner. Things get out of hand, and Akko is forced to face her dreams head on.
Little Witch Academia is an underdog story that wraps itself up quite nicely within its brief 26 minute runtime. Akko is a stubborn, but hardworking protagonist that's easy to relate to. Everyone has felt like an outsider at some point. We've all had something to prove at one time or another, and Academia's protagonist embodies these traits. In an OVA as short as this one, it's important that the audience is able to lath onto the characters in as little time as possible. In that sense, I think main writer Masahiko Otsuka did a fantastic job of bringing the cast to life.
The supporting characters don't get a whole lot of time to flex their muscle, which means they have to make as big an impact as possible in a very small period of time. Akko's rival, Diana, seems like a typical rich-girl sort of character, but backs up her snobbiness via her legitimate magic skills. She's not stupid, and it makes her a fun character to watch Akko bicker with. Susshy, one of Akko's best friends, doesn't have a wealth of lines, but she makes a strong impression with her terrifying magic and goth personality. Unfortunately, Lotte's just kind of there, serving as the straight character to Akko and Susshy's oddness.
A feast for the eyes from beginning to end, Little Witch Academia truly begins to shine when you dissect its shot composition and animation. The opening sequence features a young Akko attending a performance by her witch idol, Shiny Chariot, and functions as both an introduction to the world, and a technical showcase. Shiny Chariot moves about the screen with incredible life, her vibrant magic twisting and spiraling around her. The final set piece, an all out battle, is animated action filmmaking at its finest. With key animation handled by six (sometimes more) animators, there is rarely a moment in Little Witch Academia that fails to impress on a technical level.
The art style also manages to impress by neither being overly cute or mature, instead balancing between the two. The end effect is an impressive looking OVA that avoids alienating potential audiences. Director Yoh Yoshinari and his team also avoid resorting to easy fanservice to appeal to viewers. There are multiple points during which I expected panty shots, only for them to never come at all. Given the tone of the production, I would have been disappointed by that kind of needless pandering, so to say I was overjoyed would be an understatement.
Quite a few Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann veterans lent their talents to Little Witch Academia, and it shows. Shot choice is refreshing, with careful thought put into foreground and background composition. This is a film-level production at its core, and it shows in the way things are framed. Action sequences also feature great choreography; characters are easy to track, and there's a fantastic sense of energy and movement in every shot.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Michiru Oshima's (Full Metal Alchemist, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.) excellent score. Being a relatively short production, Little Witch Academia doesn't have a huge soundtrack, but what's there is great. The main theme is a stirring and emotional piece that supports the underdog narrative effectively. Oshima doesn't get as much animation work these days as I'd like, so just getting to hear her flex her muscle again is a pleasure.
Trigger's Little Witch Academia may be brief, but it's fun, exciting, engaging, and a reminder of the kind of quality OVAs that used to be so common back in the 80s and 90s. It's a simple tale of a young girl trying to overcome a giant wall, told in the grandest of fashions. It's proof that there are some incredibly talented young people in the anime industry, just waiting to get their chance to shine. I can't wait to see what they bring to the table next.
Little Witch Academia is an excellent trip worth taking for any fan of animation.
8.0 – Great. A great example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest.
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