Original blog post here.
You may be wondering what a Greatest Living Author watches when he’s not writing. Well, how about Harry Potter, except it’s good.
Which I supposed is a bit like saying “a triangle, but it’s got four sides”…
To paraphrase a certain famous Pro Wrestling commentator —
— Harry Potter is my second-favourite series of books.
All the rest are tied for first.
And, just so we’re clear, I hated Harry Potter before it was cool.
It’s not even the best story out there about kids at a magic school. Honestly, it’s not even in the top five.
And, yes, that’s only four. I’m talking about the fifth one now:
Arising originally from a 2013 short film from Studio Trigger made as part of a government-sponsored training program to boost the animation industry in Japan and its Kickstarted sequel (I am unclear on where, or even if, those can be legitimately viewed), Little Witch Academia is a media franchise that also got several manga runs and at least one light novel.
However, it is likely best known for the 2017 Netflix anime series. Thanks in large part to airing on Netflix making it easily available outside of Japan.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the series focuses on little witches in an academic setting:
Little Witch Academia is everything Harry Potter is, only better when measured by any possible metric. And that’s all the time I’m going to devote on dunking on Harry Potter.
Now, as a (Greatest Living) author, I’m aware that there are only so many ways to tell a story, but I feel like the whole “Chosen One” thing is overplayed, worn out and never used particularly interestingly, especially in kids’ stories.
And, yeah, Little Witch Academia does revolve around Akko, the main character, being the only one who can wield the legendary magic wand and restore the world’s fading magic. But that’s not because she’s some pre-destined hero. It’s because she’s the one character who most truly and sincerely believes in the wonder and splendour and value and the, uh … magic of magic.
She’s not going to save the world because destiny said so. She’s going to save the world because she cares about the world and she has the determination and perseverance to put in the work to be able to do it.
And “work hard for the sake of the things you believe in” is a more interesting, more meaningful, and more valuable thematic statement than “something, something Destiny”.
Reading that back, I think I’m making Little Witch Academia out to be a lot more serious and dour than I should be. Fundamentally, it’s very lighthearted, and you probably could categorise it as a comedy — though it does have its share of meaningful, insightful, and emotional scenes and plot points.
Not, I suppose, really all that different from Realmgard…
Even more than the whole “bring back the magic” thing, Little Witch Academia the story of Akko’s relationships with her multi-national gang of friends and rivals (who are basically also her friends; Akko’s non-confrontational like that), and the teachers who become her mentors.
Ultimately, the major crisis in Little Witch Academia does involve the fate of the whole world, or at least the whole magical world. Overall, though, most of the individual episodes are fairly personal and low-stakes. More than anything else, it’s the story of everyday life at a magic school, just delivered in a silly, very-rarely-servious, very anime-y way.
There is the whole “save the magic” series-wide story arc that looms over the whole thing, but for the most part, Little Witch Academia is fairly episodic and most episodes deal with one main problem, exacerbated by the fact that Akko’s not very good magic, which in turn fuels much of the humour.
Plus, one of the Professors at the magic school is a fish wearing a wizard hat.
Copyright 2021 J.B. Norman. Revised and updated 2023.
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