Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (24)

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Episode Synopsis:

Despite her weakened magic, Chariot confronts Croix in the hope of stopping her plan to forcibly reach the Grand Triskelion. However, Croix’s manipulation of Luna Nova’s magic goes far deeper than anyone else suspects, and she heads to Arcturus Forest atop her magi-tech siege engine to break the seal of The Nine Olde Witches and restore the world of magic on her terms. The disruption of magic also dumps Akko and co. into the forest, where they see that Croix’s plan has not gone as intended. Will Akko succeed where her idol and mentor failed, and reinvigorate magic throughout the land?

Review:

Episode 24 is a solid penultimate episode, but one that leaves me a little perplexed. It’s got bursts of high-octane Trigger action, some emotional moments between great characters, and a heartwarming ending that then seems to punt the conclusion into episode 25. It feels like the writers are having a tough time sticking the landing on the finale, but they’re still making a good show of it nonetheless.

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Things kick into high gear almost immediately as a partly de-powered Chariot faces off against Croix and her techno-magic. Even after the intervention of some of the faculty, Croix is several steps ahead, having long ago put Luna Nova’s magical energies under her control.

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Yeah, I’ve been planning this for maybe… 13 episodes now, so bite me

With the literal push of a button, she’s able to take out the last few people standing in her way before her titanic obsidian golem/magic rod takes to the skies and plows ominously towards Arcturus Forest. It’s a hell of a scene, on par with any of the action set pieces we’ve seen so far, and accompanied by some classy foreboding organ music (something that always earns at least a golf clap from me).

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Man, the villains always get the coolest scenes

Once Croix reaches the seal, she subdues Chariot and has her robot laser straight through the ward. Her long-running scheme works perfectly, until she sees that the Grand Triskelion is not the world-changing magic she believed, but a mere parlor trick by magic standards. Her rage and frustration at this discovery is wonderfully realized, and it’s hard not to sympathize with her. After all, though her methods are obviously immoral, her goal is ostensibly noble; to prevent magic from vanishing from the world and restoring it to a place of wonder and respect. The problem is that her quest is tainted by her own bitterness and inability to see the simple joys that make the art worthwhile.

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This oversight bites Croix in the backside almost immediately, as her robotic seal-breaker goes into overdrive. The anger Croix spread has become too strong, and her machine is now beyond her control. Not the most subtle moral lesson, perhaps, but a worthwhile one. It’s only the actions of Chariot and Akko (whose party arrives in the nick of time after Croix’s magical chicanery dumped them into the forest on their way home) that stop the device.

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Okay, sometimes there heroes get cool ones, too

Akko has a lovely little reunion with Chariot, acknowledging her as both her inspiration and the person who guided her, and vows to continue her hard work at becoming a magnificent witch. This idealistic energy unlocks the Shiny Rod’s full potential and reveals the final Word, restoring life and color to the bleak forest. In any other show, I’d be gagging a little at the feel-goodiness of it all, but LWA has played it so straight that I still found myself invested.

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And then things go a little bananas. With less than a minute to go, Croix’s magical app starts blaring alerts as a black magi-tech rocket is seen blasting into the stratosphere.

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Wait…  a WHAT?!

What the HELL, show?! I thought your ending felt a little truncated and you were probably going to use the last episode for denouement and lighthearted shenanigans after two pretty heavy ones. Instead, it looks like you’re pulling out some sort of final boss that had absolutely no lead-in or explanation? Was this Croix’s backup plan in case her robot failed? A magical ICBM?!

Summary:

I really don’t know how to feel about this episode after that last bit. The rest of it was quite good, even if the final moments felt a bit rushed and the B story with Andrew and his father trying to deal with the riots in the country beyond Luna Nova didn’t amount to much. All of the elements for a great ending were (and are) still there, but I fear that the writers may not have felt it was enough. LWA has been a pretty spectacular ride so far, and I’d hate to see it tarnished by a final episode that feels pulled out of someone’s butt. You haven’t steered me wrong yet, Trigger, don’t you start now!


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (23)

Believe in me, etc., etc.

Episode Synopsis:

With Akko nowhere to be found after the protest, her classmates begin to worry. Diana calls out Ursula/Chariot, and extracts some significant context to the recent goings-on. As Ursula no longer has the nerve to face Akko, Diana proceeds to rally Lotte, Sucy, and the B crew to help track down their wayward friend.

Review:

All too soon, the endgame is about to begin. This episode serves to wrap up the last of our major loose ends and brings us right to the very edge of the climactic confrontation with Croix. Notably, a third of the episode is a flashback that finally fills in the details of Croix and Chariot’s interactions ten years ago.

Come now, Scott – I saw this revelation coming half the show ago when the symbol wasn’t on the Blue Moon card.
(I did get served by the soccer thing, though, so I’m probably just breaking even)

Something that bugs me about the flashback is that I’m not sure exactly how to feel about the whole Dream Fuel Spirit thing. Chariot seems shocked when Croix details the process after a few shows, but the wording is so similar to what Croix said to convince Chariot to start using it in the first place that I feel like Chariot’s guilt is supposed to stem primarily from being unable to tell what exactly she was doing. That angle doesn’t really seem to be in text of the show, though – and I think the reason for that involves a dissimilarity between my culture and Japanese culture.

From my limited exposure to the latter in anime, it seems to me that it would be frowned upon if not totally unacceptable to claim any kind of extenuating circumstance that led to any end result that you were involved in. Are you an admiral who limped back to Earth in a totaled battleship after one of your captains orchestrated a noble sacrifice with his even more damaged ship to prevent the entire fleet from getting routed? Hope you’re ready sit in silence while his younger brother cusses you out as a murderer for, like, the rest of your life even though you made the best decisions you could with the information you had at the time, there was really no way he was ever going to survive contact with your dramatically superior foes, and it was his idea to heroically serve the greater good by providing an escape opportunity for as many as could take it (it’s been a while since I’ve seen Space Battleship Yamato, but I think that’s how it goes down because I remember it really bothering me how nobody ever told anyone else what happened). Similarly, did your best friend trick you into burning the magical faculties of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people? Even if you couldn’t have known that that’s what you were doing, that’s what you did, and your psychopathic associate can carry on her merry way and hold it over you whenever she wants because she didn’t actually do squat. God, how is your entire country not populated exclusively by schemers and backstabbers for lack of any disincentive to-

*ahem*

As far as Croix’s interactions with Akko, I think it’s worth remembering that her plan to brute-force the seal on the Triskelion is only going to get the chance to work if she can complete it before Akko can unlock it properly with Claiomh Solais. Surely Croix considers the odds of the dunce actually pulling it off to be pretty small, and her main priority remains completing her work without anyone suspecting her role in the recent tumult, but, if, in the course of her other activities, she had opportunity to misdirect Akko (as in the Amanda episode) or distance her from Chariot (as in the previous episode)… eh, it was worth a shot (even if some of the attempts failed, as in the episode with the tree Wagandea [side note – did Ursula say that Wagandea goes up forever? Even pre-civilization Yggdrasil was shown on a globe in space in episode 15’s history lesson – what is going ooonnn]).

Back to the present, Diana’s conversation with Akko also seemed to come right up to what I would consider to be the main point without actually saying it or even making any particular effort to imply it. The way I figure it, assuming Diana and Akko idolized Shiny Chariot equally in their youths, Diana was already being taught magic when the event occurred, and had, as the heiress of one of the most venerable witch lineages in the world, access to resources well beyond even the average witch. Akko, on the other hand, probably had no reliable information about magic and didn’t even meet another witch for ten years. A more fair comparison in ability than the two girls now might be Akko now compared to Diana as an eight-year-old.

At any rate, all of the players are now ready for the final battle (or as ready as they’re going to get).

Summary:

This episode felt a little bit obtuse to me, even if it did answer a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now (Whadjya do to the MOON, Chariot?). Most of the drama works pretty well, though, and Diana’s time in the spotlight is well spent.

Keep an eye out for Sucy’s effort to keep Lotte’s tears in her face, too – it’s classic.


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (22)

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Dun dun dunnnnnn!

 

Episode Synopsis:

The riots from the soccer matches, and the enmity between the countries, have worsened.  Britain’s leaders, Andrew’s father among them, have begun down a path towards confrontation with another continental nation, probably France (although they are not named).  Of course, this has nothing to do with Akko… until she discovers that Croix is using her techno-magic to keep the two sides angry as a way to create additional magical energy and pursue some kind of dramatic end-game.  She confronts Croix, and the fallout from this leads to the reveal of Shiny Chariot, the cause of her disappearance, and a dark secret that may stop Akko from pursuing the Words.

Episode Review:

Before we get too deep into the review, I just want to say that Andrew’s dad is pretty good at cutting a dramatic figure, even when he really shouldn’t.

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This is a man that knows how to turn off a television with extreme prejudice

 

Before we go any further, though, I think it’s appropriate to post a SPOILER WARNING here.  We generally do spoil most of our episodes as we review them, but this one is a lot more spoiler-y than usual, in the sense that it would be a lot more dramatic and impactful to watch this episode than read about it.

At last, we’ve reached the pivotal point of the season.  Croix’s plan has left the lab and moved onto a national stage, a crisis is rising, and the major arcs of Akko, Croix, Ursula, Andrew, and probably Diana are all getting ready to intersect.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Croix’s plan is not super original as far as anime villain plots go.  Gaining power from negative emotions and using them to do… whatever it is she’s planning…

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With a name like that, you just know this plan isn’t going to be puppies and rainbows

…is a pretty standard trope.  That said, the explanation of this large plan was given alongside the explanation as to why Akko is basically the world’s worst witch (Shiny Chariot’s show accidentally? intentionally? stole the audience’s magical aptitude to generate magical energy), and that actually did a really good job of tying together many of the things that have bugged us all season.  That event is why Akko is bad at magic, why she can’t fly on a broom, and also explains why Ursula was so reluctant to reveal herself as Shiny Chariot.  It’s not just that Ursula would have to deal with Akko fangirling on her for the rest of her school life, she also would have to explain her very dark past and risk losing both Akko’s friendship and (perhaps more importantly for Ursula) Akko’s pursuit of the Words.

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Of course, putting off this painful explanation means that it happened at the worst possible time instead

So, nice job on that one, Trigger, it explains a lot in one fell swoop.  Of course, we don’t know everything yet; there’s still more to learn about Croix and Ursula’s relationship, as well as –

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OK, what?  Ursula, you have some SERIOUS explaining to do.  I thought that was a charming background detail, but the shape on the moon is RELEVANT!?  We’d better circle back around to this, and soon.

Akko is, of course, emotionally devastated by the revelations, and now I’m sure it’ll be up to her friends to get her back on track.

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Plus, someone’s going to have to stop, or at least hold off, Croix before there’s another European war.  Come on, Diana (and maybe McGonagall), show me what you’re made of!

With the big drama going on, there are a number of other musings I want to touch on.  For one, Croix’s reveal does have one major plot pitfall (other than its standard-ness) – no part of it appears to hinge on Akko or the Shiny Rod at all, at least at this point.  So why did Croix spend so much time befriending Akko?  Her reveal didn’t take the form of a dramatic betrayal of some trust Akko had in her; Akko basically stumbled onto Croix as the plan was beginning; Croix was surprised to see her there at all.

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Was it just to hurt Ursula?  Maybe, but that doesn’t seem like it was a major goal either, just kind of a side project for Croix.  In short, I don’t know why Croix ever played “good professor” with Akko, but maybe there’s more to come.

 

Next up, the riots.

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They make a strong statement

As silly as it is to imagine Britain and France going to war over a controversial referee call in a soccer match, I do have to wonder how European viewers are feeling about the show.  Here in America, I’m pretty used to my country being represented as a shady, immoral, vaguely threatening but usually incompetent villain that menaces Japan from afar.  Or to the assumption that all US citizens are either gun-toting cowboys (for the men) or blonde airheads (for the women).  It’s… a depressingly common portrayal in anime.  But now, out of the blue, it’s Europe’s turn, and their characterization is being one soccer riot away from a war.

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So to any of our European readers – what are your feelings on this episode?  Leave us a comment; I’d be fascinated to read it.

 

Also of note: Andrew’s character development.  Andrew’s difficult relationship with his powerful, brook-no-interference father, and how the heavy burden of his father’s expectations of future leadership is weighing on him, are their own small but well-told story.

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In almost the background of the show, Andrew is having his own quiet arc.

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Real talk, though, Andrew – you may always feel the need to look proper, but some of the poses you strike look ridiculously uncomfortable.

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Seriously, what are you doing?

Maybe take some more cues from Akko.

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Bad example.  That looks a lot more fun… but still uncomfortable to hold

Finally, as we approach the endgame of what has been an enjoyable ride, I do find myself feeling a tinge of regret: I don’t feel like we really got enough time with Lotte, Sucy, or the academia part of Little Witch Academia.  Well, maybe they can do a sequel, or a spinoff or something.  LWA Gaiden: Diana and her Terrible Toadies?


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (21)

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Episode Synopsis:

The sixth word is here; “Lyonne”. Lyonne seems to hold special meaning for Chariot and Croix. When Croix deceives Akko into climbing the forever tree Wagandea close to the time of magic stealing pollen, Akko’s faith in Ursula-sensei is pushed to an upper limit.

Episode Review:

Wait….
Wait a minute….

There were TWO episodes all about Diana and I missed BOTH OF THEM?!?!

Life is simply unfair…

We are back to word hunting, and it’s about time too because we are nearing the end of the show. Episode 21 does a nice job of cementing Ursula-sensei’s relationship with Akko, giving Croix some character development goodness, and bringing us towards Croix’s final plan for Grand Triskellion domination.

This episode is also riddled with problems, and that’s saying a lot coming from me. This show makes me really happy each week and I generally forgive a lot.

To start the episode off, Akko learns of the sixth word, “Lyonne”. It’s nice to see Ursula-sensei get slightly miffed with Akko as she asks for the word’s meaning and later when she’s hellbent on climbing the sacred tree Wagandea. Akko’s “brattery” seems to have hit a whole new level. She blindly accepts Croix’s advice (even though it’s led her to trouble before) and takes off for the tree to fulfill her selfish wish of meeting Shiny Chariot. Little does she know, the tree is ready to produce a pollen that will strip a witch of all magic abilities.

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So trustworthy….

 

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Akko get with the program already!

At this point in the show…I really feel like Akko needs to grow up. I certainly understand that she is the Chariot to Diana’s “Croix”, so she’s supposed to be a tad immature, but her desire to meet Shiny Chariot is a selfishness that borderlines on infuriating.  There’s a moment in the school library where Diana’s little toadies thank Akko for returning Diana to the school.  It was great and I finally felt like Akko was maturing not just as a wtich, but as a person.

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Bask in it Akko…this will never happen again…

Later on in the episode, when she resists Ursula’s help as she climbs the tree to her “almost” doom I couldn’t help but pull at my hair a little. Do you not notice that Croix has led you into danger before? Have you not realized that you are on a mission for something more important than your whiny little wants and desires?

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Brat Mode: ACTIVATE!
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I’m compaining RIGHT NOW!

While I’ve compained a bunch about Akko this episode, this really isn’t Akko’s episode; It’s Chariot and Croix’s. We get a flashback of when they stated their heart’s desires to Professor Woodward and the moment Chariot was chosen over Croix to receive the staff. We get to understand the rage Croix feels but later in the episode when Chariot (present day) is in danger, Croix cannot bear to actually harm her. This is incredibly touching but also bizarrely off tone.  Croix saving her best friend makes her look like she hasn’t completely gone off the deep end.  On the flip side, she’s willing to send a younger girl into a mysterious pollen fog that will completely strip her of magic.

Before I come to the end of the review I want to touch on this:

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Oh snap Brendan!  What now?!? 😛

Just because Brendan made a comment about the soccer game side discussion when it came up in his episode. This ends up getting used as a segway into the fact that Croix has created an app that everyone is using that “removes tension”, or more than likely is stripping out people’s anger to fuel to her doomsday device.

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I want to talk about the word of the episode itself as my final note. Many of the words thus far in the show have been your run-of-the-mill protagonist words, “patience, determination, etc”. “Lyonne” is something beautiful because it is “acceptance”. This means acceptance of yourself and the destiny that has been placed upon you.  It is through this word that Akko and Ursula-sensei accept each other, and through this word that Croix and Chariot could progress no further. The meaning of this word adds weight to Croix and Chariot’s fued and hopefully gets Akko motivated to look beyond her own desires.

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Episode Summary:

As per usual, the art and sound are quite good in this epsiode.  The crowd scenes continue to be kinda ugly but if something has to give, I’m fine with it being a two second crowd scene.

Akko really needs to stop being so full of herself and with the addition of Lyonne, here’s to hoping some of the good qualites she displayed before actually stick.  Because we seriously need an awesome protagonist to contend with…this….

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Oh dear…

 


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (20)

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Episode Synopsis:

Despite Akko’s protesting, Dianna has firmly decided to leave Luna Nova and become the head of the Cavendish household to save it from the neglect of her devious aunt. When said aunt prevents Diana from completing the ritual that will seal her position, it’s up to Akko to save the day. In doing so, she learns a great deal about the history of the Cavendish family and Diana in particular. With newfound admiration for her “rival”, Akko resolves to help Diana accomplish her task, and the two discover more than just a family legacy in the Cavendish shrine.

Episode Review:

Dang, this is a solid episode. We get to learn a ton about Diana, her family, and some of the history of magic beyond Luna Nova. Better yet, we get to see Akko and Diana’s long-awaited team-up, and some gorgeous environments and animation all at the same time. Looking back, it’s probably my favorite episode (so far) in a show full of great ones.

We open with Diana continuing to ignore Akko’s pleas to return to Luna Nova, and quickly running into trouble on her way to her family’s shrine. Ignorant of this, Akko vents her frustrations to Andrew, who patiently explains that despite appearances, Diana has had to fight for everything she’s earned, and approaches every decision with care and certainty. This harks back to episode 12, when Akko first saw Diana’s room and the evidence of her hard work and studiousness. It’s a little dry hearing Andrew re-explain this to Akko, but since she moves at a mile a minute, taking a break for some exposition isn’t unwelcome.

Soon after, Akko and Andrew overhear Diana’s aunt, Daryl (mother of Maryl and Meryl, so it’s clear that branch of the family values consistency), gloating over trapping her niece to prevent her taking over the family name. Akko, in her trademark fashion, is more than happy to ignore protocol and tradition to get Diana out of this jam.

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“Calamity is my middle name!”

This is among my favorite moments in the episode, where Akko uses all of the metamorphosis magic she’s been practicing up to this point to rescue Diana, but is poisoned in the process. It’s energetic, funny and touching; a microcosm of all the best traits that LWA brings to the table. Those of you who remember Disney’s The Sword in the Stone may get a few nostalgic flashbacks to its crazy wizards’ duel.

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Diana treats Akko’s wounds, losing precious time she could have spent completing her quest. It turns out that her family has a long and noble history as some of the magical world’s most accomplished healers, and it would be against her family’s code (not to mention her own morals) to leave Akko in need. Her heartfelt desire to live up to and preserve her family’s legacy is incredibly moving, and explains her fierce pride in her heritage. This is no “oh-ho-ho-ing” princess like we’re so used to seeing in anime; this is someone with every right to be proud of who they are and where they came from.

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This stalwart passion moves Akko as well, and with some help from the Shiny Rod and another of the magic Words, she and Diana rush off to finish the ritual. Once again, things go awry due to Daryl’s interference, but Diana continues to hold true to her sense of duty, and acts selflessly to aid others while forgoing her own goals.

Episode Summary:

Finishing strong, the end of this two-parter hits all the best notes of the series. It boasts a positive message about helping those in need without feeling preachy, and both Akko and Diana show off how much they’ve grown in the time we’ve known them.

That isn’t to say the episode is flawless. Part of that is the overall structure of the show; until this most recent arc, we hadn’t seen Diana for several episodes, so her sudden decision to attend to family matters felt like it came out of nowhere. There were plenty of hints before, but it could’ve felt less sudden. Another minor quibble is a scene near the end, where the Cavendish servants vow to protect the family’s interests, even if Diana isn’t present. It feels a little halfhearted, since we barely see Diana interact with anyone besides her head maid. The entire bit just comes off as shoehorned in.

Beyond some incredibly small nitpicks, episode 20 is fantastic. I’m loving Akko’s earnestness and enthusiasm just as much as Diana’s determination and compassion. With the two of them on much friendlier terms, we’re all set to push into the final arc of the show and face off against the magical plot that Croix has been hatching in secret.

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No prizes for guessing that Diana’s Shiny Chariot card will play a role

 


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