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 (19)


Me: So… we just had a Constanze episode back to back with an Amanda episode… does that me-
LWA: No. Diana episode.
Me: I didn’t eve-
LWA: Serious business.
Me: I was just kiddi-
LWA: Part one.
Me: …
LWA: …
Me: …Fine.

Episode Synopsis:

With the fate of her historic household threatened by her dismissive aunt, Diana drops out of Luna Nova to undergo a rite that will establish her ownership of the family assets. Unaware of the precise circumstances, Akko hitchhikes to the Cavendish estate, intending to retrieve her former classmate. While there, she gets a view of some family drama among nobles, culminating (for the purposes of this episode) with Diana confronting her aunt.

Review:

It’s not that I dislike Diana (as one might infer from my intro) – she’s a rather compelling character, it’s just that her contributions to the show tend to be heavier both in mood and in plot significance, which contrasts somewhat with the shenanigans that most of the other characters get up to. This episode in particular is dense with frustration and anxiety, with Diana herself, a pillar of the show’s character dynamic, poised to exit the mix by returning to her family’s crumbling estate.

Perhaps, though, it might be more apt to describe the episode as light on frivolity, as it doesn’t seem to have been particularly dense overall. I can only assume the staff had too much meat in this story to fit into one episode, and, in being forced to break it up, was forced to make that break at the confrontation. A couple of parts felt like padding (I do wonder if there’s going to be a payoff for the soccer riot), but we’ve still got a lot of good scenes to sink our teeth into.

Surely there’s a steak knife around here somewhere

Perhaps foremost among these is the reveal that Diana possesses the promotional Shiny Chariot card missing from Akko’s collection. Fans of the original short have probably been wondering for a while now if TV Diana has any closeted appreciation for Chariot, and this is a pretty solid yes. The context of Diana’s upbringing in this version really puts this aspect of her character in a new light, though. I can only imagine the kind of pressure put on a child of Diana’s aptitude growing into her position in high society, where respect is a carefully cultivated resource that wouldn’t allow her to hold onto anything going out of style. What could once have been interpreted as a mere guilty pleasure is probably now a childhood joy that she was forced to cast aside to try and retain what little standing her 1500-year-old lineage still possessed.

And for what? All of Diana’s sophistication and studiousness led her to the knowledge of the Grand Triskelion, only to discover that the key to changing the world was already in the hands of the least studious, least sophisticated, and least respectable witch to set foot in England for at least a decade. Such irony! But, even knowing what might have been, Diana still can’t bring herself to dislike Akko. For all of Akko’s foolishness, she has a kind and honest heart. For all of her ineptitude, she’s dauntless and persistent. And such wonders she’s already worked – with the Papilliodya butterflies and the ghost Vajarois! Surely Claiomh Solais has not chosen poorly.

And so, when Daryl and her twins put Akko down, Diana steps in. Akko may be a half-wit who routinely makes poor decisions (including, from Diana’s current perspective, the decision to follow her back to her home), but she doesn’t deserve the kind of prejudiced insults poured on her by Diana’s extended family. She’s accomplished too much for that. Diana may feel powerless to direct to Akko the recognition she deserves at Luna Nova, or regretful for not trying harder, but in her own house, Diana will stand up for her bumbling comrade.

This is a powerful line. And it’s in a complex scene, where Diana may also be reflexively trying to spite her relatives by bringing Akko in moments after making it rather clear that she wasn’t invited. It’s good to see Diana outside of the constraints of her usual social circle, where she’s not under so much pressure to act according to her persona. Here, we get to see from a new angle the intelligence and grace that really make her such a lovable character. I hope she and Akko lay the smack down on Daryl’s smug extinguishing-all-lights-in-a-room-and-fading-into-invisibility-in-the-dark-with-GLOWING-RED-EYES face.

Summary:

Similarly to how I felt about the Samhain episodes, I’m not sure this arc has quite enough material to fill two episodes flawlessly – but I’m more than willing to sit through a couple of minutes of chaff or redundancy if the material that they have as the main course keeps reaching these heights.


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (15)

 Episode Synopsis:

Upon learning that Croix was a contemporary of Shiny Chariot, Akko attempts to mine the new teacher for information, but it is instead the opposite which happens. Summoning Akko and the Shiny Rod to her new laboratory, Croix puts her student under and seeks to gain insight into the latter’s relationship with the staff. Worried that Croix has more immediately nefarious things in mind, Ursula/Chariot rushes to Akko’s aid. After she breaks through some of Croix’s security measures, the former classmates trade biting remarks with each other before Akko is returned unharmed. When Akko regains consciousness, Ursula explains to her the basics behind the Shiny Rod and the power sealed within the Arcturus woods.

Review:

One sec, folks – the first thing I’ve gotta do, as someone who watched his share of Sabrina the Teenage Witch when I was a lad in the late 90s, is appreciate this reference:

I will say that 2nd place in what appears to be a transfiguration tournament seems like a jab that’s just a little bit cruel, since Salem Saberhagen, who was indeed a witch (warlock?), spent the series in the form of a black cat because Witch Court was punishing him for attempted world domination. I’ll take it, though – what a nostalgia bomb.

Fun fact: another picture of Croix, with almost exactly the same face, did appear back in episode 3 in the Luna Nova Cup trophy case to the lower left of Chariot’s victory photo, but a lack of apparent organization and an apparent shortage of photos from intervening years (and a zoomed-in shot showing fewer columns than the wide shots) make it impossible to tell what year either of them were in during their respective victories.

Perhaps the most telling parts of this picture are the sidelong looks Croix’s teammates are giving her.

Furthermore, Akko (who knows almost everything about Chariot) supposes Croix (who graduated in 2007) to be her idol’s senior, but Diana guesses Ursula’s graduating year (judging by what book she picks out after talking with her) as 2005 (which raises the question of what Diana is going to do if she doesn’t find an entry in any year for Chariot’s current alter ego…).

Oddly, even though the book Diana is already reading contains an entry for Croix, the shelf still contains exactly one book for every year from 2000 through 2009 when she reaches for another.

Two more pieces of potentially conflicting information are Croix’s claim that Ursula gave up the name Chariot ten years ago, and a memory of Croix’s that appears to be Chariot finding the Shiny Rod in Arcturus. If we assume that Chariot herself graduated prior to putting on magic shows, it would then follow that she was Croix’s senior (since Croix graduated ten years ago), but Croix’s presence when she received the Shiny Rod suggests that she wasn’t (largely due to how young she looks in Croix’s memory).

Man, this is hurting my brain.  Let’s get to some more catnip.

I liked seeing who isn’t going gaga over Croix’s modern magic doo-dads, mostly because I’m predicting that they’ll come down opposite the schemer if/when the battle lines ever get drawn for real. As implied last episode, Finneran remains distrustful, and the flight instructor (whose name… may have been given to us? I think it’s Nelson) might have her back. On the student side, Diana is not impressed, and Amanda is clearly not having very good luck with her… router? I think the real question here, though, is how Constanze and her own techno-magic are going to play into this, especially since she as a character existed (in the Enchanted Parade OVA) prior to Croix (who I believe is new as of this series).

Constanze’s only appearance this episode.
As an aside: Foreshadowing? I guess they can’t look at posters in the ED anymore.

So the actual stor- wait, wait – one more thing. Every time a newspaper has been on screen since episode 3, there’s been a article about the Shooting Star being sighted in some new location. After about the second time that this happened, I’ve been pretty sure that it’s been leading up to a triumphant return, and now that someone has actually mentioned it out loud, I’m double sure. I’ll consider it reparations for that thing that flew away in the first episode of Petite Princess Yucie and never came back.

Where was I?

Lotte, what is HAPPENING in that book

So, uh, the actual point of this episode is to give us a better idea of Croix’s target and methods, to start the slow drip of revealing what happened between her and Chariot (with a little action thrown in to keep the pacing up), and to roll out the stakes with a majestic scene where Ursula tells and shows Akko the significance of the Shiny Rod.

…Nice.

Summary:

Little Witch Academia continues to be deftly written (with the possible exception of the age question) and tightly directed, with likeable characters, an intriguing story, solid action and delicious humor.

This is definitely a show to savor.


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (11)

Episode Synopsis:

A Blue Moon rises on Luna Nova Academy.

Akko’s progress with magic remains slow, and, despite her accomplishments in the last couple of episodes, she frets that it still isn’t enough to approach her idol. Further, despite her vision of Shiny Chariot’s school journey at the fountain of Polaris, Akko goes to Chariot’s contemporary, Ursula-sensei, to ask after the performer’s past exploits and present whereabouts. Unsatisfied by her teacher’s non-answers, Akko proceeds to seek the knowledge of an apparition purported (by a Shiny Chariot game card, natch) to dwell in a cave hidden underneath Luna Nova.

A Blue Moon rises, scarred with the same four-pointed star symbol present on Shiny Chariot’s accessories – a symbol conspicuously absent from depictions of the same moon on trading cards presumably only a decade old.

Diana seeks knowledge of the founders of Luna Nova, the venerated Nine Old Witches, whose chronicles are sealed within the academy’s private reference archives. The school’s current administrators grant her access, even as they discuss ominous portents.

A Blue Moon rises, and brings with it powerful visions of the past and future.

The story of the Shiny Rod begins to take shape.

Review:

This is it, kids – the true beginning of Little Witch Academia TV’s over-plot. It’s come at a good time – we’ve gotten to know the principal characters pretty well (including, oddly, the principal character nyuk nyuk), and we’re not yet halfway through the show, so there’s still plenty of time for the rest of the build-up to be spread naturally throughout more episodic adventures.

To highlight this milestone, the episode itself stands in contrast to the rest of the series so far. It is without shenanigans, sans antics, bereft of high-energy chase sequences. The world lit by the pale glow of the blue moon is hushed and still. Eerie. Magical.

A soft tension pervades the night – first in anticipation of learning more about Shiny Chariot and Luna Nova, then in speculation as we ponder the significance of the night’s revelations.

Being more familiar with Trigger’s more overtly intense works, this feels like a step outside their comfort zone.  And I think they nailed it.

Summary:

This show is going places, and I, for one, am going with it.
Also:

GET HYPE

HALLOWEEN IS COMING


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (08)

lwa_08_03-41

Episode Synopsis:

Lotte and Akko arise one morning and find themselves unable to wake Sucy. Believing their roommate’s condition to be the result of an unsanctioned experiment of hers, and fearful that alerting the faculty to the situation may result in their expulsion, the pair attempt to restore normalcy by sending Akko into Sucy’s subconscious to wake her from the inside out.

It doesn’t really work.

Review:

This…

lwa_08_14-10_
Amen to that, Trigger

This is a weird one.

I guess I’ll begin by observing that Trigger has done another fantastic job at maintaining story momentum for an entire episode. This is especially impressive with the realization that the episode is built on a relatively small number of major events, and yet every minute involves something new and entertaining happening as we and Akko delve into the nuts and bolts of Sucy’s mind. The dream theater in particular is an amazing use of the Studio’s stylistic range to illustrate Sucy’s character.

lwa_08_15-11
She’s… actually kind of a jerk.

Akko and the audience meet numerous facets of Sucy’s subconscious – foremost among them: the classic shoulder-sized angel and devil aspects, complete with the now-familiar twist of their moral directions being somewhat relative.

lwa_08_07-13_Further introductions take us down a sub-plot that actually revolves around the process by which Sucy maintains her persona.
lwa_08_17-13_The implications of deliberate personality pruning seem like they could lead in any number of interesting directions, but the show really only scratches the surface before using the subject as a jumping-off point for a high-budget chase scene —
lwa_08_17-41— which was still awesome – don’t get me wrong – just not quite what I was hoping for.

I also thought the whiplash ending was kind of anticlimactic, but a show that brings as much weird to the table as this can get away with a lot of things.

Summary:

The theater scene alone makes this a must-watch episode – almost the entire rest of it is mushroom-filled gravy.


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