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 (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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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (16)

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Episode Synopsis:

Akko has finally learned the importance of the seven Words of Arcturus and is determined to unlock them. However, unlocking the next word requires something that she lacks completely. Akko and Sucy join Lotte in Finland to meet her family and try to decipher the next word, but disaster strikes when a magical disease spreads throughout the town. Will Akko find what she lacks in time to save her friends?

Review:

With the over-plot of the season kicking into high gear last episode, this one takes things in a much more episodic direction. Even so, with the potential to restore magic to its former glory on the line, Akko is hell-bent on discovering the remaining Words of Arcturus, and nothing is going to stop her.

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Except waiting more than a minute for a magic search engine to spit out results

Not wanting Akko’s normal pique to get out of control, Ursula tells her that the only way for her to master the remaining words is to experience them as she grows and comes to understand their meaning. This echoes what Professor Woodward (the tree-lady from earlier) told her and Croix many years ago. The difference in their reactions says all you need to know about what they thought of that advice.

What follows is a quick visit to Lotte’s hometown in Finland to meet her family and see her old stomping grounds. Though they don’t dwell on it, the slow weakening of magic can be seen in how the Jansons’ magic shop has been forced to become more of a general store over time. Just because it’s time for shenanigans doesn’t mean the episode is going to let you forget that there are serious events transpiring, and I appreciate that reinforcement of the show’s core struggle.

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We only get a little time with Lotte’s family in this episode before they and the rest of the town are consumed by Greenman disease; a magical affliction that causes moss to cover peoples’ bodies until they wither and die. All of this is brought on by a wide variety of esoteric conditions being met, culminating in the baking of hapansilakka pie, a Scandinavian “delicacy” made with such foul-smelling fish that it’s considered a health hazard elsewhere in Europe. I have a soft spot for ridiculously convoluted magical nonsense, so watching the montage of insanity that contributed to this outbreak was a treat.

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This sends Akko and the gang on a mad quest to secure the ingredients for a cure. As you might imagine, the components are almost as crazy and specific as the cause of the disease.

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As her friends begin to succumb to the disease as well, Akko has to set out on her own to finish assembling the cure. This finally leads her to a revelation about the importance of the next Word, though how much of the lesson she absorbed is left up for debate.

While the episode does move the plot along, most of it is purely short-term comedy antics. I’m fine with this, though it does feel a little more phoned in at times than some of the earlier episodes, which featured tighter stories and more focused humor. In any case, we do see a brief aside of Croix in her magical laboratory, and learn a little more about how she hopes to achieve her goals.

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Those rose-tinted glasses sure make it easy to ignore horrifying consequences, don’t they?

Summary:

Episode 16 is decent, has plenty of humor, and hints at more to come. Like some of the filler episodes in the early part of the show, it feels a little insubstantial, but Trigger has proven that even their less engaging episodes are still worth a watch. Progress is made and tidbits of backstory are revealed at a steady enough pace that I doubt we’ll need any great exposition dumps in the later arcs. Even without the more emotionally charged events of the main plot, it’s plenty of fun and a good chance to see Akko, Lotte and Sucy working together to solve a magical disaster that Akko didn’t have a personal hand in, for once.


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (12)

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Episode Synopsis:

Akko’s long hours of practice with Ursula have started paying off. Though clumsy, her magic spells have begun to show promise. As Luna Nova’s Samhain festival nears, Akko dreams of becoming the Moonlit Witch – a title once given to Shiny Chariot for her enthralling magical displays. Yet when the roles for the festival are handed out, Akko and her friends become the butt of a long-running joke. 

Why should she put up with this, Akko wonders? Why can’t she be like the talented and beloved Diana? Doubting herself once more, and urged by Urusla, Akko returns to the Fountain of Polaris to discover the magic that only she can perform.

Episode Review:

It’s a bit tricky to gauge this episode, as it’s the first of what appears to be a two-parter. That said, it does an excellent job of reinforcing the plot details we learned in the previous outstanding episode.

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Just as I’d been hoping, we get to see some of the progress Akko has made while training with Ursula. She’s still as hyperactive and sensitive as she’s ever been, but it’s rewarding to see that she’s taken her earlier lessons to heart. Shiny Chariot worked tirelessly for her magic, and Akko is now taking after her idol in more than just enthusiasm.

Even so, her magic still lags far behind everyone else in the school. Adding insult to injury, she and her unlucky roommates find themselves stuck as the not-entirely symbolic sacrifices in one of Luna Nova’s Samhain traditions. Being devoured by an ancient ghost may not be fatal, but it’s definitely not pleasant.

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As poop gags go, I suppose I’ve seen worse.

In this case, I’m actually 100% behind Akko in her outrage. More to the point, the magical shenanigans she gets up to as a result of her frustrations aren’t even her fault this time. A mischievous magic mirror puts her in the very awkward position of stepping into Diana’s shoes (not to mention the rest of her ensemble). It’s pretty contrived, but I can get behind it.

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At least she uses it to take petty revenge on Hannah and Barbara. And really, wouldn’t you?

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I call it, “poetic justice”.

This is mostly an excuse for Akko to peek a little deeper into Little Miss Perfect’s life. What she finds is someone deeply invested in the history and current state of magic, as we’ve seen in prior episodes. This seems to be laying the foundation for a change in the antagonistic relationship between the two, which I more than welcome. As funny as it is to watch Diana berate Akko for her temper and impropriety, it’s clear that they both share a love of magic I hope we get to explore further.

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And here we see two young witches in their natural state: huffy.

The episode ends with Akko going back to the Fountain of Polaris for another beautiful look into Chariot’s past at Luna Nova. There are a few questions raised by this that I won’t spoil here, but considering the show’s deft handling of plot points so far, I’m confident we’ll learn more about what’s going on in the not-too-distant future.

Summary:

While mostly serving as setup, episode 12 is another top-notch entry. It uses the show’s now-familiar formula and takes it in interesting directions based on how Akko has started to mature, and the growing responsibility Ursula has taken on for her.

As we hit the rough halfway mark of the series, I find myself delighted. Every time I’ve begun to wonder if LWA is starting to fall into a rut, it puts out something more substantial to chew on. Just as I was questioning if Akko would forever remain a spell-less blunder, she starts to develop legitimate skill. Perhaps it’s just falling in line with my own hopes for the show, but it makes the experience of watching it a real treat. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Samhain brings for Akko, Diana, and the rest of the Luna Nova students.


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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (07)

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Episode Synopsis:

After recognizing that her dreams will only come true through hard work, Akko doubles down on her studies. Unfortunately, her weak and unpredictable magic causes no end of problems during Luna Nova’s magical exams. When she takes out her frustration on other students, she’s given an ultimatum; pass her final exam, or be expelled. When her attempts to bribe impress her piscine professor causes even more trouble, she must use her unreliable magic to save both the professor and her chances of remaining at the academy.

NOTE:

Due to unexpected complications, Dan will be filling in for Brendan this week.

Episode Review:

Following the remarkably moving climax of episode 6, LWA takes things a bit easier this time around as we follow Akko through her intensified studies. It’s nice to see her taking the lessons from the Fountain of Polaris seriously, though the results leave a lot to be desired.

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By this point, I’ve begun to find Akko’s total magical incompetence a bit grating, though the show’s comedic timing do a lot to sooth the irritation. As if to answer Su’s wish from last episode’s review, Professor Ursula joins in to try and encourage Akko and help her with practice. Despite serious setbacks, Akko is showing signs of improvement. That doesn’t stop Diana’s two hangers-on, Hannah and Barbara, from mocking her ceaselessly. Finally, Akko has enough and decides to respond with good old fashioned violence.

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This leaves her on the verge of being expelled from Luna Nova, with just one chance to pass her final elective exam or be kicked to the curb. The exam is in magical philosophy, and there doesn’t appear to be any professor in the class. I’ll let Akko explain.

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Dun…
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Dun…
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DUNNNNN!!!

Well, sucks to be Akko. Being who she is, she manages to screw things up even harder, losing Professor Pisces. She, Sucy and Lotte go on a quick adventure outside the school to rescue the professor, where Akko is forced to make a hard decision on how to use her magic. Meanwhile, poor Ursula is left desperately trying to cover for her pupil’s screwup.

The real drama, however, happens when Akko returns to the school. The faculty are ready to kick her out on the spot, not just for her actions, but for being an embarrassment to the school. Finally, Ursula has had all she can take and mounts an impassioned defense of her student.

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Like Akko’s visions of Chariot, I was genuinely moved by Ursula’s words. They may be simplistic, but they’re also sincere, and exactly what I’d like struggling students to hear. While Ursula’s speech alone isn’t what saves Akko’s bacon in the end, it’s still a great takeaway from an otherwise decent episode.

Episode Summary:

Despite being pretty light on serious story, episode 7 shows us Akko’s newfound appreciation for studying and finally brings Ursula closer to the fore. There’s plenty of snappy dialogue and funny sight gags to keep you smiling through, as well. With just over a quarter of the show down, we’ve established our major characters, hit on some strong themes, and set up a few solid plot hooks for the future. Little Witch Academia continues to deliver.


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