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 (18)

 

 

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Get off me, you simpleton!

Episode Synopsis:

The Wild Hunt, an event where highly trained ghost hunters compete (?) to hunt ghosts that appear on a set schedule, is coming to town.  Constanze, the mute techno-mage in training (different kind of techno-magic than Croix, though), is preparing a mighty mechanical steed to participate.  Enter Akko, who accidentally breaks one of Constanze’s helper robots, and takes it upon herself to make it up to Constanze by working with her to build her ship.  Problem is, Constanze doesn’t want any help.  So begins Akko’s quest to prove that sometimes, it takes teamwork to get a difficult job done.  Oh, there’s also a massive magical mecha showdown towards the end.

Episode Review:

This is another fine episode by Studio Trigger from a quality standpoint, with some standout scenes, but I can’t help but feel like the message is a bit off.  Constanze makes it clear from the outset that she doesn’t want any help from Akko.

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Well, see, there’s your problem.  Akko definitely doesn’t have a clue how to read English.

Akko takes the lack of friendship as a challenge, and sets about aggressively trying to make Constanze her friend.

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This is despite numerous conversations with both her own friends and Constanze’s that confirm Constanze’s preference.

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Now, I figured we were setting up Akko to learn another valuable lesson about how people are different, gain (or at least try out) a new virtue that will help her unlock one of the Words, etc.  Instead, the lesson is that Constanze is in the wrong by not accepting Akko’s help…

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Pictured above: “Help”

…and that sometimes it takes people with different skills to accomplish an objective.

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Upon seeing the impossible majesty of a plant in the shape of a cow, Constanze had no choice but to become Akko’s friend.

Now, admittedly, that’s a fine lesson too, but there’s gotta be a better way for Constanze to learn it than having unwanted assistance shoved down her throat until she accepts it.  Someday, Akko is going to meet someone that she truly can’t help with her patented mixture of optimism and bull-headedness, and that’s going to be a rough day.  On a side note, why doesn’t Akko show this level of commitment to making friends with Diana?

Moving on, the second half of the episode is an incredibly fun action sequence in which Constanze and Akko take off in their new ghost-hunting magitek ship for some Wild Hunt action.

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This stylish number emerges from a secret under-lake launch site, because if you’re doing a mecha episode, sometimes you gotta go with the classics

The fight is Trigger at their best, with dramatic action shots all over the place, and gets much more hectic once Croix shows up to make the ghosts stronger and more aggressive with her techno-magical cube things.

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That looks like trouble

Fortunately, Constanze and Akko have a trick up their sleeve.

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Yes.
LWA Ep 18 -_00054.jpg
Yes!

 

LWA Ep 18 -_00056.jpg
YES.

Is it kind of strange to suddenly have a mecha show in the middle of your magical witch school show?  Sure.  I still enjoyed every minute.  From the transformation sequence to the English attack names to the giant explosions, it was a perfect classic mecha nostalgia moment.

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In terms of plot development, there isn’t too much, though we do get a bit more of Croix’s master plan, which is currently in the research phase.  She apparently has some way to obtain energy from human emotions, and today’s experiment was to gauge the output from panic.

LWA Ep 18 -_00067.jpg

Based on previous episodes, it seems like she’s really going for the negative emotions, but she may also be causing unintended benefits for Akko’s plan to get people to like magic again:

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These folks are 100% convinced about magic’s radness factor after watching a magical mecha take down a sinister bird demon with an exploding drill arm

Another episode behind us, and I’m left with only one question: Does Akko even attend classes anymore?

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Rolling Review – Little Witch Academia (17)

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Episode Synopsis:

Akko is now on a mission to get all the words and restore magic!  She must read, she must find strength, and she must persevere.  Before all that though, Amanda O’Neil is really bored and wants to cause some mischief before she gets expelled from Luna Nova.  She also totally doesn’t feel like this everyday….today is definitely the day she’s gonna quit school…definitely….

Deceived into going after the Holy Grail at Appleton Academy, Akko and Amanda get caught up in a “Knight” of trouble together (*snicker*).  It turns out that Andrew is a student at Appleton.  Will he aid Akko and Amanda, or will he stand behind Appleton’s tranditions regarding hatred towards witches?

Episode Review:

Akko is certainly determined to get the sacred words and help with the restoration of all magic, but that doesn’t mean Trigger isn’t gonna take a pit stop to throw a party.

LWA_Ep17_02.jpg

Episode 16 brings Andrew back into the equation, and instead of meeting him like a one-off character, we get to see him in a more natural setting.  Like Episode 15, this one is…more or less “filler” but it does some good things.

Firstly, it re-establishes the fact that witches are thought of as vermin to the outside world.  The show needs this reminder because otherwise it would feel like Croix is just a boring old villian.  It’s not hard to see why she and Chariot have disparaging viewpoints about the future of magic, nor why Croix would choose a path that’s 100% divergent from traditional magic.  If I was a Witch that was actively being persecuted and thrown into iron maidens, I’d totally invent a magic storing, tablet controlled thingamabob and smack everyone around with my Wand Justice!

Dude…you need some serious Wand Justice right about now

The second critical piece of this episode is Amanda.  If you count this out, there are seven sacred words for Shiny Rod.  There are also seven important characters (including Akko) that have been a part of our LWA journey.  They aren’t always working together, but in their own way, they all love magic, and have aided Akko at various stages in the journey to her inevitable destiny.  The show seems to understand this and takes the time in this episode to give the spotlight to someone other than the core-three.  Amanda is notoriously a troublemaker, but through Ep. 16 you realize it’s not out of malicious intent.  It’s out of the undending desire to experience adventure.

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Pictured Above: Adventurous Spirit.
LWA_Ep17_09.jpg
Pictured Above: The best way to go out with a bang; Dress like a man and sneak a magic rat into an all boys school on a quest for the Holy Grail!

Amanda  and Akko’s journey through Appleton is not terribly interesting aside from you the viewer getting to look at pretty architecture. Akko and Andrew have an important chat where she digs deeper into his emotional armor by once again asking the question, “What is is that YOU want to do with YOUR life”.  While this isn’t central to the plot about destiny and magic restoration, I really love this angle.  Akko is the representation of straightforward bullheadedness. Whether or not you agree with the way she does things, she does it her own way, in her own time, with her own sense of flair.  To some degree we are all Andrew Hanbridges.  Trapped within our own confines and constraints, and it’s important for us (and Andrew, of course), to be challenged in our way of thinking about life.

LWA_Ep17_11LWA_Ep17_10

Where things get exciting for this episode is during the duel.  Akko and Amanda inevitably find the Holy Grail hidden in Appleton, but they are captured and almost tortured by the douchey Louis Blackwell.  Andrew comes to their rescue (because Akko couldn’t rescue the broadside of a barn) and reminds Louis that Appleton has a way of settling desputes, and that way, is sword duels.

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You were thinking I made that line about Iron Maidens up, weren’t you?

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The duel sequence is epic, and got my blood pumping with its Revolutionary Girl Utena-like speed and camera work.  When the grail is broken and its secret is revealed, Trigger cracks its knuckles and pulls out some radical artistry for demon armor and the battle that follows.

Episode Summary:

Like last episode, this episode is mostly a distraction.  Croix is clearly gathering data, so the wild goose chase that Amanda and Akko go on is aiding her.  Since we don’t know the endgame, this all just feels like a one-off affair.  That being said, it’s a fun on-off affair. Amanda gets a moment in the sun, the artistry is top notch for the fight scenes and architecture (but suffers in terms of facial expressions and crowd scenes), and maybe good old Andrew is starting to come around.

If I had to complain about something this episode, it would be that Amanda goes from wanting to be kicked out of school, to being apologetic and wanting to go back, in the span of this episode.  It makes the whole thing feel a touch contrived.

My other complaint is of course…that Diana is not present, and may in fact be in need of aid.

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What do you MEAN Diana is in trouble?!?! NOOOOOO!!!

I’ll leave you with a parting gift.  The best villian face ever.

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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 (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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