Little Witch Academia
Haha, oh man. No pretense here. This was an absolute joy to watch. From Inferno Cop to Little Witch Academia, Studio Trigger is making the world a better place one project at a time.
Little Witch Academia is part of a yearly investment, since 2010, by the Agency of Cultural Affairs called Anime Mirai. Their intention is to foster the growth of young Japanese animators, guided by experienced mentors of their respective studios, to craft both creative and visually impressive 20 something minute shorts. Studio Trigger was one of four studios to present their work this year. Studio Trigger in turn is an animation studio established by former Gainax employees, guys most famous for Gurren Lagann as well as Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt; two series known for their charm in both animation and execution, which seems to be Trigger’s selling point, besides apparent great amounts of talent. At this point, the only “real” work Trigger has produced is Inferno Cop, an intentionally half-assed animation which takes it’s premise and runs the whole damn marathon with it. It’s insane.
Little Witch Academia follows suit by being crazy good.
But as opposed to Inferno Cop, Little Witch Academia is exceedingly simple. I mean, heck, the premise is as simple as it gets. A young girl, Akko, inspired by a magic show, Shiny Chariot, is enrolled in a school of magic. However as she isn’t from a family of magicians, she lacks the learned skills the other students have. Despite this, and Shiny Chariot having a sour reputation within the community of magic, she aspires to be a great witch herself one day. And within the 26 or so minute run, we get quite a lot of content out of it; from learning to ride a broom to dungeon crawling and fighting a Minotaur. There’s a lot stuffed in the short time-span, and it makes for an enjoyable little story about magic.
The kicker comes from the execution. Wowie zowie, is it ever fantastically animated and directed. It’s not purely the animation being gorgeous, though it’s certainly the case. Pure eye-candy throughout. What it really succeeds in is conveying a sense of whimsy through animation alone; the style and flair is married to the concept here. Exaggerated motions and magical creatures, out of control brooms and witch-ly attire. All sorts of wisps of magic that you can’t entirely explain. That don’t need to be explained. It’s a sense of genuine child-like wonder and amazement they pulled off here that’s striking. I’m not sure I’ve felt this from a cartoon, let alone an anime, for a long while. It’s at the point where I’d love to see more of this world, to see all that it has to offer.
What’s also intensely cool is how distinct the designs for the characters are. It’s a neat blend of recognizably anime features along with characteristics more common with western cartoons. The designs appear tailored for the type of world Academia presents, and it presents them well in the time frame given. The characters are expressive, showing their personalities in appearance and movement, without telling much if anything at all. “Show, don’t tell!” principle going full-force! And best of all, it looks gorgeously flowing when in motion, with stretch and squash animation on par with the greats of the past century.
To be honest though, as an amateur artist, I’m just spouting a bunch of junk I found interesting. I’m not really as well versed in influences in artistic design as I should be to talk about this in length. What I can happily say though, is that it makes for something different from the norm. And I’m not saying this out of distaste (maybe just a tiiiiny bit) for the design choices typical with a good portion of anime, but out of love for seeing variety in the industry. If projects of this sort are successful, we could see a handful more of animations that are willing to experiment and push themselves to try a vibrant assortment of different approaches. And when studios are willing to go just a little further with their ideas, you can get some real fun out of even the simplest stories.
And I think that’s at the core of what makes Little Witch Academia so charming. The animators make sure there’s always something moving in every scene, some point of interest that’ll suck you just that little bit more into the experience. It’s hard to do justice to how well directed this short, as well as how fluid the animation, really is. Even if you’re not all that into the initial description, I seriously urge ya to take a look at what’s on offer here. If nothing else, it gives a perspective at the best this industry has to offer, as well as the potential we have for the future if projects like this are given room to thrive.
Check it out. It’s good stuff.
Before I completely wrap up, an extra footnote on Studio Trigger + the other 3 Anime Mirai works.
Studio Trigger seems to be something of a rising star, and hell yes they are on my map. Inferno Cop surprised me, and Academia impresses me hardcore. Even with former Gainax guys manning the helm, they’ve probs got some extreme new talent underneath their wings. They’ve got me interested, and I’m more than willing to give ’em a third spin. They’ve got some mystery TV anime lined up for later this year, and judging from what we’ve seen of ’em so far, there’s no way to judge what they’ll present next. And isn’t that just super exciting?
As for the rest of Anime Mirai projects, I’m not entirely sure I, or anybody else here on the blog team, will talk about them. Me, mostly because I haven’t seen ’em yet. But as long as they’ve got something interesting enough going for them, I’m probably gonna want to make note of them. A joint post, if nothing else. The general quality should be high; nothing to lose by tuning in.