Little Witch Academia is a 2013 half-hour animated short film produced by Studio TRIGGER as part of Japan's "Young Animator Training Project," a government-sponsored program which hopes to train new animators under the guidance of industry masters; in this case, Yoh Yoshinari of Studio Gainax fame. The film is the first installment in the Little Witch Academia franchise.
The short film follows Atsuko "Akko" Kagari, a witch-in-training at Luna Nova, a European Wizarding School. Akko dreams of following in the footsteps of Shiny Chariot, whose flashy stage magic captivated Akko during her youth. But Akko has two major problems standing between her and her dream: Akko doesn't come from a wizard family (she can't even fly a broom properly) and most of the wizarding community thinks of Shiny Chariot as little more than a charlatan, both of which makes her incredibly unpopular and the subject of mockery amongst her teachers and her peers, particuarly by local queen bee, Diana Cavenidish.
One day, when Akko and her friends, the shy and quiet Lotte Jannson and the mischivous potion loving Sucy Manbavaran, are assigned to go on a labyrinthine treasure hunt deep beneath the school, Diana, in a act of pride and recklessness, accidentally unleashes a threat that threatens to take away Luna Nova's magic and destroy the school. Can Akko's faith in Shiny Chariot ultimately save her friends and their magic? Maybe with the help of a special staff that once belonged to her idol, she can.
The film would premiere in theatres across Japan under the project on March 2nd, 2013, to weak reception, as the film failed to gain traction in Japan, with one event being cancelled due to not enough tickets being sold.
Shortly afterwards, Trigger would later upload the film onto YouTube with English subs, which would see the film recieve a large surge in popularity in the west (receving over 850,000 views until it was taken down), as many grew attached to its animation and Harry Potter-esque setting and cast. The short film, alongside the later Kill la Kill, would ultimately go on to establish Trigger as a big name in the modern anime world, on top of establishing Yoh Yoshinari as one of the studio's big name directors.
The film would later receive a sequel in 2015, titled Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade.
Not to be confused with the 2017 anime of the same name.
The original Little Witch Academia provides examples of:
- Academy of Adventure: Luna Nova, a European school for witches. Bonus points for having a vast labyrinth filled with monsters and treasures right underneath it.
- Accidental Pun: When the minotaur appears, Hannah and Barbara try to tell Diana that it's behind her (ushiro) but only manage to stammer out ushi (cow). In the English dub, they just refer to the minotaur as a "bull".
- Aside Glance: The dragon looks at the camera and gives us an Oh, Crap! face before blowing up.
- Asleep in Class: Akko is shown doing this the first time she is seen at school. The teacher deals with it by using a spell to slam her head onto her book.
- Big Damn Heroes: Akko and her friends arrive just in time to save Diana and her posse from certain death by an angry minotaur. Diana later returns the favor by saving Akko from certain death by falling from a great height.
- Boring, but Practical: Sucy's potion may not have been as impressive looking as Diana's Storm of Blades spell, but it was definitely far more effective in killing the minotaur then Diana's spell was.
- Bucket Helmet: After awakening the dragon, Sucy and Lotte emerge from a pile of debris wearing a cauldron and a pot, respectively.
- Chekhov's Skill: During her show, Shiny Chariot destroys a monster she materializes by aiming into its mouth so that it swallows the blast and explodes. At the end, Akko destroys a dragon by doing the same thing.
- Covers Always Lie: This poster◊ seems to have been made before the film was finished, as it contains a number of weird anomalies:
- Most of the recognizable characters look a little different from their film appearance: Akko has blue eyes and looks slightly older, Lotte's hair is slightly longer, Sucy's hair is black instead of pink, Hannah and Barbara have different hairstyles, and Diana's hair is solid blond, with her streaks missing missing.
- Some of the characters who are featured don't make an appearance in the film. This includes the likes of Samantha and Monica (two characters who were planned to appear but got scrapped), three adult female characters, and a group of fairies who bear a resemblance to the Luna Nova workers seen later on in the TV series.
- The dragon has a completely different design.
- There are some random elements that seem to have no connection to the film at all. This includes: a unicorn, a Viking-horned hot air balloon, and a very significant-looking adult witch framed in silhouette, who may represent Shiny Chariot, but doesn't look anything like her.
- Cultural Cross-Reference: The setting of a Wizarding School in Britain and the MacGuffin being the "Sorcerer's Stone" are references to Harry Potter.
- Dissonant Serenity: Sucy, when confronting the minotaur.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Diana and her Girl Posse find an ominous container at the bottom of a dungeon. They open it, expecting some sort of final boss, but a harmless lizard crawls out. Unaware of the fact that it eats magic, they make fun of it and blast it with spells. It quickly grows into an enormous dragon and goes on a rampage through the school.
- Dungeon Crawling: Akko, her friends, Sucy and Lotte, and Diana, the resident Alpha Bitch, go into a dungeon as a test at Luna Nova. The students have to traverse a series of dungeons while collecting rare treasures and dealing with monsters, they even fight a dragon.
- Early-Installment Weirdness:
- The film is a bit different in tone compared to later entries. While it's still lighthearted and comedic at its core, there are some pretty dark and even occassionally gruesome moments (such as the confrontation with the Minotaur) and it has a generally more adventurous tone compared to The Enchanted Parade and the TV series, which, while not without their share of darker and adventurous moments (especially the TV series), are more lighthearted and laidback by comparison.
- Many of the core themes that would define the franchise later on, such as the importance of hard work, and the relationship between tradition and progress are entirely absent here.
- On top of being more of an Alpha Bitch in general, Diana can lean towards being a bit physically aggressive towards Akko at times, as she knocks her back by flicking her nose during their first confrontation and physically hits her helmet when she meets her again after the dragon escapes. This aspect of her character would be removed entirely come The Enchanted Parade.
- When Ursula/Chariot's hair transforms in the film's ending, the transformation is done through a flame effect, giving her hair a brief fiery appearance. This is completely different from how her hair transforms in the later TV series, which is shown to be a smooth fade effect.
- Energy Absorption: Dragons get bigger and stronger the more magic is used on them. A rather small one is freed in a dungeon about halfway through, and becomes the main conflict of the story very soon after.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: For a few seconds, the minotaur is actually seen melting and the bones seem to be popping out. Then it turns into a puddle of blood that melts the floor.
- Feed It with Fire: After Diana's party accidentally frees the dragon, they start blasting the creature with reckless abandon. Little do they know, dragons absorb magic...
- Foreshadowing: after the prologue sequence featuring Shiny Chariot and a young Akko, Chariot is first mentioned by name again while Professor Ursula is walking along in the center of the screen. During the climax, she's revealed to really be Chariot in disguise.
- Fusion Dance: Diana fuses her, Hannah, and Barbara's broomsticks into a more powerful one.
- Girl Posse: Diana's followers, Hannah and Barbara. They actually seem to have worse attitudes than their leader, given how much quicker they are to insult, while Diana's comments lean more towards constructive criticism.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The minotaur's death appears to be graphic, but for most of it, only the girls' expressions are shown.
- Head Pet: Lotte's fire sprite spends a good deal of time on Lotte's head.
- High-Pressure Emotion: When Lotte and Sucy start remarking on Shiny Chariot's bad reputation, Akko, being a Fangirl of the idol, becomes so angry by the remarks that her face briefly turns red before she blows up and hits the bottom of the top bunker.
- I Was Just Passing Through: When Diana saves a falling Akko:Diana: No need to thank me. It is my duty to evacuate all students.
- I'm Melting!: The minotaur hit with poison melts into a puddle of goo, which promptly eats a clean circular hole through the floor.
- Akko is of the Good Is Not Nice variety. She genuinely means well, but tends to place her own feelings above those of her friends and not even consider that what she's doing is wrong or potentially dangerous.
- Diana is pretty haughty and looks down on Akko for her love of Chariot. She is also pretty rude to her two followers, Hannah and Barbara when she calls them out for being afraid in the dungeon, saying that because they are witches, they should be the ones instilling fear instead.
- Killer Rabbit: Sealed in an iron maiden deep within the school's dungeons, there's this lizard-looking thing. Sure, it's bigger than your average lizard, and it's got nasty-looking fangs, but isn't it a little tiny for a monster found so deep within the dungeon? Well, let's put it that way: for the sake of everything holy, do not use magic on it.
- Living Gasbag: The monstrous whale-like leviathan conjured and then slain by Shiny Chariot as part of her show gives this impression, considering that it's very large and fat and yet somehow manages to fly with no apparent means to do so.
- Munchkin: Both Akko and Diana go through the "typical RPG" assignment, in which they must penetrate a dungeon to retrieve treasure, as Munchkins of different categories. Diana is Min-Maxed - she declares herself 'invincible' and mows through legions of terrifying monsters, determined to bring back the best loot possible even though the rest of her party urges her to turn back. Akko is an inept Psychopath who gets derailed trying to murder every little blob monster that happens to move her way, even though her party members remind her that killing monsters isn't even part of the assignment.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Diana is very distraught after freeing the dragon from its prison and tries to take care of it herself, but it gets out of the dungeon before she catches up to it.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Diana breaks a magical seal in her search for more treasures and ends up releasing the dragon, kickstarting the film’s conflict. The other witches inadvertently make things worse as well in their attempts to fight it off using magic, not realizing that the dragon becomes more powerful by absorbing magic until too late.
- Oh, Crap!:
- The dragon's expression before being blown up from the inside by Akko's Shiny Arc attack.
- Akko makes quite a few of these, all while falling, on three separate occasions.
- Diana has two noteworthy ones in the first short—one when she realizes the minotaur is behind her, the other when she realizes Hannah and Barbara are unintentionally making the dragon absorb energy right when it's too late.
- Old Maid: Professor Ursula seems to have this complex as she is leading the dragon away. The dragon ignores her to chase after Akko and company:Ursula: "Is it because they're younger?"
- Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons grow more and more powerful the more magic you dish out on them and they are not very aggressive, just hungry for magic.
- Our Minotaurs Are Different: The girls confront a minotaur during their dungeon test. Sucy instantly kills it with one of her potions.
- Poison Is Corrosive: A small vial of poison melts a huge monster, and the resulting sludge bores a clear round hole through the floor it was standing on.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Diana is very annoyed that Hannah and Barbara spend the entire Dungeon Crawl clinging to each other begging Diana to go back, and tells them that witches shouldn't be afraid and they should be the ones feared.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The dragon is stored in the level under the last level reachable by normal means; it is trapped in a torture device infamous for drinking the blood of hundreds of witches, and the device is covered with seals to keep it in... what can possibly go wrong?
- The main character, Atsuko "Akko" Kagari, is named after Atsuko "Akko" Kagami from Himitsu no Akko-chan.
- The two girls that follow Diana are named Hannah and Barbara.
- References to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Sucy's eyes and hairstyle recall Fluttershy, even though they couldn't be any more different personality-wise.
- A Rarity figurine shows up on Lotte's desk in Enchanted Parade.
- For the record, Creator Yoh Yoshinari appears to be a Brony.
- The show's official comic took the references full circle by having pony versions of the main characters make cameos on a page.
- One of the girls in Akko's History of Magic class looks suspiciously like Mami.
- During the history lesson, there are two girls sitting next to each other that are reminiscent to the Patil twins.
- Among the treasures collected (or otherwise discovered) by the students in the dungeon are a copy of the Right Hand of Doom, Yen Sid's hat, a mithril mail, a galvorn knife, and a silmarillion ring.
- The shot of Shiny Chariot drawing her bow is a Homage Shot to Akazukin Cha Cha.
- Short Film: The film is just 26 minutes long and had a limited two-week engagement in Japanese theaters.
- Skewed Priorities: The first thing Akko does upon coming back is happily show Ursula the Shiny Rod and wondering if she won the hunt, all while an escaped dragon is rampaging around and causing mass panic amongst the students.
- Slasher Smile: Sucy briefly sports one when she successfully kills the minotaur with one of her potions.
- Spontaneous Human Combustion: Before the treasure hunt begins, Akko is shown to be engulfed in flames with an extremely determined look on her face.
- Storm of Blades: Diana uses this in an attempt to kill the minotaur, but all that does is piss it off even more.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Sucy's potion to defeat the minotaur. It doesn't just kill the beast, it liquefies him. And then the mass of minotaur goop melts through the floor, creating a tunnel to the level below:"The formula might have been a bit too strong."
- Untranslated Title: The Chilean Spanish dub keeps the original English name in the films. The dub also keeps the same pronunciation of all the foreign names. For example, Akko's name is pronounced the Japanese way, and Diana's name is pronounced the same way in English (Dye-ana), rather than phonetically in Spanish (Dee-ana).
- Waterfall Puke: One member of Diana's Girl Posse is visibly (though very briefly) shown to be throwing up after seeing the effects of Sucy's potion on the minotaur.