Little Witch Academia: Making Magic Transnational

Management: While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. This post mainly references Little Witch Academia: “A New Beginning” and general elements and specific moments in the narratives of the Harry Potter franchise. 

little-witch-academia-3

There were a number of things that I grew up on that I still look at fondly today whenever I’m feeling particularly nostalgic. The fact that I didn’t need to work, the first anime that I didn’t know was anime that really gripped me, and the Harry Potter franchise. I always thought that it was neat that the books became lengthier, featured more complex plots, and progressed into something that took increasingly higher language chops to read through with each installment. As Harry grew up, so did his readers. Say what you will about the literary quality of these children to young adult novels (the epilogue admittedly reads like cheesy fanfiction), I remember reading and re-reading each volume, voraciously, from front to back. The paperbacks of the volumes I owned began falling apart, and some of them did (like that monster of the fifth book). I got into heated debates with myself and other fans about a number of franchise-related controversies, like how the books were better than the movies and about which character should be romantically paired with who. I laughed, cried, got embarrassed and smiled widely. The world and its characters brought me a sense of immersive pleasure that couldn’t compare to anything else at the time.

It was a magical experience for me, and judging by the multimedia commercial empire this Wizarding World spawned, it was a magical experience for tens and, I daresay, hundreds of millions of people too. But then you experience life a little more and notice some things that you didn’t before, little idiosyncrasies that stem from the British author who wrote these things in. People engage with media in different ways, after all. These idiosyncrasies were even more apparent to me when comparing the Harry Potter franchise to a Harry Potter-inspired series like Little Witch Academia. It didn’t take away from what joy I felt when I first read the novels or watched the films. Nor did it reframe the stories that I cherished as a child and adolescent as this grossly insidious thing in lurking in the bowels that I now needed to purge from my system lest I be and remain an awful person deep down. And bear in mind, Little Witch Academia is just full of love for all things Harry Potter, and it illustrates that love through its numerous callbacks to its world and characters.

little-witch-academia-2

While the Harry Potter franchise has been a wild international success, at the very end of the day, Harry Potter is a groundedly British product whose limited depictions of non-British cultures is marked by some exotic stereotypes. By contrast, Little Witch Academia is more reflective of the transnational nature of both the Potter and anime fandoms. The identity of its content is neither solely British or Japanese, nor does it treat the audience’s initial impressions of its non-British and non-Japanese elements as anything particularly special. That’s more uncommon in my line of entertainment experiences than I’d prefer.

Continue reading

Advertisements