By Thankyou-Tatsuo / Special to The Yomiuri ShimbunHas there been such a pleasurable ending to an anime of late? That’s what I was thinking as I watched the final episode of “Little Witch Academia,” savoring the sense of speed and catharsis.
My feeling was no doubt partly due to how big the work has become thanks to all the love it’s received from viewers. The first work in the “Little Witch Academia” franchise was an animation film shown as part of “Animemirai 2013,” a project by the Cultural Affairs Agency to help develop young animators. The showing led to the production of another film for theatrical release, and finally the TV anime that ran from January to June.
Yo Yoshinari, who directed both the films and the TV anime, has been a key member of creative teams that have produced such fiercely unique works as “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” “FLCL,” “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann,” “Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt” and “Kill la Kill.”
Tracing the chronology of his works is like following the evolution of anime over the years. I’m already tempted to regard Yoshinari as a historical figure in the genre, although he’s still in his 40s. In “Little Witch Academia,” his directorial debut, he has generously entertained us with a hand-drawn work full of appealing motion. I am truly impressed with his ambition.
Even setting aside the work’s significance in today’s anime scene, the final episode held enough intrigue to delight any viewer.
The story of “Little Witch Academia” revolves around girls who have entered a sorcery school to obtain the state qualification needed to become a witch.
I’d like to emphasize that this work was packed with ingenuity as well as superbly edited images that work well in an anime.
To be more precise, it’s about how the work depicted smoke and aerial combat.
Smoke is an important motif in anime, be it from an explosion or the dust cloud behind a vehicle running at top speed. It often moves like a living thing, and avid anime fans can instantly tell which animator’s work a certain smoke is by simply looking at it. A fascinating aspect of anime is how an animated explosion’s destructive power and blast wave is made to look much bigger through the use of smoke.
I often found such striking depictions of smoke in the final episode of “Little Witch Academia,” from the trail streaming from the end of a witch’s broom as it sails through the sky like a rocket to the billows that appear when an enemy is defeated or a character shows up. Such rich variation makes it impossible to get bored.
In a highlight of the aerial combat, the lead characters fly through the air while avoiding missiles fired by the enemy. Deciding the angle to depict characters flying at high speed and eluding oncoming weapons — all while looking suitably thrilling and heroic — requires a high level of skill and vast amount of hard work. The challenge is a traditional one for anime creators, and the final episode of “Little Witch Academia” succeeded to such a degree that I found myself letting out an audible “Ooh!”
More than just the excitement of the story, the work helped me to rediscover the beauty of the anime art form.
“Little Witch Academia” is no longer being broadcast, but the anime is available on Blu-ray and DVD. The fifth volume will go on sale Aug. 9.