Little Witch Academia (TV) Season 2 – Anime Review
Synopsis: Akko enrolls at the Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy. She’s not the best student, but her bright attitude is the key to her and her friends’ success. (Official Netflix Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Little Witch Academia’s second cour (or season if you go by Netflix labeling) shifts focus away from telling one-off, Saturday morning cartoon type stories and more towards an ongoing, character transforming narrative focused on both developing Akko and her rival Diana. Despite the progress Akko made earlier, with realizations that she can’t entirely exist in Chariot’s shadow, Akko takes a step back. She again becomes the character we met early on, fixated on transforming herself into the next Chariot and much of her character development over this second season is focused on dealing with that resurgent character flaw.
Coupling that with an overarching narrative that consumes much of the series run time, many of the side characters are shafted for screen time. As the season continues both Sucy and Lotte are gradually pushed to the side, with either appearing less and less frequently as the story ramps up to deal with Akko, Diana, Chariot and Professor Croix, the second season’s major addition, and primary antagonist.
While Sucy and Lotte are set to the side, Professor Croix becomes another major focus, helping to shed light on a number of twists and narrative surprises surrounding Chariot’s past. Chariot’s past itself plays a major role in turning the series on its head and shedding new light on Akko’s life and her struggles with magic, adding a kind of sinister ‘aha’ moment that injects an epic quality to the story. Croix herself isn’t a terribly compelling character, most notably poised as the primary antagonist and through line that eventually leads to a classic, over the top Trigger climax the studio is so well known for. The same can be said for Chariot. While we’re gifted with a number of revelations concerning her past, much of it is used to feed the narrative, rather than offer up a transformation to her own persona.
The overarching narrative gives greater room to explore Diana, Akko and the history of Chariot, but it also shunts attention away from the series most underutilized characters, Constanze, Amanda and Jasmineka. These three were first introduced in the franchises second short film, and much like there, exist more to flesh out the cast with unique character designs rather than offer up fleshed out characters to enjoy and become attached to episode to episode. While Amanda and Constanze get one or two one off episodes each, Jasmineka is relegated to her singular ‘I’m fat so I love food’ gag. It’s unfortunate, as these three remains some of the franchises most under explored and underutilized characters.
Little Witch Academia’s choice to go with a more serialized outing, over its previously episodic offering isn’t necessarily a wrong one, but it does mean audiences who enjoyed the Saturday morning cartoon vibe will find it whittled away in favor of a darker, lengthier narrative.
In changing up the flow, the series begins to lose a lot of the whimsy and care-free atmosphere it once held. It’s replaced by an increasingly dark tone, as we learn some of the more unfortunate events to proceed the series. But this doesn’t mean Little Witch Academia is bad, no, instead I think it maintains a generally solid and enjoyable quality, but for entirely different reasons as it completely changes directions.
But in changing directions, and building towards an epic conclusion, the show fumbles a tad. There’s a gradual shift to focus on the rest of the world, outside of the witches, that never quite feels like enough. The rest of Academia’s world feels a bit nebulous, and while we learn enough to ultimately get the point across, some of it feels shoe-horned in, only connected just enough to not feel entirely out of left field. Characters like Andrew, his father, and other male-centric political types play important, although not entirely memorable roles, fleshed out just enough to give the most minimal of weight to scenes focusing on them in the finale, or to dole out important plot points concerning Diana’s humanizing history for Akko’s consumption.
Overall Little Witch Academia’s 2nd season is an epic, even at times emotional journey, with revelations that turn aspects of the story on its head. But it abandons many of the qualities that made the first season so enticing, such as that Saturday morning cartoon nature. If you’re okay with that, then great, as Little Witch Academia does a good job of leading Akko upon a path of self-discovery and gradual realization as to her real strengths.
Little Witch Academia (TV) is available for streaming via Netflix