Little Witch Academia – 20

Despite Akko’s protesting (with backup from Andrew) Diana insists she has no choice but to perform the ritual before the transit of Venus behind the moon is complete. She goes into the ritual chambers alone, but is immediately impeded in her mission by Aunt Daryl, who wraps her in one of her many giant magic snake familiars.

No matter how much logic he tosses at Akko, she knows it’s not right for Diana to be dropping out; she’s clearly putting her own dreams aside for the good of her family. When they eavesdrop on Daryl and her twin daughters talking about how she had no problem stopping Diana, Akko has all the moral capital she needs to break with sacred Cavendish custom and enter the sanctum to rescue her.

Andrew helps, convinced that Akko is right. He remembers how passionate Diana became years ago when talk flew around she wouldn’t be able to perform magic. We know the spark of inspiration was the twin pillars of her mother and Shiny Chariot. But to her credit, Akko keeps Andrew out of the sanctum: she’ll bring back Diana on her own…all the way back the academy.

Akko proves she can mostly take care of herself, using her patented partial-transformation magic in rapid-fire mode to lure the snakes away from Diana and stay one step ahead until she regains consciousness and saves her.

With Akko bitten and poisoned, Diana sacrifices her chance to complete the ritual by healing and staying with Akko, who wakes up, then scolds Diana for staying there with her instead of continuing on with the ritual. But this is just Diana being Diana: kind, caring, and healing, just like her mother and the centuries of Cavandishes who came before her.

It’s no coincidence their conversation is held in a facility borne of that family “affection”, a secret hospital where Diana’s ancestors used their considerable magical knowledge to heal the wounded from conflicts that plagued history, without regard to whose side they were on.

Diana’s confession of her lifelong dream (to protect and preserve her family’s and mother’s names and the home they left behind) moves Akko to assure her she can still achieve that dream, restoring her family and complete her education at Luna Nova, as long as she…you guessed it, believes in her heart.

In this manner, two Chariot superfans—one current, one lapsed—come together to realize her credo that a believing heart can make anything possible. To that end, traditional and modern powers mingle, and Diana realizes the fifth word is Akko’s for the taking.

Reciting it summons Chariot’s broom, which they ride together to reach the site where the ritual is to be completed…only to find Aunt Beryl and her daughters waiting to disrupt Diana once more.

For this latest act of treachery, Diana’s relations are punished not by her or Akko, but by the system itself, and are quickly encased in trees. As she did with Akko, Diana stays true to her family’s legacy again by putting judgement aside and helping others before herself.

By the time she’s saved Daryl and the twins, the Venusian eclipse is over, but Diana still gets a momentary nod of approval, so to speak, from her family’s founder, Lady Beatrix. She may not have quite completed the ritual, but it’s clear to all who will lead the Cavendish family’s future.

Until that time, Diana is free to return to Luna Nova, much to Akko’s delight. She also gives Akko a ride home on her broom, which is the perfect time for her to express her gratitude for what Akko did…softly, and only once. Still, Akko heard her, and after their shared experiences this week their bond has never been tighter.

After charming and fun but inconsequential episodes involving the B-characters, this Diana-focused two-parter was a welcome and worthwhile outing that brought two rivals closer together and brought Akko one word closer to potentially changing the world.

I also appreciated the bonhomie that’s gradually developed between Akko and Andrew (who will be back, at least to give Akko her hat back). While I would have preferred if Diana’s full fleshing-out arc had come sooner, it’s better late than never, and well worth the wait.

Advertisements

Flying Witch – 06

fw61

This may not make much sense, but Flying Witch felt like it was almost trying too hard to be about nothing all last week, which pulled of took me out of its world. But this week it returns to its effortless coziness. Like the magic it contains, Flying Witch is not usually flashy, but it can be powerful.

Just seeing Mako in the air on her broom again was a sight for sore eyes, and Akane’s suggestion that she not try to ride a broom she is levitating, but levitate herself along with the broom, provides invaluable insight into the ways of witching.

fw62

While Makoto figures out how to ride properly, Chinatsu is satisfied she’s seen enough: she wants to be a witch too, and formally requests Akane take her on as an apprentice. Akane entertains the request, waiting until the young child is out of the room when she tells Kei that it’s a difficult, possibly life-changing path for one who was not born a witch.

But young and impulsive as Chinatsu is, there’s no arguing with her assertion Akane and Makoto are cute and amazing. And Chinatsu’s fantasies of how she’d use her powers are just as cute.

fw63

Akane drives home the point that magic isn’t always about telekinetically manipulating toys, transforming cars into pumpkin carriages, or creating candy houses that eat people. The basic stuff is subtle, and yet still requires precise preparation to work at all.

Akane proves to be a good teacher, precise in her directives while maintaining her pupils’ faith throughout, in spite of evidence of the spell working. I like how Kei, meanwhile, is simply sitting on a bean bag watching dumb movies. Hey, after that weeding, he earned a break!

fw64

When the spell is finally complete, and Makoto eats the newly-enchanted Pocky, I perked up to see what, if anything, would happen. Turns out the lesson also served as a prank, which is it’s own lesson about the power of even minor spells. Makoto ends up crying at everything for about an hour, while Chinatsu ends up laughing at everything

Cats be all like “humans be crazy”, Kei’s movie is interrupted by their noise, while Chinatsu and Kei’s mom has a little fun making her daughter laugh (though I dunno about letting Makoto handle a knife while crying uncontrollably). As for their dad, he eats both snacks and is domed to spend the next hour laugh-crying over everything. Magic, man: You gotta respect it.

16rating_8

P.S. One issue I wish would be addressed, but probably won’t be: the music. There seems to be one main musical theme to FW, and it’s used every week, usually more than once. It was cute and matched the mood, but it’s totally played out. More musical variety, please!

Flying Witch – 03

fw31

Flying Witch continues to engross and enchant with a deft, gentle touch. It excels at showing life at the pace a Yokohama girl transplanted into the boonies would see it: much slower, but pleasantly so. I appreciate the dialect barrier: she has no idea what her uncle is saying, so it’s good her cousins do.

When Makoto wants to start a garden, Kei and Chinatsu help prepare a patch of the field out back, neglected since their grandmother’s passing. Like their dad’s accent (and their lack of same), the family’s move away from farming is a sign of the times, but the show doesn’t dwell on it in a negative light; it’s just the way things are.

fw32

Similarly, when Makoto, city girl, sees a pheasant tantalizingly close up for the first time, she and Chito just can’t resist trying to catch it. Makoto exerts almost as much energy chasing the thing (which has nothing to do with her witch training) as she does preparing the earth. But the three get the job done, and now it’s up to the soil to absorb the nutrients, which will take, you guessed it, time.

It’s a testament to just how calm and quiet this show is that Chinatsu later describes Makoto’s world-wandering sister Akane as a typhoon, even though Akane isn’t particularly forceful or stormy or a burden; she’s just not at the same pace as this quiet country life.

fw33

Akane is a mover and a shaker, living as a nomad (currently in Africa); giving everyone unprocessed gifts of cacao, salt, and oil; and correcting her modesty by agreeing with her sister that she is, in fact, a big deal in the witching community.

But like the signs of the times, the show makes no bigger a deal of Akane than anything or anyone else. It’s a rare anime instance where hearing bits and pieces of the larger witching world is more effective than showing everything. It leaves the imagination step in to wonder.

Akane hears (from Chito…the cat) that Makoto hasn’t used any magic since moving there, and only flown on her broom once. This confirms what I’d already suspected: not only is the show downplaying more overt forms of magic, but Makoto herself still isn’t comfortable with them.

fw34

That’s okay with Akane, and even sees it as a boon for her sister, not having to rely on spells the way she does. That being said, she wants Makoto to cast spells from time to time, lest her powers dwindle. I like the the idea that the magic a witch possesses must be nurtured and polished like any non-magical skill.

To that end, Akane shows Makoto and Chinatsu one of the simplest beginner spells there is: summoning a witch with a girl’s black hair, fire, and an incantation written on paper. Makoto uses her own hair and ends up making a huge column of black smoke that summons all crows, which is what happens when a witch’s hair is used.

I’m fascinated by the fact that the power of a witch can be expressed in such a subtle way as her hair burning differently than a non-witch. It’s another detail that enriches the world of the show, a world grounded in reality with little flourishes of magic you’ll miss if you’re not looking.

16rating_8

Flying Witch – 02

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 12.11.04 PM

Part travel guide to the magical world of the countryside, part cooking show, this week’s Flying Witch is leisurely and incredibly comfortable. I’ve never been so transfixed by a show with so little drama or humor and has no stakes at all.

What happened? Makoto finally makes it home from school on her own and spends a pleasant afternoon with Chinatsu-chan. Then the Harbinger of Spring arrives and poor Chinatsu is terrified by his mask and great size.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 12.18.00 PM

Later, after learning about the Harbinger’s job (to bring spring) and receiving a gift of spring flowers from him, Chinatsu’s heart warms and she asks if he will return soon.

The second act is presented in 3 small parts. First, Makoto dreams that Nao is marked with a sign of great luck only to wake up, having no idea what the class is being quizzed on. Second, as they walk home talking about witch dreams, Kei stops and shows them Bakke growing beside the road, which they pick for dinner. Finally, Kei deep fries the bakke for Makoto to try while Chinatsu alludes to this being a sign of being an adult.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 12.27.12 PM

Flying Witch reminds me of taking a casual walk with a friend in spring. It’s crisp, un-strenuous, and surrounds you with subtle details to admire and talk about. When picking bakke, Kei reminds us not to pick near utility poles because dogs pee there. While cooking bakke, Kei reminds us that the bubbles on our chopsticks mean the oil is hot enough to cook.

Slow bites, warm smiles, loving conversation.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 12.33.15 PM

It’s worth watching: because each character feels ernest and specific. Its characters are cute, but not KAWAIIIIII over the top and when they are nice, they are nice, not absurdly selfless.

Its all so welcoming, there’s no reason to criticize it for a lack of overall plot, lack of conflict, or clear purpose. Flying Witch is just Makoto’s happy life, observed closely, as if we were sharing the space with her.

16rating_8

Flying Witch – 01 (First Impressions)

fw11

Like Shounen MaidFlying Witch has a very self-explanatory title, and is also a lighthearted slice-of-life tale about a young person starting a new chapter of their life.

In this case it’s an of-age witch, Kowata Makoto, moving out of her parents’ house in Yokohama to live with her second cousins in sleepy Aomori, where she’ll remain until she becomes full-fledged.

She also brings along her black cat Chito, though he only speaks Cat, not Human. Still, the first thing that came into my head was Kiki’s Delivery Service, only Makoto isn’t living all the way on her own and doesn’t have to worry about money and such.

fw12

I like the excitement of moving to a new place and basking in its newness, though by God Makoto has a lot of moving boxes!

I also like the very realistic way her younger cousin Chinatsu is initially weary of the new freeloader, especially when she hears her talking to her cat.

fw13

That changes when the two girls go out shopping, Makoto picks up a bamboo broom, and starts levitating above the ground, a magical scene full of quiet awe.

Once Makoto takes her on a ride around town (which we unfortunately don’t get to see), Chinatsu’s weariness is replaced by the sheer glee of, well, having been flown around on a broom by a real witch.

fw14

Another girl who doesn’t initially warm to Makoto is her cousin Kei’s childhood friend Ishiwatari Nao, who first meets Makoto while the latter is on her broom.

‘Alarmed’ and ‘cautious’ are the best word to describe Nao’s attitude, though Makoto makes it clear that besides being a witch, she’s just a normal girl who would like to be friends, and would hope that Nao bear with her occasional lapses into…witchiness.

fw15

The latest comes when Makoto smells something and starts bushwhacking in a random lot to procure a “present” for Nao that turns out to be a Mandrake root.

Both the horrifying screams of the root and its bizarre cooing and squirming thoroughly creepy Nao out, and who can blame her? Makoto is her first witch acquaintance.

Flying Witch is a calm, quiet, earnest slice-of-life with tinges of supernatural-ness and comedy dispersed throughout, and Makoto is a kind, likable Amami Hibiki-type with a healthy tinge of eccentricity. A nice little feel-good show if you have the time.

16rating_8

Witch Craft Works – 03

witch3-1

About those “larger and more organized attacks” we talked about? They don’t quite arrive this week, as an early-morning strike by Tanpopo and her girls is twarted in the blink of an eye by Kagari; almost too easily. But the focus here is the start of Takamiya’s magic training, and here the episode excels at evoking the awe and wonder inherent in such an exercise. While short-statured and not immensely strong, while wearing the magical garb Kagari personally selected for him, he can leap tremendous heights and even carry her with ease.

But we knew Chronoire Schwarz VI was planning to attack, and this week she finally does, luring Kagari and Takamiya onto a magic bus and quickly paralyzing Kagari. She then puts Takamiya in his first real spot, telling him to swallow something that will extract his mana, or watch his beautiful knight bleed out. But ends up not having to do much, as Kagari is able to overcome her paralysis and destroy Chronoire’s avatar (it’s assumed the body we see isn’t her only one). But he still has the mana-extracting candy, a symbol of the insidious threat Chronoire still poses.

witch3-2

The threat of enemy witches aside, Takamiya is also finding himself particularly hated by everyone in his school, and we mean everyone. There hasn’t been so much as a bawdy male classmate to put Takamiya in a half-nelson for no reason; he’s literally friendless, except for Kagari, which is kind of sad. In this regard, the remainder of the student body is really just one uninteresting character that worships Kagari and curses the one she favors. Though it isn’t as if Takamiya was Mr. Popular before Kagari started doting on him.

The piece-de-resistance this week was the broom-flying lesson, a very majestically-presented scene that surely dulled the effect of the peer-hate for Takamiya. It’s also an opportunity for him to show initiative independent of Kagari, when he summons his own broom to save one of those peers from delinquents—despite not knowing how to fly yet. It proves to be another Tower witch trap that Kagari must swoop in and handle, but we like how Takamiya isn’t going to allow Kagari’s fear of him getting hurt stop him from doing what he feels is the right thing.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)