The Little Witch Academia anime Kickstarter and Japan’s supremacy in the pop culture for girls arena
So last night, I got wind of the Kickstarter campaign for Little Witch Academia, an effort launched by Studio Trigger, a Japanese anime studio based in Tokyo.
Their Kickstarter aims to raise $150,000 to produce a longer sequel episode to the first installment of this possible series set in a school for young witches. Their original plans were to produce a 20-minute episode, but with the Kickstarter funds, Studio Trigger hopes to produce an additional 15 minutes of animation.
To make their case, they posted the entire first episode of Little Witch Academia on YouTube, and on their Kickstarter page (which you can view in its entirety for free). It’s 25-minutes long, it’s got English subtitles, and it’s well worth watching, even if you’re normally not into anime.
Little Witch Anime: A Fun, All-Ages Anime That Passes the Bechdel Test!
The lead character in Little Witch Academia is Akko, a girl who decided that she wanted to wield magic after watching a stage show featuring Shiny Chariot, a flashy female witch. As a tween, Akko enrolls in Luna Nova, an exclusive academy for witches, and to her deep disappointment, she finds the classes to be very, very boring. Akko is also a bit of a klutz who can’t seem to get the hang of flying with a broom.
But while on a scavenger hunt activity for one of her classes, Akko and her classmates unwittingly unleash a monster, and must find a way to defeat it before it terrorizes the rest of the world.
First off, the animation in Little Witch Academia is stellar — it’s very charming and expressive without being cloyingly cute. Akko is a charmingly awkward and likeable character that girls and grown-ups alike can enjoy rooting for.
And with almost NO male characters in this series, Little Witch Academia passes the Bechdel Test — in which female characters interact with each other and don’t just talk about the men in their lives. Don’t laugh — this is a surprisingly difficult test for most movies/games/TV shows to pass!
The 8-year old girl in me had a blast watching the first episode of Little Witch Academia. I’d love to see more of it, and more shows like this — and that’s why I threw some money at this Kickstarter, and hope you will too.
Little Witch Academia vs. the Tyranny of Fanservice
Now, I didn’t go into watching Little Witch Academia with much expectations. I had heard a bit of buzz about it while I was at Anime Expo, but to be honest, I thought “Little Witch Academia” was the title of a new academic journal for anime/manga studies. Yeah, that’s how out of the loop of anime fandom I am. Manga’s more my thing for a pretty simple reason: I’m pretty turned off by the proliferation of gratuitous fanservice in most anime today.
Maybe it’s just me being an older female fan, but a lot of today’s anime shows with female leads turn me off because of the fanservice overkill. Don’t get me wrong — fanservice has its place. I totally get that fanservice-filled anime/manga sells. (Fanservice = panty shots, bouncing boobs and preening topless men - yes, fanservice is for male and female fans).
But too much fanservice can be like glopping spicy mayo on sushi — it can be used to hide a lack of ‘fresh’ ideas. I’m not totally against fanservice, but today’s anime biz could really use a fresh, fun crossover hit for kids that can be easily enjoyed by new fans who aren’t deeply into anime’s tropes and subculture.
As adults who live and breathe in the world of geek fandom, we sometimes forget that there’s a need for that kind of content — that the world still needs anime, comics, games, etc. that can be enjoyed by its original target audience: kids.
Having a female lead doesn’t make an anime “Girl-friendly”
After watching Little Witch Academia, I then started raving about it on Twitter, about how “girl friendly” it is. Someone (male, presumably) responded to me saying “I don’t think I’ve ever seen any anime that’s girl-negative.”
"Girl positive" is not just having a "strong female character" with big guns and big boobs, or a magical girl with a short skirt and a magic wand in front — it’s about creating a story that doesn’t make females (young and old)… uncomfortable, or makes us feel condescended to.
I can tell the difference between when I’m watching a show with female characters that was created by and for male fans, and a show that speaks to me, and makes both the adult me and the little kid in me smile. You don’t have to be female to create this kind of show, or female to appreciate this kind of entertainment — but you’d be surprised how rare this type of content is, especially in the U.S.
One thing that Japan has done consistently better than the U.S. entertainment biz is creating content that girls/women can enjoy. Not just enjoy in a “I like stuff that boys like” kind of way, but truly LOVE, feel passionate and enthusiastic about, and most importantly, feel inspired by it — inspired to create comics/games/fiction/anime themselves, or simply be inspired to dream.
I was lucky — I got turned on to Japanese manga and anime when I was in elementary school, long before it was readily available in English. Back in the day, my gateway drug to manga and anime was Princess Knight & Candy Candy, two series meant for young girls, not older guys who like young girl anime.
Later generations of North American female fans got turned on to Sailor Moon, Magic Knight Rayearth, Ranma 1/2 (a shonen manga series created by a female creator) — Japanese manga and anime series that filled a void in the American entertainment scene where comics were either superhero fare for boys or Archie Comics, and stuff for girls was/is either princesses or Barbie/bimbo-centric fare. I mean, come on. It took years for PIXAR to do a movie with a female lead.
A No-Brainer: $200K+ and Counting Raised for Little Witches Academia in ONE DAY
Anyway, I’m not here to bash male fans or male tastes in pop culture fandom. We can all co-exist together in the big tent of geekdom. But I guess I wanted to say that I’m a little sad that Studio Trigger had to resort to Kickstarter to get a fun, all-ages fantasy series for girls made. This series should have been a no-brainer for any studio/investor to fund, and by damn, I’m glad that it blasted past its $150K goal in the first hours of its Kickstarter campaign (it’s now at $218K and counting, with 29 days to go.)
If you agree with me that we need more all-ages friendly anime, and especially need more stuff that girls all over the world can love, then please throw more money at this Kickstarter. We need to tell the industry that we’re ready for something like this. Do it!