Little Witch Academia, Vol. 1

By Trigger, Yoh Yoshinari and Keisuke Sato. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Ace. Released in North America by JY. Translated by Taylor Engel.

Despite this being another franchise where I’ve never actually seen the anime, I knew quite a bit about it to begin with. It was a Kickstarter series that blew up into a full-fledged TV anime, it’s been described as “Harry Potter if they were all girls”, and Akko/Diana is the preferred ship, I am told. Other than that, I was ready to be charmed by this manga, which is coming out here under Yen’s “JY” line, so is definitely being marketed to younger readers. Which I can see, as kids will love this. It’s a good title for adults as well, though, and Akko makes a fun heroine – fallible and sloppy, but also filled with a love of life that puts a smile on your face. It also helps that she’s surrounded by a few snarkers to help take the sugary edge off.

The manga does assume to a certain degree that you’re already familiar with its source, but for the neophyte, there is an introductory chapter. Akko is a wannabe witch who’s bad at flying, trying to make her way to the Witchcraft Academy, rather unusual for a Japanese student. Through a series of misadventures, she meets two other students – the glasses-wearing, earnest Lotte and the sarcastic, droopy-eyed Sucy – and she ends up at the Academy, ready to follow in the footsteps of her idol Chariot. The rest of the book shows various Academy events, as we see that Akko is not the best student in the world, but makes up for it with lots of energy, drive and GUTS! In other words, despite being all girls, this is a perfect series to run in Shonen Ace, and it wouldn’t be too out of place in Jump either.

For fans of Diana, she’s not as prevalent in this first manga as I was expecting, but there’s enough of her here to see why fans really like to pair off the two of them – they’re very Usagi and Rei. I can also see the Harry Potter comparison, mostly as the three main characters map somewhat to Harry, Hermione and Ron, though Harry was never quite this hyperactive, and Quidditch is replaced by volleyball – where they aren’t supposed to use magic, but do anyway. If there’s a fault with the manga, it’s that it does feel something like a side story to the main anime – there’s no sense that this is going in its own direction, but filling in some gaps that the main story, which was animated, left out. That said, there are hints that we’re going to be getting a bit deeper, such as the cliffhanger ending to this volume.

If you like the anime, or have kids who did, I can’t see why you wouldn’t pick this up. As for me, it makes me want to try the anime to see what I’m missing.

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