Yoshinari You is the director and creator of both the Little Witch Academia films, and now returns to direct the TV series. In this interview with Animage (May 2017), Yoshinari takes a look back on the first cour of this magical series!
Like Akko, the staff gives it their all when they’re struggling.
— At last, the 2nd cour of Little Witch Academia, your TV anime director debut, has started. This is usually a turning point in stories but, do you care to talk about the 1st cour with us.
Yoshinari: We had no time (bitterly laughs). In our previous work, and the one before that, we were working with the Japanese Agency For Cultural Affairs’ Young Animator Training Project, so the focus was to cultivate animators talents. We had more than enough time. With TV anime, I realized the lack of time allocated is incomparable. Every day I’m tinkering away at how best to allot our time, it’s a mystery how other anime productions do it. The sheer number of meetings and check, and working to assure that everything from the design to the original story doesn’t deviate, is all a lot more taxing than I could have imagined.
— Comparing the films and the TV series, what is the biggest difference in the production and creation process?
Yoshinari: From a production standpoint, putting aside the matter of time, it comes down to the story and characters. In the original, they all stood without background, but in the TV version we can dig deeper and show scenes of Akko and the gang’s growth. The staff has arrived at the point where they also want to challenge themselves, like Akko and the gang, and take responsibility while struggling together. This was true for Handa (Shuhei) the character designer, as well as the key animator Hori Takafumi who took the initiative to help out when our hands were tied with important scenes. Yoshigaki Yusuke was the same. The world design of Little Witch Academia was able to blend so seamlessly thanks to Yoshigaki. Everyone, from those that worked on the films to the new animators, put the utmost effort into making sure Akko and her friends successfully transfer over into the TV version. Everyone is experiencing their own bit of growth.
Episode 7 fish designs for Akko, Sucy, and Lotte by Yoshigaki Yusuke.
— What is one of the trials of working on this piece?
Yoshinari: Honestly this whole thing is one big trial (laughs). Lots of things can occur during production, so it’s a battle until the last episode is finished. The trials aren’t finished, so I can’t say how I’ll feel until it’s all done. Be that as it may, seeing this through until the end is a trial in itself, so I’m praying everyone makes it there safely (laughs).
The charm of ever-changing characters.
— In the anime, Akko, Lotte, and Sucy embark on struggle after struggle. I think following them through their journey is charming, but what do you find to be charming about the girls?
Yoshinari: In the show, they are a troublemaking trio, but individually, Akko’s weakness is what I find charming. On the one hand, she’s the positive type who always puts herself out there, but on the other, she displays her weakness, like in episode thirteen [“The Magic of Samhain”]. I’ll be really happy if I can get that charm across. Lotte, at first glance, doesn’t seem like the assertive type, but when she argues with Akko in episode four [“Night Fall”], she shows that she can hold her own just as much as the other two. She is also a fanatic in her own right, so that part of her is rather charming. Ever since episode eight [“Sleeping Dreamer Sucy”], it’s been relatively easy to see the change in Sucy, but for me, I felt that her character was pretty well established all the way back in episode two [“Papilloiodeia”]. We haven’t finished writing in their backgrounds at all, but it’s better if we write more.
— Who is your favorite character?
Yoshinari: Ursula, because Hidaka Noriko is her voice actor (laughs). Ursula is the character who shoulders the biggest responsibility in this anime, the theme. I like that there is so much room for speculation on points like why she is now teaching at Luna Nova. Also, the growth of Shiny Chariot (well, not sure if we can call it growth just yet) into Ursula is very interesting, and I hope that everyone watching will enjoy.
— Doubling back, what do you think is the charm of this show?
Yoshinari: I believe it’s the characters. We put our hearts into showing off the diversity of their ever-changing personalities and outward appearances, and I want that point to come across, but no matter what, we made the show that we wanted everyone to enjoy.
— So, who is going to be a key player from here on out?
Yoshinari: Oh, of course, Croix. She has some connection to Ursula, and she can make use of magic in a way that no other character has before. The wheels of the story will be turning fast, and Akko will have to embark on an ordeal bigger than she has ever faced. This isn’t going to be a textbook ending, there are still many interesting points to the story, so please follow with us until the end.