Little Witch Academia- Orbital Launch
Little Witch Academia is an anime original by Studio Trigger that first came onto the scene in March of 2013 with a short film funded by the Young Animator Training Project. The Young Animator Training Project is a program funded by the Japanese government through the Agency for Cultural Affairs, with the goal of supporting future animators. Studio Trigger followed up the success of the first film with a second film in 2015 supported by funding through the crowd funding platform Kickstarter. This all led to the full length 25-episode TV series that came out in 2017, which was also released on Netflix, where I was able to see it. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say it’s basically Japanese magical girl Harry Potter, or something like that. It also happens to have a very interesting science reference. Warning: there will be some spoilers for the final episode.
Scene from Episode 25
Watch from 5:00 minutes to 10:00 minutes
If you didn’t catch the reference, then watch it again and focus on the red-haired girl’s section of the flight. Still didn’t see it? Then watch the video below for the real-world version.
As you can, see the girls linked their brooms together to chase after an object, and their flight path mimics the path taken by many craft launched into high orbit. This makes sense as their target is a rogue ballistic missile that was possessed by magic.
FYI– it is probably based on the Trident missile since it was a sub-launched missile in a fictional country that bears more than a passing resemblance to the United Kingdom, which makes and uses Trident missiles.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Little Witch Academia, a magical girl anime, has the best depiction of the Roll Program that I have ever seen in anime. FYI- I have not seen Planets, or other anime that have very real-world depictions of space flight. The Roll Program, or tilt maneuver, is an aerodynamic maneuver used when launching objects into space.
The purpose of the Roll Program is to adjust the altitude and trajectory of spacecraft launched from a vertical position so the craft enters the proper orbit. While they are not a spacecraft, the girls are chasing after a ballistic missile which can reach altitudes of 93 to 240miles, and outer space begins above the Karman line at 63 miles. (Hey, they are witches so being in outer space shouldn’t be a problem.) So, when Amanda (the red-haired girl) pulls the roll maneuver during their flight it makes sense in both the show and in the real world for going after objects in orbit.
Another reference you might have noticed in the clip from Little Witch Academia Episode 25 is that it took the force of multiple girls flying to launch our two heroes into orbit. If I had to guess, I would say that the scene was inspired by multistage rockets which are used by a number of space agencies around the world. The Japanese space agency (JAXA) has the H-II series of rockets which have 2 stages. The girls combine to imitate a 4-stage rocket during the scene in question. FYI- several 4 stage rockets exist in the real world: Ariane 1, Minotaur, Proton, and the PSLV.
First Stage- Jasminka
Second Stage- Constance
Third Stage and Roll Program- Amanda
Fourth Stage, and arguably a dual/parallel stage (two rockets paired together)– Sucy, Lotte
Payload– Diana, Ako
The benefit to a multistage rocket over one giant rocket is efficiency, which allows the rocket to launch a heavier payload to a higher altitude. The way it works is that each stage lifts the craft to a predetermined altitude and speed before running out of fuel and breaking off.
This is seen in the clip as each girl propels the group until she runs out of magic and breaks off. Fun fact: the boosters are progressively smaller, providing less thrust, as the total mass of the rocket is smaller after the previous booster detaches. Now you could then assume that Jasminka, the girl acting as the first booster, is one of, if not the strongest, girls in the group seeing as she has to provide the power to lift the entire group.
Yes, a magical girl anime has one of the more accurate depictions of a multistage rocket launch outside of the shows that specifically revolve around real world space flight. Thus, I will be confirming the portrayal of the rocket launch and chase scene in Little Witch Academia.