You may have already guessed I’m a big fan of witches. I’ve watched a lot of TV shows about witches, all the way back to the original Bewitched. (Did you know Samantha helped to inspire the magical girl character? Sally the Witch was the first magical girl anime, after the Japanese dub of Bewitched!)
There’s still lots of great witch shows on television today. Here’s some of my favorites.
1. Little Witch Academia
“Little Witch Academia takes place at Luna Nova Magical Academy, a prestigious school for young girls training to become witches. Having been inspired by a witch named Shiny Chariot, a girl named Atsuko (“Akko”) Kagari enrolls at Luna Nova Magical Academy to become a witch, but struggles due to her non-magical background. This all changes when she discovers the Shiny Rod, a powerful magic relic left behind by Chariot.” –from Wikipedia
This is an anime, although you can find translations in English and other languages. What started as a few short films blossomed into a full series with lots of cute characters.
It’s a typical magical school training series, starring Akko, an awkward girl who wasn’t born into a witch family but wants to learn magic anyway. It’s similar to Harry Potter but also The Worst Witch as well as many Japanese school stories. For fans of Sailor Moon, here’s a bonus bit of trivia: Akko’s Japanese voice actress is Megumi Han, the daughter of Keiko Han, who was the original Luna!
What I love about this show is how cute it is, the heart and determination of the main character, the imagination of the fantasy world, and the powerful bonds of friendship that form throughout the series. Even characters who start out mean can change in time. It’s also fun how everyone has different powers or areas of study. You can see magic used in new ways.
2. The Worst Witch (2017)
“Mildred Hubble, a normal girl from a world outside of magic, finds herself at Miss Cackle’s Academy for witches.”
No list of witches would be complete without The Worst Witch, one of the original young witch stories. I’ve loved the books, the movie, and many of the television series. The newest version updates the story a little for modern audiences but it still focuses on Mildred, who constantly struggles in school while being labeled the worst in her class.
This is also a series about young girls in a school for witches, some of them friends and others, enemies. People always point out the similarities to Harry Potter but of course the original book series (1974) is much older. The characters also grow and change over time as they encounter new struggles.
What I love about the new series is the way they’ve put a different spin on the old characters and world. There are still the themes of believing in yourself, trusting in your friends, and trying to do the right thing even when it’s hard, but many of the plots are actually new. The special effects are updated (although still cheesy) and there’s a lot more modern technology integrated into witch culture. The cast is lovable and helps brings these characters to life.
3. Charmed (2018)
“Mel and Maggie Vera suffer a shock when their mother dies suddenly, but before they have time to heal from their loss, another surprise shows up on their doorstep in the shape of an older sister — brilliant geneticist Macy — whom their mother never told them existed. The emotional stress takes its toll and the girls begin to exhibit impossible new abilities. An explanation comes from an unexpected place: the new chair of the women’s studies department. Harry Greenwood reveals that the three are powerful witches, and he is their whitelighter, there to advise and guide them as they battle dark forces.”
I watched all eight seasons of the original Charmed and thought it had run out of good material long before the end. Many of the plots felt like they were repeated three or four times in slightly different variations. (Only so many times Phoebe can go back to her half-demon boyfriend.) So when they announced a reboot, my first reaction was “How can they go back to beating that dead horse?”
And the new series certainly borrows a lot from the original. Dead Mom didn’t tell any of the sisters they were witches before her death. They also didn’t know about their half-sister. The whitelighter feels mostly useless. The Elders never tell the sisters anything important. And one of the sisters (spoiler) even ends up dating a half-demon. But they tried to update the story by (a) casting women of color in the roles, (b) highlighting social issues like sexism and racism (even more than the original), (c) drawing on a larger range of mythologies and cultures for inspiration.
The first couple of episodes were very heavy-handed with “Look at how woke we are!” plot lines and soap boxing from the characters. But the writing did improve after a while. It’s still cheesy and cliche, but it’s entertaining. It’s different enough from the original that I think it’s worth watching.
Honorable Mention: Siempre Bruja/Always a Witch
I really wanted to like this show about an Afro-Latina witch, filmed in Colombia. It has elements of cheesy teen drama but also a lot of non-European magic so it’s fascinating to see another culture’s take on witches. The scenery is also beautiful. One extended snorkeling scene in the Caribbean sea made me wish I was there again.
But the main story revolves around a romance between the main character, who was a slave in the 17th century, and her master. Yes, she “fell in love” with the man who owns her. They met because he thought she was pretty at the slave auction and asked his mother to buy her. You’d think that the minute she time-travels to the future and gets her freedom, she’d forget about that messed-up relationship. But her entire motivation is finding a way to go back in time and be with him again.
I wanted Carmen to realize how messed up this was and change her mind, but it never paid off. For a while she gives up on the romance but ends up going back to it. This is deeply problematic in ways that other people have written about more eloquently than me, but suffice to say, I was really disappointed and upset by this show. Maybe they’ll address the racism issue if they make a second season.
Couldn’t Watch: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Since I watched the original Sabrina, I wanted to see the new version. But some of the special effects and camera work they use on this show gave me a headache. I couldn’t finish watching the first episode.
Do you watch any shows about witches that you’d recommend? Let me know!