“You can’t blame little me for not knowing. How could I have guessed that magic energy comes from the Sorcerer’s Stone? I just believed I could fly and practiced my heart out!”
-Akko Kagari, Little Witch Academia, Episode 3
The opening scene of Little Witch Academia‘s third episode finds Akko Kagari still desperately trying to use magic with little to no success. Ordering her books to return to their shelves, she finds herself just as unsuccessful at moving them as she did in her Episode 2 magic demonstration when she was humiliated by Diana Cavendish. Professor Ursula’s subsequent interruption in the form of her official appointment as Akko’s mentor, and the appearance of a school-supplied broom, distracts Akko from her most recent magical failures. Instead, the conversation inevitably turns to Akko’s idol, Shiny Chariot, when Professor Ursula takes note of Akko’s staff, the Shiny Rod.
The irony is that Akko is speaking to Shiny Chariot herself, brandishing the Shiny Rod in Chariot-turned-Professor Ursula’s face while spouting off her catchphrase: a believing heart is my magic.
It’s a bitter turn when Ursula tells Akko that, since the staff revealed itself to Akko, the staff now belongs to Akko, not Shiny Chariot. As Ursula leaves Akko to fawn over her new broom, Ursula repeats her words, “A believing heart is my magic, hunh?” in a wistful, almost icy tone. We don’t exactly know what happened between the Point A of Shiny Chariot and Point B of bumbling Luna Nova Professor Ursula, but the journey seems to involve a belief or faith lost.
Ursula’s untold story is placed against the backdrop of Luna Nova and the magical world as a whole. Little Witch Academia made it clear in Episode 1 that magical bloodlines and belief in magic is waning. The school is running out of money, which paved the way for Akko’s own admission despite her lack of a magical bloodline. While the high-born magical users look down on flashy show-woman Shiny Chariot, the rest of the world doesn’t believe magic exists beyond parlor tricks and slight of hand. When Akko asks the good folk of Glastonbury the location of a bus terminal for Luna Nova — while raving about Chariot again — their reactions range from slight amusement, to confusion, to annoyance.
For her part, Akko doesn’t care about magical bloodlines or what others think of her much-maligned idol. However, her blundering reveals bits and pieces of Little Witch Academia‘s magical world every time she makes a misstep.
The Leyline Terminal to Luna Nova is located at St Michael’s tower on Glastonbury Tor — the St Michael’s leyline as defined by Alfred Watkins in 1921, which Little Witch Academia has also referenced. As an aside, the Tor has been cited as the Isle of Avalon, of Arthurian legend, a powerful magical landmark. In Little Witch Academia, the Leyline Terminal taps into the leyline — a powerful magical source. As one of the witches that Akko first meets on the Tor says, magic energy has flowed through the leyline since ancient times. This energy allows witches to port themselves to Luna Nova on their brooms.
In the series’ opening scene, Chariot opens a portal to a leyline with the Shiny Rod after the performance that inspires young Akko to become a witch. Later, Akko opens a similar leyline portal to transport Sucy Manbavaran, Lotte Yanson, and herself from Arcturus Forest to Luna Nova, also using the Shiny Rod. While in that leyline, Akko sees bits and pieces of things that are presumably of her own future, like the Shooting Star broom that appears later in Episode 3.
Presumably, leylines are present throughout the world — or at least, England, where the route to Luna Nova is accessed — but the location of a specific terminal on the Tor hints that they’re not always accessible. By extension, this makes the Shiny Rod a peerless magical item, despite the fact that it belonged to Chariot, a charlatan in the magical world.
The Shiny Rod appears to Akko in Arcturus Forest as she carries an injured Lotte. Akko is firm in her determination that she will become a witch, and the rod presumably responds to that belief. Despite the fact that Akko is a commoner with no actual knowledge of magic beside her so-called believing heart, the rod appears to her when she needs aid. All of Akko’s attempts at using the rod for magic in later episodes fall completely flat unless she is faced with the desperate desire to protect something (the papilliodya chrysalises) or someone (Lotte).
In Episode 3, Sucy reveals that the only reason they can use magic freely on the Luna Nova campus is due to energy from the Sorcerer’s Stone. This is further reiterated by Lotte when she and Akko walk into town instead of riding brooms, citing the weakened power of the Sorcerer’s Stone off campus. Not-so-coincidentally, they run into a magic-infused broom while out and about — another magical item that Akko later uses, even though she’s unable to tap into the Sorcerer’s Stone like every other witch at Luna Nova.
Professor Ursula ends the episode acknowledging Akko’s passion, while looking at an old, undisguised photograph of herself when she attended Luna Nova. Passion seems to be the sole reason why Akko can use magic at all, allowing her to borrow the power of various magical items without actually knowing the basics. When the time comes to concentrate or do something with purpose — but without someone’s life or something important to her endangered — she’s unable to perform magic with the Shiny Rod at all.