Viewers of Little Witch Academia the television series will inevitably hear “Metamorphie faciesse!” in Akko Kagari’s voice, even when reading the words on a computer screen. This spell is repeated countless times in the span of a single episode and then revisited upon multiple later occasions as a key spell in Akko’s limited inventory. Akko’s transformation into a somewhat capable witch is a slow process. So slow, that it caused a subsection of initial viewers to stop watching the show, with the complaint that her growth was too gradual.
The series penultimate episode and finale shed light on Akko’s magical struggles. It gives a concrete, physical reason as to why her development took so long — although her flighty personality certainly doesn’t help speed things up — that makes sense and even ties into greater questions the series has regarding art and anime.
I didn’t expect the finale of Little Witch Academia to feature a missile crisis or a conflict in space, but knowing Studio Trigger, I should have. Trigger — and certain studio personnel back when they were part of GAINAX — have never shied away from cramming as many references as possible into their finales, which tend to be a louder, larger, better-animated version of the show while reiterating the main narrative. Little Witch Academia continues this tradition with a stunning finale that marries old and new in a direct manner that fully bookends the series as a whole.
This means that when Akko is speeding through the sky with Diana Cavendish — a feat made possible with a little help from her Luna Nova friends — she remains restricted to the magic in her still limited arsenal. Diana is fully occupied with flying, something that Akko cannot do, therefore the magical attacks fall to Akko. Since Akko’s most practiced spell is the transformation metamorphie faciesse, we see a beautifully-animated love letter to Akko’s growth as a witch. She transforms herself into a mouse and elephant, then transforms the smaller missiles into harmless cartoony animal shapes.
It’s nothing we haven’t seen Akko do before, but that’s why it works so well. Metamorphie faciesse reminds us of Akko’s repetitive practice and determination. It can also be seen as another nod to Harry Potter, whose signature spell isn’t one of destruction or harm, but expelliarmus, which is a simple disarming charm that most magical students already know of before they even receive their school letters at 11 years-old.
When Akko and Diana ready their final blow, it’s none other than Shiny Chariot’s Shiny Arc attack, which was, following the disappearance of Chariot, looked down upon by the magical community as pointless flash without substance. As lifetime fans of Chariot, Diana and Akko know this spell by heart. When Shiny Arc takes down the missile, there are stars in Akko and Diana’s eyes, and magical butterflies that land in the hands of people all around the world, presumably inspiring a new generation of magic users. I can’t think of a more hopeful note on which Little Witch Academia could have ended — with an homage to Akko’s progress and the assertion that, despite all of the obstacles facing the ancient art of magic, there’s still a way to inspire creativity.