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 hasregarding art and anime.
“The show is getting boring. I still like it, but there’s no big bad.”
Naturally, this is paraphrased. Yet a common complaint of the first half of Little Witch Academia‘s television run was that there was no true antagonist. Akko Kagari wasn’t improving fast enough in her magic. Watching her fail episode after episode was becoming tedious. Diana Cavendish wasn’t Akko’s adversary as much as she was her rival. Even then it was a one-sided rivalry. Akko failed most of the time while Diana continued to garner acclaim from her peers and teachers alike.
Episode 13 marked the end of the series’ first half and the end of Akko’s complete failure. With her magic at the Samhain Festival, Akko stepped up and became the witch who impressed her peers and teachers alike. Even the visiting alumni were dazzled.
The series has now entered its second half and a presumed “big bad” — at the very least, a true antagonist — has appeared: Professor Croix.
Yet, I maintain that she too is not a true antagonist. And that Little Witch Academia doesn’t need a big bad to be compelling.
Take away the prestige attached to her recognizable family name and the simpering sidekicks. Treat her like any other student at Luna Nova, albeit with similar magical talent but less training. Would she inevitably rise to the top of the school or would she become just another student as magic continues to fade from existence?
If she isn’t the last hope of Luna Nova and the art of magic, then just who is Diana Cavendish?
“There is the story about Hayao Miyazaki entering the anime industry because he was moved by Panda and the Magic Serpent. Then he watched the movie again afterwards and was disappointed by how bad it was. Yet, even if it’s actually not enjoyable at all, it can be irreplaceable for that person. What’s important is the feelings you got from watching it, and the fact that you had admiration for it. That’s the theme we were looking for.”
-Yoh Yoshinari, interview with AnimeStyle (2013)
It’s time to talk about Akko Kagari’s Panda and the Magic Serpent: Shiny Chariot.