After quite a while, it’s finally the 10th “What’s In a Character” piece here on AniB Productions! From the one-time prince in exile (Zuko), to the assassin-turned Hunter (Killua Zoldyck) and even the iconic screwball of the Looney Tunes crew (Daffy Duck), it’s been a very entertaining ride to this point. And now we jump back into the enthralling world of Little Witch Academia at Luna Nova Academy to discover a girl with the dream to become a great witch like her idol, Shiny Chariot- the one and only fireball of energy and enthusiasm bundled into determination, Atsuko Kagari! Come see what a dazzling show she can put on- and hopefully, the end result is smiles.
WARNING: Major spoilers for Little Witch Academia.
As many of those who regularly read this blog may recall, Little Witch Academia was a watch that brought a lot of nostalgic feelings to yours truly in how it unfolded. At the center of a tremendously fun show though was its effusive and effective lead character- Atsuko “Akko” Kagari. So let’s jump into why exactly Akko’s such a special character!
“Just you watch! I’m gonna become an amazing witch one day and make the whole world gasp in surprise!”– Akko Kagari
Atsuko Kagari, or just “Akko” stood out to me for a variety of reasons at the center of Little Witch Academia, a fine show in it of itself. Between some excellent character development, countless important moments in which she squarely found herself in, and an adorableness that was far more endearing than annoying, it was hard to not notice the Japanese girl with a great dream. Indeed, an interesting conversation I had about Akko with someone on Reddit actually shed some more light into the origins and meaning of her name:
“The name Akko Kagari is chosen not only as a reference to protagonist of the first Magical Girl Cute Witch anime -Akko Kagami (of Himitsu no Akko-chan) but also an in-joke that a significant number of women who enter the animation industry happen to be named “Akko”. To the point that the creators consider it a shorthand/general term for young women in the animation industry.
Luna Nova is an animation academy sticking to the principles established by the “Nine Olde Witches” (which are a direct analogue to the Nine Old Men of Disney). To the extent of which Croix’s machinations conflict with the school itself is meant to evoke the battle between Traditional and Digital.”
(all credit to /u/Manbabarang)
Pretty interesting, right? Akko’s captivating not only because of what she represents in an industry sense, but because of her relentless and fearless determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and situations. She isn’t a tremendously gifted individual, but she has a strength of will unmatched by all but a handful of characters in any show. This extends to her drive to meet her goals and see her dreams through, from the time she stayed up all night to learn transformation magic, to the extreme lengths Akko goes to try and pass her exams despite being significantly behind on the basics due to her lack of background in the subjects.
She’s also relentless is believing there’s a brighter future ahead- a dreamer with a force of will to stay believing in the impossible. It’s evidenced time and again in Little Witch Academia, from a stubborn refusal to simply follow the mundane tradition of the “sacrifices” at Luna Nova’s Sanhaim Festival (“What You Will”, episode 13), turning it into a show that ultimately freed a tortured soul from a “grief seed” with the power of the Shiny Rod, to her stubborn refusal to let Diana Cavendish leave the school over her family’s power struggle. In fact, it is this very quality that makes Akko uniquely qualified to wield the “world-altering” magic of the Grand Triskelion, whose simplicity confounded and confused the logical, realistic, yet passionless Croix Merides.
Akko and Diana about to save the world. It wasn’t always this way.
Another key aspect about Akko is her belief and trust in her friends. She’s usually not a loner when it comes to executing grand schemes or ideas, and indeed in the most pivotal moments of the show, she proves to acknowledge that nothing could be accomplished just by her own power alone- and in turn, her friends implicitly acknowledge the effect Akko’s had on them, particularly Diana Cavendish, whose opinion of the former had slowly changed over the course of Little Witch Academia from bemused contempt to irresistible curiosity upon Akko’s exploits at the Sanhaim Festival, and eventually a gratefulness and a real acknowledgement of her after the events that nearly drove her away from Luna Nova for good.
And speaking of Diana, it was she that helped pull Akko out of the closest thing to despair in the show after a certain moment (more on that later), and took point along with the main protagonist as the final fated duel unfolded in the show. In most respects, Diana proved to be the opposite side of the same coin- a Shiny Chariot lover, a deep believer in the power of magic, but with the weight of a family crest on her shoulders and the pressure and expectations of greatness (which she handled well, by and large). However, what started as disdain grew into admiration on both sides: Akko grew to understand the burden of the Cavendish name while Diana saw that regardless of the odds the former believed relentlessly in whatever she pursued, and often with a joy and excitement. Truthfully, more could be written about the heir of the Cavendish clan, but in the context of Akko, she’s the perfect compliment to the latter’s strengths and weaknesses, which culminates itself wonderfully.
One of many misadventures Akko led the way on with her friends. You can just tell Sucy knows this is a bad idea.
Lotte Jansson and Sucy Manbavaran were the main social barometers against which Akko’s intial character development took place. At first they were annoyed with her- not an uncommon experience. Sucy messed around with her, while Lotte was too kind to refuse the hitchhiking attempt from the energetic Japanese girl. Despite the awkward beginnings, the duo can’t help but become her friends between the first episode’s harrowing experience in the Forest of Arcturus and the coincidence that saw the trio as roommates at Luna Nova. It would be subsequent events that would solidify just how important these bonds were. From the unforgettable time Akko jumps unabashedly into Sucy’s head to rescue the latter from a potion gone awry (“”Akko’s Adventure in Sucyworld / Sleeping Sucy”, episode 8), to her determined effort to rescue her friends and Lotte’s family from a rare disease in a visit to Finland (“Pohjola’s Ordeal / The Trial in Pohjola”, episode 16), it was hard not to note the progression there, all while Akko learned important lessons, from patience (sorta) to listening to what others were thinking. (Of course, Akko is also a class-A certified goofball, but it’s hard not to love her as she attempts everything with full vigor!)
Akko also impacted several of the secondary characters in the show, such as the memorable episode she helps Constanze prepare for the Wild Hunt after much persistence, and the subsequent battle with the battleship the duo created (“Stanship Take Off! / The Stanship of the Great Air Battle”, episode 18). Another key moment revolved around Amanda and Akko’s adventure at Appleton Academy, in search of the Holy Grail. (Naturally, this went awry when Croix’s magic interfered with proceedings.) Regardless of the outcomes of these moments, Akko managed to share character-bonding time with almost everyone along the way- a fact that not only contributed to the depth of her character, but proved pivotal as the show reached its climax and the final showdown. It was there Akko in turned needed the help of all her friends- and in a way that made sense (not the tired “power of friendship!” trope) each one of them would play a small but important role in helping Akko and Diana defeat the final boss.
This moment was made possible by Akko’s hat.
Akko’s relationship effects also had a wide-reaching effect on Andrew Hanbridge, the son of an important government official. Entrusted with the mantle of expectations and of a certain prestige, the boy’s own views on the world didn’t start to really take shape until he met the bright-eyed little witch by chance on a an official visit to Luna Nova. (“The Fountain / The Fountain of Polaris”, episode 6). One memorable misadventure later, Akko- and a seed of doubt about his own held point of view- was entrenched. The boy’s disbelief in “magic” is actually a metaphor about the power of believing things will always be the way the way they are, while “magic” itself could be seen as a belief in that something better could be created through a strong enough belief and the vision to see it through- which is something Akko wound up instilling in Andrew, along with a healthy thought to become more than just his father’s imprint in opinion and action. The young man continued to be intrigued by his unlikely encounters with the protagonist, but became friends with her, drawn no doubt by her iron-clad will and fearlessness in the pursuit of what was right and her dreams despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Nowhere was this more felt when Andrew was the lone voice in the war room of the government to acknowledge- and support- Akko and Diana’s attempt to stop the rogue Noir Rod.
“Believing in yourself…that is your magic!”- Shiny Chariot’s famous words, imbibed by a young Atsuko Kagari
The relationship and role of Chariot du Noir, or rather, Ursula Callistis with her greatest admirer/ oblivious student is a key part of Akko’s character arc and one that any self-respecting piece about her cannot go without. Chariot serves in a most interesting duality to Akko: her inspiration and also the reason it’s so hard for her to succeed in the world of magic; at once the witch Akko most admires and simultaneously has no idea for the majority of the show is right under her nose. Indeed, when Professor Woodward tests Akko and she unlocks the 3rd form of the Shiny Rod in “Blue Moon” (episode 11), it’s notable that Akko refuses to be just like her idol if it means giving up her memories, friends and everything else dear to her. Indeed, in stark contrast Chariot makes a Faustian bargain of sorts with Croix to enhance her magic show at the cost of robbing people’s latent magical energy- and in this way, a sharp divide is drawn between Akko’s earnest and honest pursuit of her dreams, against someone who trod the same path but compromised it looking for a specific result, without considering the consequences. And for Chariot, those consequences went beyond the Shiny Rod’s abandonment of her- it tied directly into her failings to protect Akko from Croix’s machinations and subsequent flight loss from the Wagandea pollen (“Discipline / Wagandea”, episode 21). Later yet came the painful revelation of Chariot’s true identity to Akko and the reality of her magic shows. Despite the dagger revelation, Akko’s depth of character showed up as after this point, she expressed a strong interest in continuing to learn from Chariot not as her admirer, but as the teacher she’d grown to know and trust.
As is amply evidenced, Akko’s a great character precisely because of her relatability and her flaws. As a human, she embodies the persistence and hope we all harbor in pursuit of our goals and dreams- our “magic,” so to speak. Furthermore, she’s willing to work hard to get where she wants to be, and has inspired and worked with other individuals she never knew at first in her journey, starting with the fated encounter with Sucy in the first episode. Which leads to one final important question…
So what about the Shiny Rod? Why would a magical object of great importance choose Akko? The many reasons outlined, along with the people she affected sufficiently answers that question. It is the power of belief and hope, mixed with an uncompromising commitment to see it through, along with an understanding of being flawed, and human that made Akko the worthy wielder of the powerful magical artifact. She was, in a word, able to change the world because she harbored no ill ambitions, but rather just the joy of her “magic”- the lessons she learned, the people she met, and the words she learned the true meaning of.
For all the analysis, Atsuko Kagari is just a plain fun character, and well worth the time of exploring further. The star of a wonderful, whimsical ride in Little Witch Academia, she’s the series’ heartbeat and also the backbone of some pretty great comedy as well. A complete character, it never becomes tiring to jump back into Akko’s quest to become a great witch, one “who will make people smile,” and the vigor in which she pursues that quest. This little witch in academia is truly worthy of “What’s in a Character” as she delivers on a very human and enthralling experience in her home series. Now, all she has to do is get better at riding brooms to really take off… tia freyre!
Of course, no Akko piece would be complete without Chariot’s Theme:
There’s something just so exciting every time I hear this leimotif. No wonder Akko looked up to Chariot!
Like what you see? Do you love Little Witch Academia or Akko? Leave a comment?