Atsuko ‘Akko’ Kagari from Little Witch Academia is a very interesting character. Despite her non-magical background, she enrolled at Luna Nova Academy because of her admiration for the witch Shiny Chariot. She is an optimistic and energetic girl, but struggles with her poor performance at the Academy. She is goofy and has no patience. She even cheats sometimes. However, because of her personality, she is very good at overcoming things. This trait of hers allows her to move the story along and is an essential trait of a protagonist.
This essay contains spoilers for the TV anime Little Witch Academia
An immature character like her often gradually improves towards the climax of the story. That’s the kind of character development which is an integral part of a coming-of-age story. However, in the case of Akko, that kind of change was suppressed to the minimum. The things she experienced in the story definitely remained in her mind, and although they didn’t change her internally, they changed the relationships between her and others. We should consider the fact that some episodes were not only concerning a specific character’s story but also depicted the relationship between Akko and said character. Therefore, Akko herself didn’t change much. Her improvement of ‘being able to fly for a little while’ was depicted in the final episode to signify her minor change. In fact, this ‘unchangeability’ is Akko’s identity, which is uniquely inspiring and emotionally moving.
She reminds me of an exchange in the Studio Ghibli movie Whisper of the Heart. The protagonist Shizuku, an aspiring novelist, has decided to write about a doll which belongs to an old man named Nishi. Nishi shows Shizuku a geode, which has rough emeralds deep inside it. Nishi tells her that creative works are like polishing rough stones inside us. He also says that the rough stone which he just showed Shizuku could turn into a trivial thing when polished, and there might be a better rough stone or nothing more in the geode.
Nishi was talking about an aptitude for creative works in a wider sense, which leads to the question of what it means to be an adult. In short, children are wonderful because they are filled with possibilities, whereas adults became adults when they lose such possibilities. Children mature while looking at themselves to find their strengths and utilize them to survive in society, which is the same as polishing rough stones. However, for most of them, that’s the way to become an ordinary person. Being an ordinary person is nothing negative, as most of us are ordinary people without any particular talent or individuality. As a result of polishing themselves to be accepted in society, they became ordinary and lose their possibilities.
As she feels that she hasn’t done anything with all her heart, Shizuku wants to push herself to the limit. Nishi tells her that he likes the rough stone as it is, that’s because he knows the joy of staying a rough stone for a brief moment in our lives.
I think the very charm of Akko that she is a rough stone full of possibilities, just like Nishi said. She has a bright future ahead exactly because she is incapable at this moment. She is unrestricted because of her incapability, and that makes her a shining and attractive heroine in this story. This means that when she finds her potential and starts polishing it, her character will change. When she matures, however, that ‘rough stone’ will disappear. A Matured Akko will not be Akko anymore — she will be just ‘a regular, energetic witch’.
The settings of the other characters can be understood from the viewpoint of how to deal with ‘infinite possibilities in their childhood’. Diana, a character that served as contrast to Akko, forced herself to mature and invalidated her possibilities as a child. Shiny Chariot, a.k.a. Ursula, stood on stage with her childish dream, but she made a big mistake when she feared being considered ‘ordinary’ by her audience. She turned a blind eye to herself before. However, she realized that the ‘things she wants to do’, ‘things she can do’, and ‘things she is expected to do’ are different. She is ‘the person who couldn’t manage to polish her rough stone.’ On the other hand, Croix had complex feelings while watching Chariot’s mistake. I presume she wanted to polish her possibilities and become a special person, though it was Chariot who was blessed by fate. Croix is a skilled witch. However, she took her skills as a proof of her mediocrity as a witch.
Having considered what it means to become a mature person, I think the negative character setting of Akko as ‘a witch who can’t fly’ was worked well throughout the series. If she found the ability to fly, she would be ‘an underachieving, regular witch’. The scene in the last episode of her ‘being able to fly for a little while’ was superb and smart, as it demonstrated that the full story over 25 episodes weren’t in vain, whereas the possibilities in Akko are still intact. As this is the story of Akko, it’s more effective to gather her classmates including Diana around her.
Akko will become an ordinary adult one day. She probably won’t become a talented witch who can change the world. I think her remark when she handed back the rod of not intending to be Chariot to also implies her ordinary nature.
Anyway, it’s too early to predict her future, as she is still an immature witch who only has possibilities. I presume the last scene of the series made many fans want to watch her living her best with the occasional blunder and careless mistake.
About the author
Ryota Fujitsu is an anime critic who was born in 1968. He has written many books regarding anime which includes ‘Anime Critic Sengen’, ‘Channel wa Itsumo Anime; Anime Trend in Noughties’, and ‘Seiyu Language ~ The Professionals Who Bring Anime to Life’. He also gives seminars about anime at various community centers, and does livestream ‘Anime no Mon’ the first Friday of each month. http://ch.nicovideo.jp/animenomon