This review is going to be a little different in that I want to talk about what I have observed rather than give a play-by-play of what happened. This episode basically introduced the rivalry between plucky Akko and Diana Cavendish, a upper-crust first year of the Cavendish family, who seem like the magical equivalent of old-money affluent families in New York City. She’s able to answer a question no first year has ever been able to answer in the history of Luna Nova academy – of course, she’s the darling. Well, at least that’s what her two lackeys say, two otherwise forgettable characters who never leave her side.
She’s supposedly the greatest witch to ever grace Luna Nova since its founding – which instantly means she’s not all that, and even worse, she’s predictable. Even worse, she takes one look at Akko’s Shiny Chariot trading cards and takes it upon herself to tell our heroine how childish they really are.
Never mind that Shiny Chariot is the reason Akko is at Luna Nova in the first place. But Diana is unswayed, and as she walks away with her harpies, one is struck with the urge to slap a witch.
I’m just gonna leave this here.
In any case, the rivalry between Diana and Akko, which will no doubt be an important part of the series, is a classic class of order vs chaos or tradition vs innovation. Diana is clearly traditional – she is from a known witch family, which has been around for generations. She is not a “commoner” like Akko, she is as close to royalty as they come. Her family has been around for 1500 years. She is the shining jewel that represents the way things work in the world of Luna Nova and as such, she is clearly expected to continue with this tradition for years to come.
Let me say that again – Diana is clearly expected to continue with this tradition for years to come.
It is not my intention to argue that Diana is a terrible witch. In the series and in the movies, she clearly knows what she’s doing and there is a reason why the other students look up to her. The problem with tradition, however, is that there comes a time when tradition no longer works. Tradition is also very stubborn and insists that there is no other way to do things. Furthermore, tradition thinks that it is superior to everyone else due to its longevity – a longevity that exists only because no one had to courage to do things another way.
This is where Akko comes in. She is the one who is outside the box, the outsider, the commoner, the one who dares to break tradition. She was not afforded the magical bloodline that Diana has. In fact, she is ridiculed because she is not from a magical bloodline, and even worse, the reason she’s attending Luna Nova is because of her love of Shiny Chariot – a flash in the pan magician who is no more (riiiiiight…). If Shiny Chariot couldn’t hang, why does Akko think she can do better?
Cue the Memorial Tree.
The mystical tree, which has stood in Luna Nova for years, isn’t doing so well – it may even be dying. Professor Ursula has an idea of what’s happening, but needs more evidence. Diana decides to you revitalization magic on the tree, a specialty of her family. The spell works, but only for a moment. Large roots burst out from the ground all over campus, sending the unsuspecting Akko, Lotte, and Sucy scrambling. Even worse, the tree returns to its dying state, and weird blue sacs emerge from the ground. Diana sees them as pests that must be eliminated and begins to take them out – but Akko sees things different. Before Diana can destroy more sacks, Akko gets in her way, asking her to stop.
Diana won’t listen, but Akko won’t let her have her way. It’s the battle between the old guard and the new guard – Diana may have 1500 years of tradition and research behind her, but Akko knows something isn’t right, and while she may lack knowledge, she trusts her instincts. The gamble pays off – the “pests” were actually Papilliodya Chrysalises, with mystical butterflies that emerge only once every 120 years. With the magic of the shiny rod and the help of Sucy, Lotte, and even Diana (who provides pronunciation help), Akko is able to restore the papilliodya as well as the tree.
Unfortunately, she gains no recognition for her efforts. Instead, Diana’s lackeys return with the headmistress and proudly state that Diana the Savior restored the tree. But Diana is quick to state that she didn’t do that – but she doesn’t reveal who did, either. As she walks away in a huff, we know that it won’t be the last time Diana and Akko come to blows.
I love that Little Witch Academia isn’t just a run of the mill magic story – there are clear ideas expressed regarding what it means to be a magical person, who can create magic, and what it means to help others with magic. Diana represents the prevailing attitude of the story and of life really – only the privileged and elite can make magic in the world and have the most impact. Their way of doing things is the way things should be done – anyone who disrupts this order is in for a world of hurt. Akko has not had the easiest time in the last two episodes – and yet, despite everything, she makes the biggest impact when it counts. She wants to make magic – she wants to make the same impact that Shiny Chariot made all those years ago.
While it would be a bit extreme to do away with Diana – tradition does have it’s place after all – sometimes, it’s only when someone does something outside the box that things get done. But Akko’s still in for it, even if she has the shiny arc. Still, to see all the golden papilliodya emerging from the Memorial Tree, flying into the sky was a sight to behold. Thanks, Akko.
Either way, I’m looking forward to Episode three – hopefully I’ll have something at the end of the week! The first two episodes of Little Witch Academia have been quite good, adding more context to the original movies. I feel like I’m getting to know the characters even more, and that makes the series much more enjoyable. Let’s hope that Studio Trigger can keep the momentum going!