SPOILER LEVEL: Minor
“Having a Dream, no matter how crazy it may seem, will make you a better person…That hope is not foolish, even when it is.”
That was the punctuation of Explanation Point’s video on the very first two episodes of “My Hero Academia, and the difference between subs, dubs, and how they change a perception of narrative to a western audience, and I highly recommend you check it out.
But what about the people who DON’T have dreams, or gave up? Let’s talk about that school of thought with Little Witch Academia.
The entirety of Little Witch Academia is about chasing your dream, and how being able to realize that dream brings life and purpose into everyone it touches. The show also has a lot of thematic symbolism by turning those hopes and dreams into magic and stars.
But those stars are far off, in the distance. Not everyone can run out like Akko and actually grasp their dream. Some people don’t even have dreams to begin with.
Explanation Point touched on that sentiment briefly in that same video, saying, “For every Deku out there that becomes the world’s greatest hero, there are 50,000 more who work as gas station attendants or go to UA’s Business Program”.
I want to stress the “or” of that sentence. Even though the students who went into the business program aren’t chasing dreams they may have had of being heroes, they’re not unhappy with the roles that they’ve chosen. While most of us would probably think it’s stranger to NOT want to be a hero in a world that idolizes them so heavily, I’m pretty sure that some of them are actually incredibly excited with their field.
Who wouldn’t want to be the manager of an incredibly popular hero? It’s like getting to handle your favorite voice actor at a convention, or being a sports agent. You’re in charge of making sure they get everything they need to help make a bunch of people happy. It’s backdrop work, but it’s satisfying in its own right.
My Hero Academia doesn’t care about those people though. Deku wants to be just like All Might, Ochaco wants to provide for her parents, Stain wants to wipe out the “fake heroes” who go around promoting themselves, you get the picture. Hero Academia is a fight between ideals, dreams, and each character’s resolve to enact their will.
Little Witch Academia drags the people in the background to the front, because they’re the 90%. To them, Akko is the strange one. The series wants to show us just how Akko can touch and change their lives just by living out her own dreams of becoming a “witch who can make people happy, just like Shiny Chariot”.
Just to drive home the theme, from the moment that Akko discovers the leyline terminal that’s supposed to take her to magic school, she’s met with apathy and grief. Sucy dismissively shoos away Akko’s enthusiastic questions with a few snakes, and the other school girls tease her for coming from something other than a magical family. Diana, Amanda, and a few other girls see Akko as a child who doesn’t understand how things work.
While Akko struggles to keep her dreams alive, though, she comes across more than a few people who’ve had their dreams crushed. We see first hand what broken or stifled dreams do to people
I don’t consider it a spoiler to say that Ursula is actually Shiny Chariot since it’s something we figure out pretty much from the beginning. It’s actually more important that we know she’s Chariot because Ursula is nothing like the stage persona that we were introduced to in the opening of the series. We’re left to wonder what happened to make Ursula go into hiding and abandon Chariot’s dream of “making people smile with magic”.
It can be crushing to have your dream suddenly wither away before your eyes. With nothing else to drive her, Ursula spent the past decade acting as a meek school teacher. She wanders around emotionally, without any purpose. The dream she thought she could believe in was betrayed and used to hurt people.
However, once Akko finds the Shiny Rod, Ursula’s spark begins to come back. It’s established that in decade she’s been there that Ursula “still doesn’t carry herself with the demeanor of a teacher”.
It’s different when Akko’s involved, though. When Akko has been unfairly treated, or the other teachers go too far with their derisive scoffing, Ursula’s temper and charisma flare up. She’s able to stand up for the sake of a student that she sees herself in, and give some great “this is why you suck” speeches.
Ursula’s failure only strengthens her sympathy for Akko, and her desire to see Akko succeed. She doesn’t want Akko to end up in the same place that she has, broken, destitute, and unhappy. This is a connection we sometimes in mentors and parents. “I can’t fulfill my dreams, so I’ll help you fulfill yours. If I can use my experience to help you can accomplish what I couldn’t, then in the end it was worth something after all.”
Living through someone else is usually put into a bad light, like parents who try to force their kids into competitive pageantry or sports. Ursula does this to an extent, particularly in the second half when she pushes Akko to “find the seven words of Arcturus”. But she means well enough, and has at least found something to live for and pursue, primarily being Akko herself as we see in late episodes.
In episode 5, dragons fly by the school and snatch away the Sorcerer’s Stone. When Akko and her friends go after the dragons to try and reclaim the stone, we’re expecting some Hobbit shenanigans. Sneak in, grab the stone, maybe do battle with a wise and ancient dragon that sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch. You know, fairly normal fantasy sequences.
But when we meet Fafnir, the legendary dragon of Norse mythology, everything turns out to be quite different than what we’d thought it was going to be. It’s revealed that the stone was collateral for a loan that Luna Nova, the school, borrowed from Fafnir. The minion dragons that Fafnir used to snatch the stone are just robots that look and act like dragons. Fafnir himself doesn’t have any large piles of gold or gems that we can see. Instead, Fafnir is dedicated to online stock investment, saying that “he uses all the latest technologies to grow his wealth”.
A premise that’s supposed to be standard magic has been completely subverted, with our expectations broken. The glorious adventure we started on has turned into a mundane negotiation between adults, creditors, and people who are trained to read the legal language of a contract (in this case, Diane representing lawyers or attorneys). It’s all punctuated by Fafnir saying that “With the rise of technology, magic will soon be obsolete”.
Remember, magic is symbolic of our childhood hopes and dreams. Fafnir is basically saying that the ambitions of a younger generation become outdated and will get tossed away as soon as they enter adulthood. It’s a similar sentiment to Andrew and his father’s, who also start the series saying that witches no longer have a place in the world.
Andrew, the son of a statesman, probably has one of the clearer arcs because of that. Throughout the series Akko keeps pestering him about he “doesn’t have his own dreams”, because she’s right. Andrew was told from childhood that he was going to be a politician. His father forbade him from doing pretty much anything else, including playing the piano which was really the only thing he enjoyed.
Unlike his father, Andrew can at least appreciate the effort and passion the witches put into their magic, so he can be swayed a little more easily by Akko’s influence. Every time the two cross paths, Andrew can’t help but think about how his life lacks any real joy because he can’t express himself. Instead, his father tells him “this is the reality of the situation, and we need you to follow through with it”.
Those are the people who are unhappy or cynical about their views though. Lotte and Amanda certainly aren’t either of those.
Lotte doesn’t have any real ambitions. She’s always said that she only came to Luna Nova so that she could be better prepared to take over her family’s magic shop. If anything, Lotte is the type who can be satisfied supporting other people’s dreams. In Episode 4, she even says “There are a lot of things I’m not good at. That’s why I love cheering for people that ARE good at those things”. She’s been supporting Akko during the exhaustive training Akko puts herself through, or doing her best to pull Akko back when Akko’s gotten ahead of herself.
From early on, Amanda and Akko develop a bit of a rivalry. Unless it’s something fun that she can throw her all into, Amanda has no interest in working towards anything. The closest we get to hearing about Amanda’s ambitions is that “maybe she’d be a broom dancer or something”, and that’s only at Akko’s prompting.
Before that question, Amanda hasn’t given it much thought. She’s happy to lead a carefree life as long as it entertains her. In a sense, you can say that her ideal life style is her dream and that she’s living it, even if her goals are only temporary.
My boyfriend is a lot like her in that regard. I asked him once if he had a dream, and he didn’t. He was content to just go to work, go see friends, then come home and relax. His work was something he enjoyed, but it wasn’t like he had any grand plans for it.
Amanda isn’t so nice, though, since she openly scoffs and scorns people like Diana who are disciplined and dedicated, or people like Akko who put in huge amounts of effort even if they get nothing to show for it. She’s a slacker, through and through/
Dreams are strong enough that they have the power to crush someone as charismatic as Shiny Chariot, but if you don’t care about dreams then what power do they actually have? How can dreams affect people who don’t believe?
The answer is that, “Dreams are so powerful that just by following our own dreams, we can bring happiness to others”.
Even though she doesn’t have any ambitions of her own, Amanda admits that having Akko around makes life a lot more fun. For people like Sucy and Lotte who don’t have any lofty dreams of their own, Akko’s grandiose desires pulls them along and gives them something they can enjoy.
A writer who dreams of publishing a best seller makes their fans happy with each new installment that they can identify with. They can make their partner happy by doing something they enjoy. They can make their children happy by being able to provide for them. That dream makes the publishers and dealers happy because it gives them that best selling book to sell. It makes reviewers and critics happy because it gives them something to praise or complain about.
Ursula and Andrew aren’t just touched by Akko’s dream, it inspires and makes them better people too. Akko’s dream becomes something that they needed to see in order to either find their courage, or pull themselves out of depressing, cynical ruts. Even Fafnir notes, with some nostalgia, that “it’s been a long time since he’s seen a human with that spark in their eyes” before quietly going back to work.
That’s exactly what the students in My Hero Academia end up accomplishing regardless of what course they take. UA Business students can still lead happy and fulfilling lives. They understand that if they can’t become heroes themselves, they can still make a huge impact on the heroes who are striving for those big dreams. They’re still working towards something, unlike the people who just fell by the wayside.
Having a dream doesn’t make just you a better person, but it has the power to make other people better too. Dreams can inspire great things, beyond what the original holder could’ve imagined.
That’s why dreams also have the power to destroy everything we know and love.
You can watch Little Witch Academia on Netflix, which I highly recommend because Akko is voiced by Erica Mendez, the voice of english Nico Yazawa (Love Live), Ryuko Matoi (Kill La Kill), and Sailor Uranus (Sailor Moon Crystal/Redub), and I love her work.