The more I think about it, the more I believe that Diana, and not Akko, would’ve made a more suitable protagonist for Little Witch Academia.
How could that be though? Wouldn’t it be boring if Diana were the one to defeat the dragon at the end considering how talented and competent she is? Isn’t Diana the type of person that we would expect to do so? Wouldn’t it be more exciting to focus the story on Akko, who is someone very unremarkable, and how she succeeds against the odds and expectations of her peers? Were things in Little Witch Academia a little different, this might’ve been the best option. However, as things stand in the OVA, Akko is a poor character and Diana is the more appropriate choice for a protagonist. I will be addressing these two points separately starting with the problems with Akko’s character.
From a narrative standpoint it makes sense to have the protagonist be someone a little average. After all, audiences like cheering for the underdog as it is inspiring to see the unexpected character succeed against the odds. So why is it bad that Akko, an average girl, is the protagonist? Simple, it is because she is not average. Akko’s bespectacled friend, Lotte, is average. The person sitting behind Akko in class is average. They are people who, may or may not be the best at what they do, but are willing to go through the motions in studying magic. Akko on the other hand is not. The problem with Akko and the reason why I can’t cheer for her through the OVA is because she’s puts in no effort. She is a character with a dream and a desire to prove something, but she doesn’t have to work to back it up.
Akko dreams of becoming like Shiny Chariot, the witch who inspired her when she was a child, and that’s great. I love characters that have dreams. I love characters that dream of accomplishing something or becoming someone. I love watching them walk towards and then eventually realize that dream. It is a wonderful thing to see. However, Akko is not this way as she shows no indication that she is willing to do what it takes to accomplish her dream. Rather, she falls asleep in class and waits for that one lucky moment that allows her to shine. And the problem is that the story gives that moment to her. Akko’s success in defeating the dragon is not by any of her own merits, but rather the result of luck. She also doesn’t emerge from the experience any better. If anything, the encounter with the dragon only reinforces her problems.
I don’t need the story to shove messages of hard work and effort down my throat because that’s not what the story is about (more on this later). That said I am bothered by what Little Witch Academia promotes by having Akko be the type of character that she is. Knowledge and learning is not something I like seeing dismissed and the lack of effort put in by Akko is unsettling. That said, this is mostly a problem because the writers went too far in trying to make Akko average. If Akko were simply a girl who lacks the same talent as her peers and is picked on because of her love for Shiny Chariot, then I would be perfectly fine with it all.
So what makes Diana a better choice for the protagonist? To understand this we need to look at the story Little Witch Academia is trying to tell. Defeating the magic-consuming dragon that threatens the school and the witches takes up a big portion of the narrative, but it is not the point. Rather, the story of Little Witch Academia is about the spark that inspires us and sets us on certain paths in life. For both Akko and Diana, this spark of inspiration was seeing performances by Shiny Chariot when they were young. And though she has become dismissive of Shiny Chariot as she has grown up, it is clear that seeing those magical performances in the past played a big part of in why Diana is at the magical academy now.
Diana is already the strongest character in Little Witch Academia, but I think it would have been even better were she the focus of the story because it compliments her character so well. As previously stated, Little Witch Academia is about the things that inspire us. Watching Diana in the OVA, how she proceeds through the dungeon apathetic and bored because nothing can challenge her, it is clear that she has lost that spark that drove her to become a witch in the first place.
Where Akko has a dream and isn’t willing to do anything to achieve it, Diana has lost that dream, no doubt influenced by the general populace of witches who think poorly of Shiny Chariot. Because of this there was great opportunity to have the story of Little Witch Academia be about Diana breaking out of her apathy and finding that spark again. Perhaps it would even be Akko, with her unfaltering love for Shiny Chariot, who would act as the catalyst for making this happen. However they chose to accomplish this, though, I think the story would’ve been more impactful had it been about Diana once again finding her inspiration and enthusiasm for magic. And that would’ve been a beautiful thing.