「シャリオとクロワ」 (Shario to Kurowa)
“Chariot and Croix”
There’s so much to unpack with this episode, but it’d be good to start right off the bat with why Ursula has been so guarded about her secret. The show centers around Akko’s perspective, so the excitement that we feel from an episode or the frustration tends to mirror Akko’s highly-expressive emotional state. She’s as kept in the dark about Ursula’s intentions and identity as we are, but as passengers on Akko’s journey, it was frustrating to see Ursula so hesitant on giving Akko information about herself and the adventure she’s putting her on. The show positioned Ursula’s troubled mentorship as a redemption story, but we were lead to think it must’ve just been a battle between traditional magic vs. parlor tricks that Chariot lost, and not the fact that Chariot harnessed her audience’s magic to help create her magic show.
It’s easy to see why Ursula would be so guarded about telling Akko the truth behind her act now that her identity and deepest secrets have been exposed all at once. Her shame explains a lot about her mindset throughout the series; why she is protective of Akko to the point of putting herself on the line for her, why she’s determined to have her overshadow Chariot, why she’s been trying to train Akko not to continue looking up to Chariot as the reason for her success, why most of her colleagues make their disgust for Chariot outright, and why she’s so willing to play the fool when it comes to her students and colleagues lecturing/outsmarting her. She must have felt that having Chariot’s name dragged through the mud was the cross she had to bear for the deceptive nature of her shows, and possibly contributing to the decline of magic by draining more humans of their magical potential. Because of her and Croix’s past affiliation, it would be too soon to say what mindset Chariot was in to harness her audience’s magic, if she was cutting corners to gain enough magic to find the last Word, if it was a means to an end for a good cause, or if she was duped into concocting this plan to use her magic shows as a front to withdraw the audience’s magical potential. Nonetheless, what I thought was Ursula being frustratingly secretive about being an uncool celebrity turned out to be her trying to bury the shameful route she went to achieve her dreams to no avail.
At the same time, those who said that learning that Ursula is Chariot would only hurt Akko were absolutely correct. It was upsetting to find out that the fairy that was dancing around Akko as a kid during Chariot’s show was actually her magic being drawn away from her. It’s even worse thinking about the whole series in hindsight, knowing that the reason why she’s been routinely mocked for not being able to follow lessons or fly is because the idol who inspired her to follow her dreams robbed her of the ability to achieve them. The montage the episode slips in after the revelation of all the times Ursula had stood up for Akko and cheered for her was also very depressing.
It’s hard to say what impact it would’ve caused if Ursula told Akko about her identity around the beginning of the series; if she would’ve given up on everything or took the uphill climb with stride. I also can’t imagine how this will pan out once Diana finds out. Her magical ability returned eventually, but she also went to Chariot’s magic show, secretly keeps one of her cards, and lost her magical ability around the same time she watched Chariot. Diana also cuts to the heart of the matter much more easily than the emotion-driven Akko, so seeing whether Diana would verbally admonish her, come away feeling hopeful since she regained her ability to practice magic after Chariot’s show, or gets as emotional as Akko does is up in the air.
Let’s talk about the concept of emotions as magic. This episode formally introduced two types of magic derived from emotion; Noir Fuel Spirit and Dream Fuel Spirit. Croix’s most accomplished work has been her utilization of Noir Fuel Spirit, the ability to gather and use human emotions as energy to intensify and manipulate public behavior. Dream Fuel Spirit is the magic that Chariot used for her show, gathering the dreams of her audiences to accrue more magic. Emotions have been one of the strongest components of Little Witch Academia with Akko’s determination and emotional state being what unlocks both the Words and her growing magical capabilities, but only recently has it been defined as a part of magic itself. The fact that there is an element to magic that can run on a witch’s emotional state opens up many possibilities as to how powerful Akko can get by channeling her energy through her emotions. Diana’s magical aptitude went from being completely drained after Chariot’s show to being developed enough to become one of the most revered prodigies in the series. Ursula has been showing signs of her magic’s deterioration through recent episodes that are alluded to by Croix’s surprise and concern about how Ursula is still capable of pulling off complex magic. Even after the pollen’s effect has become apparent with Ursula thinking twice about grabbing her broom, she can still use her magic to retain her disguise in normal settings, fly on a broken door, and fight off Croix’s magitech.
Then, there’s Akko herself, who had her magic drained by Chariot, but has started picking up on transformation spells. With emotion as a source of magical power, it leads me to believe that emotion can also be a catalyst towards restoring magical power. The possibility of Akko becoming as adept as Diana once she starts using her own emotional drive as a source of magic instead of the inspiration that Chariot gave her seems more likely now. If there’s a silver lining to idolizing Chariot, it’s that it became half of the emotional drive that Akko needs to restore her magic. The second half that Akko needs, however, is to channel her emotional drive towards her own personal growth despite losing her magic at an early age. Chariot’s show was a setback for her magical development, but it was also the inspiration that lead her to try to practice magic to begin with. The only thing she needs is to apply her expertise with emotional understanding and compassion towards her magic.
It was a shrewd tactic on Trigger’s end to keep the audience in the dark for this long, namely with all the hair-tearing I’ve been doing about Ursula not opening up to her earlier. I now understand that the hold-out on divulging the nature of Chariot’s magic shows had quite the explosive payoff in this episode. The soccer riot subplot feels like it exists only to reveal the emotional component of magic, and it feels out-of-place for the series to tackle political strife and the struggling diplomacy of rival countries. Nevertheless, my hat goes out to Little Witch Academia for making Chariot’s reveal this shocking. I’m very excited to see if what I’ve mentioned is brought to the forefront, or if I’ll continue to be amazed with what the show brings up next. Until next time, I’ll see you next week!