Despite Akko’s protesting, Dianna has firmly decided to leave Luna Nova and become the head of the Cavendish household to save it from the neglect of her devious aunt. When said aunt prevents Diana from completing the ritual that will seal her position, it’s up to Akko to save the day. In doing so, she learns a great deal about the history of the Cavendish family and Diana in particular. With newfound admiration for her “rival”, Akko resolves to help Diana accomplish her task, and the two discover more than just a family legacy in the Cavendish shrine.
Dang, this is a solid episode. We get to learn a ton about Diana, her family, and some of the history of magic beyond Luna Nova. Better yet, we get to see Akko and Diana’s long-awaited team-up, and some gorgeous environments and animation all at the same time. Looking back, it’s probably my favorite episode (so far) in a show full of great ones.
We open with Diana continuing to ignore Akko’s pleas to return to Luna Nova, and quickly running into trouble on her way to her family’s shrine. Ignorant of this, Akko vents her frustrations to Andrew, who patiently explains that despite appearances, Diana has had to fight for everything she’s earned, and approaches every decision with care and certainty. This harks back to episode 12, when Akko first saw Diana’s room and the evidence of her hard work and studiousness. It’s a little dry hearing Andrew re-explain this to Akko, but since she moves at a mile a minute, taking a break for some exposition isn’t unwelcome.
Soon after, Akko and Andrew overhear Diana’s aunt, Daryl (mother of Maryl and Meryl, so it’s clear that branch of the family values consistency), gloating over trapping her niece to prevent her taking over the family name. Akko, in her trademark fashion, is more than happy to ignore protocol and tradition to get Diana out of this jam.
This is among my favorite moments in the episode, where Akko uses all of the metamorphosis magic she’s been practicing up to this point to rescue Diana, but is poisoned in the process. It’s energetic, funny and touching; a microcosm of all the best traits that LWA brings to the table. Those of you who remember Disney’s The Sword in the Stone may get a few nostalgic flashbacks to its crazy wizards’ duel.
Diana treats Akko’s wounds, losing precious time she could have spent completing her quest. It turns out that her family has a long and noble history as some of the magical world’s most accomplished healers, and it would be against her family’s code (not to mention her own morals) to leave Akko in need. Her heartfelt desire to live up to and preserve her family’s legacy is incredibly moving, and explains her fierce pride in her heritage. This is no “oh-ho-ho-ing” princess like we’re so used to seeing in anime; this is someone with every right to be proud of who they are and where they came from.
This stalwart passion moves Akko as well, and with some help from the Shiny Rod and another of the magic Words, she and Diana rush off to finish the ritual. Once again, things go awry due to Daryl’s interference, but Diana continues to hold true to her sense of duty, and acts selflessly to aid others while forgoing her own goals.
Finishing strong, the end of this two-parter hits all the best notes of the series. It boasts a positive message about helping those in need without feeling preachy, and both Akko and Diana show off how much they’ve grown in the time we’ve known them.
That isn’t to say the episode is flawless. Part of that is the overall structure of the show; until this most recent arc, we hadn’t seen Diana for several episodes, so her sudden decision to attend to family matters felt like it came out of nowhere. There were plenty of hints before, but it could’ve felt less sudden. Another minor quibble is a scene near the end, where the Cavendish servants vow to protect the family’s interests, even if Diana isn’t present. It feels a little halfhearted, since we barely see Diana interact with anyone besides her head maid. The entire bit just comes off as shoehorned in.
Beyond some incredibly small nitpicks, episode 20 is fantastic. I’m loving Akko’s earnestness and enthusiasm just as much as Diana’s determination and compassion. With the two of them on much friendlier terms, we’re all set to push into the final arc of the show and face off against the magical plot that Croix has been hatching in secret.