“I want to be the very best” is a phrase that is occasionally seen in your run-of-the-mill shounen or action series that provides a very generalized and dynamic goal for the character to be working towards. While I wouldn’t attribute this to lazy writing, it does not offer much substance to get a firm understanding of who this character beside the obvious strong willpower and persistence.
Characters are fleshed out when their dreams or future goals are given more emotional weight or motivations that allow for the audience to get a greater understanding of what kind of person that character really is. Personalized motivations for wanting to reach a certain goal is something that deepens characterization.
In Hunter x Hunter, Gon wants to be the strongest hunter, not for glory or the ability to claim to be the strongest in all the land, but because his journey to the top will lead him down the path and potentially help him find his father who left many years prior. Gon encounters many obstacles along the way but was able to persist because he had a clear goal in mind. Now enter Little Witch Academia, a show about girls training to better their skills of witchcraft at a boarding school. Akko, the protagonist, aspires to be a witch with a distinct passion and style like Shiny Chariot. While in many ways different, the goals of the characters of Akko and Gon share many parallels and can be used to understand the importance of a personalized dream for a character in anime.
It is established in Little Witch Academia that Akko, our female lead, aspires to be like her idol Shiny Chariot. However, much like in Hunter x Hunter, the idol the protagonist is working to catch has left but a legacy for them to view. Akko has a firm resolve, and well, she is very stubborn in her dream that leads her to become frustrated when she isn’t progressing as quickly as she would like in her craft. Her dream to become just like her idol is something that children often strive towards. Akko, much like a young child, looks up to this person and wants to be just like them. However, her magic skills are lacking severely and leads to constant frustration with herself. This makes her feel inadequate when compared to the perceived greatness that her idol Shiny Chariot can accomplish. This is obviously a poor comparison because Akko is a novice in every sense of the word while Chariot is a veteran, but she cannot comprehend this at that time.
In episode’s 11 and 12, Akko is faced with the question of what is more important: her future or past. In a cave a being asks her if she is willing to sacrifice her memories for the guarantee that she will have everything she wanted in the future. She realizes that “The tears and frustration and laughter, they’re all part of me!”
She would have no dream without a past, and not past without a dream. Both equally important and she must fulfill her aspirations through her own means because her life “doesn’t belong to anyone else!” It was here when Akko grows to understand that while her dream may be important to her, she doesn’t have to strive to be her idol, rather she needs to find a purpose for greatness. Professor Ursula warns Akko: “Don’t compare yourself to others. Do what only you can do.”
So, what is important about dreams and personalizing a dream to fit a character. Little Witch Academia explains how dreams and goals should be loft, yet within one’s own abilities. You should strive to be the best that you can be, not compare yourselves to other or else you will fall into a series of dissatisfaction or superiority. The message of these two episodes was quite cliché but the presentation was what made it more impactful. Akko’s growth in these episodes leads her to find motivation to push herself and find success as seen in episode 13’s festival. What’s important is a pure passion and motivation to push forward.