Review: Mary and the Witch’s Flower — Almost like a Studio Ghibli version of Harry Porter

mary witch flower anime image

Mary and the Witch’s Flower メアリと魔女の花 (2017)

Movie review

Directed and co-screenwritten by Hiromasa Yonebayashi — the man who directed award-winning Studio Ghibli animated films When Marnie Was There (2014, nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars in 2016) and The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a Japanese anime adaptation of the 1971 children’s novel The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart (best known for her Merlin book trilogy) about a bored young girl (voiced by Hana Sugisaki) who follows a pair of cats into the woods and finds a magical broom and a rare flower that can instantly turn her into a powerful witch for a day and flies her to a school of witchcraft in the skies.

Although it’s produced by the new Studio Ponoc that’s founded by former Studio Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, the film’s visual art, feel and pacing are similar to some of Ghibli’s releases, immersing audience into the peaceful and quiet side in Britain before flying them to the exciting and funny dimension of wizardry. The visuals are beautifully illustrated and animated with plenty of interestingly strange things and creatures, almost comparable to the great Spirited Away (2001) but that should not be surprising as the key animators in charge, too, had worked on multiple Ghibli classics just as the director and studio founder did.

mary witch flower anime movie still 1

The typical clumsy and restless but courageous and goodhearted protagonist may not be the most likable character but cats and creatures are absolutely adorable and hilarious. When Mary goes to the witchcraft school, everything there are very interesting and compelling. It’s like Hogwarts in Harry Porter, only that the source material was published more than two decades before Harry Porter did. Unfortunately the film doesn’t spend enough time in that magical dimension. As soon as Mary is at the school, the plot escalates very quickly and the film ends up feeling a little too short, making it seems as though the film’s a prelude short to another story. The film would’ve been more satisfying if the second act was longer and had more scenes at the school to explore more of its cool, strange magical stuff that the audience would’ve liked to see for sure.

However, despite that, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is still quite an enjoyable anime to watch, especially if you’re a fan of both Studio Ghibli animes and Harry Porter. What I admire most about the film is its message. The film does very well in depicting the contrast between boring but peaceful, and fun, exciting, ambitious but uncompassionate, while conveying the darker side of “magic” (possibly the film’s metaphor for advanced technology and power).

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What I would’ve named the film: “Harry Steward’s Mary Porter”

Malaysian censorship: Doubt there was anything to cut. It’s a perfectly clean family animation and rated ‘U’.

Verdict: Not enough magic, literally, but still a decent Ghibli-like anime.

Rating: 3 / 5

mary witch's flower anime movie poster malaysiaCountry / Language: Japan / Japanese
Based on: 1971 children’s novel “The Little Broomstick” by Mary Stewart

Genre: Anime, animated fantasy, family
Running Time: 103 minutes
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Screenwriters: Riko Sakaguchi, Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Voice Cast: Hana Sugisaki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Yuki Amami, Fumiyo Kohinata

Malaysia Release Date: 9 November 2017 (TGV Cinemas)
Rated: U
Local Distributor: AtriNaga Sdn Bhd
Production: Studio Ponoc

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