Starring: Hana Sugisaki, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Yûki Amami
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Running Time: 102 mins
Mary And The Witch’s Flower is a Japanese film about a clumsy young girl who encounters a mysterious flower in the forest, only to discover that it is an exceptionally rare flower that gives her the powers of a witch for one night only.
This is such a nice film. With a fun and imaginative story surrounding pleasant characters, all set to the backdrop of yet more incredibly beautiful animation, Mary And The Witch’s Flower is the perfect film to get you smiling within an hour and a half. It’s not perfect, occasionally struggling with pacing issues and a lack of character depth, but on the whole, it’s a wonderfully enjoyable and uplifting watch from start to finish.
What’s most important to note about this film is that it’s not a Ghibli movie. Although directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who made Arrietty and When Marnie Was There, as well as bearing huge resemblances to Ghibli in animation style and genre, there are some key differences that set it apart from just being another Studio Ghibli movie.
Above all, the type of story that we see unfold in this film differs somewhat from what we’ve been used to from Studio Ghibli. While Ghibli dealt more often than not used fantasy stories to deal with some very deep themes and create intimate and engrossing watches, Studio Ponoc, the company that makes this film, has gone for something a lot more pure and family-friendly, in a similar vein to the likes of My Neighbour Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service. In that, it’s a little more similar to Disney’s storytelling style, although thanks to the beautiful animation here, Ponoc stands out well as its own.
And if there’s one thing that is so brilliant about Mary And The Witch’s Flower, it’s undoubtedly the animation. Not only does it bring back the mad and imaginative worlds that Studio Ghibli have transported us to so vividly before, but it shows another step in this style of anime that adds significantly to the visual beauty throughout. So, while we still have the gorgeous hand-painted scenery backdrops portraying the lush English countryside, there are some scenes that venture closer towards the photo-realistic style of animation that many other anime films have taken on board in recent years, yet has never been a choice of Studio Ghibli’s.
As a result, you get the warm and delightful feel of a Studio Ghibli movie, but there’s still even more eye-popping visuals throughout to make it seem all the more impressive, and with its fantastically colourful palette that brings the fantastic world to life, it’s a vivid and visually gorgeous watch from start to finish.
Moving on from the visuals, Mary And The Witch’s Flower also succeeds in delivering a properly entertaining story from start to finish. It’s not a repeat of Kiki’s Delivery Service as some have suggested, but rather based on a famous English story called The Little Broomstick, and it’s a hugely enjoyable watch throughout.
There are times when the wizarding world it dives into strays a little too far into Harry Potter territory, occasionally getting a little bogged down in magic jargon, but on the whole, it’s a story about a young girl finding her confidence in the most extraordinary of ways, and given that we have such a likable protagonist in young Mary, it’s a delight to follow her along on this magical journey of a lifetime.
In general, the film works really well to give you a fun and pleasant watch from start to finish, although it’s not completely perfect, given that it really struggles to build a beautifully calm and intimate opening act with something a little more Disney in the middle and early third portion, frustrated by a jarring change in pace on a couple of occasions.
With all that said, however, I had a wonderful time with Mary And The Witch’s Flower. It’s a visually beautiful movie that you’ll be marvelling at from start to finish, thanks to the incredible animation from Studio Ponoc that steps up Ghibli’s legacy by another notch. Its fantastical and storybook-style atmosphere makes for a lovely watch throughout, featuring a delightful protagonist and various mystical worlds that will undoubtedly have you smiling right to the finish, so that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6 overall.