Monday 28 May 2018

Mary and the Witch's Flower ★★★★☆

I think a lot of people were upset when Studio Ghibli announced that they’d be reigning back on production. I myself have grown up with them, and the thought of not having new animations from them in my life makes me rather sad. Thankfully though, two seasoned Ghibli veterans,  Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura, have started a new production company, Studio Ponoc, so all is not lost, and hopefully, this means the Studio Ghibli spirit will continue on.

‘Mary and the Witch's Flower’ is the first Studio Ponoc animation to be produced, and it’s a great start already. The story follows Mary (Hana Sugisaki), a clumsy child who has moved to her Great Aunt Charlotte’s house over the Summer. Her parents are not yet there, and she’s struggling to find things to do until her new school starts. Mary isn’t particularly confident, as she hates her red frizzy hair and always seems to leave a trail of destruction behind her from being so clumsy.

Whilst on a picnic by herself Mary meets two cats, who lead her to a mysteriously beautiful flower. She takes it back home and then stumbles across a broomstick. The juice from the flower seems to give her powers, and without meaning to Mary finds herself flying towards Endor College, an institution for witches and wizards that is hiding something very dark within its walls.

Unlike some other animations that Studio Ghibli have produced in the past, ‘Mary and the Witch's’ Flower’ has quite a fast-paced and adventurous feel to it, starting off straight away with a broomstick chase scene, and increasing in pace until it arrives at the crescendo at the end. It’s similar to ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ in a way, with frequent changes between scenes and environments and a story where, if you so much as blink, you’ll miss important points. A big contrast to ‘When Marnie Was There’, the last Japanese animation I reviewed, but a welcome one. 

There’s also a big Harry Potter feel to it, especially when we finally see inside the walls of Endor College, the magical place within the clouds. There are many beautiful scenes in this part of the film, in particular as Mary explores the items of the world she never knew existed. Yūki Amami is quite sinister as Madame Mumblechook, and we immediately know that all is not as it seems.

One thing I felt they could have focused on more was the relationship between Mary and her Great Aunt, and the backstory that comes with that. Once the action started we were pulled in, and there wasn’t much time to truly explore Mary’s past and the links between her and her family. It wasn’t too much of an issue though, as the story was heavily focused on morality and the themes that come with that, as well as self-acceptance and finding one’s purpose. It was also beautifully animated with dashes of colour and magic along the way, making it highly entertaining to watch.

I wouldn’t say ‘Mary and the Witch's Flower’ is the most original story as it’s clear to see where inspiration was drawn from, but it’s a heartwarming tale all the sign and a sign that the wonder and magic of Studio Ghibli will live on through Studio Ponoc.

Hannah Read

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