Mary and the Witch’s Flower – Review
Updated: Apr 9, 2020
MILD SPOILER WARNING
A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to attend a special fan preview of Mary and the Witch’s Flower at my local cinema. The film was originally released in Japan during Summer 2017 but that has only reached our cinemas now.
If you were fooled into thinking that this was a Studio Ghibli film, I don’t blame you. Mary and the Witch’s Flower was produced by Studio Ponoc; a fairly new Japanese animation studio founded by Studio Ghibli’s lead film producer Yoshiaki Nishimura. Mary and the Witch’s Flower also had many previous Studio Ghibli employees work on it including it’s director Hiromasa Yonebayashi who had previously directed The Secret World of Arietty (2010), When Marnie Was There (2014) and also worked as an animator on many other Ghibli productions. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is based on the children’s novel The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower takes place in a small English village, a young red haired girl named Mary has been sent to live with her great Aunt for an unknown reason and is having trouble adjusting to her new life in the countryside. Mary attempts to keep herself busy by helping out where she can around the house and garden however often causes more trouble than assistance. If all of this wasn’t enough to cause her distress, a local boy named Peter is always there at the wrong time to call her a “red haired monkey” teasing her about her hair and frantic behaviour. Peter, although not Mary’s friend to begin with has two cats which Mary is very fond of called Tib & Gib. On one sunny afternoon whilst Mary is out exploring the woods near to where she lives, Tib and Gib lead her to a mystical looking purple flower in the woods. She takes the flower to the village gardener who identifies it as a fly-by-night. He then continues to tell Mary the legend of how Witches once desired it for the use of its magical power. Later, one of the cats goes missing. Mary eventually finds it and it leads her to a broomstick that is hidden in the middle of an old tree. Once freed, Mary accidentally spills some of the puree from the flower onto the broomstick. It comes alive and whisks Mary and Tib away up into the clouds and the two end up at Endor College for witches. After being mistaken for a new student and receiving a guided tour of the magical campus, Mary is offered an enrolment form but instead of signing it and bringing it back the next day she decides to stay home and forget it ever happened. That was her plan until something causes her to take charge and return to the campus.
Seeing as it’s 2018, it’s kind of a rarity to see 2D animated films at the cinema anymore. With the exception of The Wind Rises (2013), When Marnie Was There (2014), Your Name (2016) & The Red Turtle (2017) and now Mary and the Witch’s Flower, I haven’t seen many 2D animated films in the cinema in recent years, so it’s always refreshing to be able to experience that. It’s another thing entirely when you’re watching a Studio Ghibli/Ponoc film on the big screen though. It is truly an experience in itself with the absolutely memorising artwork being displayed out in front of you. As I mentioned earlier, the screening I went to was a ‘special fan screening’ so before the film started a short feature was shown containing interviews with the director and art director. During this short it was mentioned how the source material is set in England therefore in order to create convincing looking English countryside scenery; the filmmakers took research trips to England and it really shows. Whilst watching the film I believed that I recognised the village and the surrounding environments even though the town is fictional! It just shows how well the art department worked on this film or just how similar looking English countryside is. To help readers fully understand just how amazing it is, I’ve included a few stills that demonstrate what I mean.
As for the story elements of the film, once again Mary and the Witch’s Flower does everything right. The best way to describe the story without giving too much away is to describe it as Harry Potter meets Studio Ghibli. Usually when it comes to anime films or just foreign language films in general, I always seem to have some information missing or questions to ask once it’s over due to either elements becoming lost in translation or because I read a subtitle wrong. However, for this film I can confidently say that I understood every bit of it! Not once was I confused or lost as to how the story got to where it did, it was one big complex but cohesive story. Well done Studio Ponoc!
Mary and the Witch’s Flower will hit select UK cinemas on the 18th May in both dubbed English and original language formats, if you get the chance to see it and happen to already be a Studio Ghibli fan then this is the film definitely for you!
For more reviews, countdowns and articles on animation and Studio Ghibli/Ponoc keep up to date with my blog as well as nerdoutwordout.com
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