Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a fantasy adventure animated Japanese film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi from Studio Ponoc, a company derived from former members of famed animation team, Studio Ghibli. The story is based on the novel “The Little Broomstick” by Mary Stewart.
The film tells of a young girl named Mary voiced by Hana Sugisaki who accidentally discovers special flowers that only bloom once in seven years and help turn her into a witch overnight, but only temporarily. By discovering the magic of the flowers, Mary finds herself visiting a magic school hidden in the clouds and continues the façade that she is a witch, which in turns endangers those she never even realised she loved. While the school in the sky does seem fascinating, it is all smoke and mirrors when Mary discovers the ungodly things they are doing up there.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is visually stunning. The art, design and the colours of each frame is mesmerising. You would be forgiven if you thought this was another Studio Ghibli film – which it is not. Many moments in the film actually feel like little tribute nods to previous Studio Ghibli films such as Kiki’s Delivery Service, Laputa: Castle In the Sky and Spirited Away. Like Studio Ghibli films, Studio Ponoc‘s Mary and the Witch’s Flower has a strong female lead character. Despite these similarities, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a powerful film with its own identity.
I really enjoyed how Mary‘s character is innocent but strong. Her character design looks familiar, like a combination of Studio Ghibli‘s Kiki’s Delivery Service and Ponyo, but the similarities of these characters are only in looks. Mary at the time before discovering the flowers, struggles with her self-worth. Her character development is amazing, evolving from a girl who isn’t sure of herself into a defiant young lady who is responsible for her actions and wants to save everyone.
The music in this film is composed by Muramatsu Takatsugu (who also scored Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s last film, Studio Ghibli’s “When Marnie Was There”) who successfully marries his compositions with the animation to help create an exciting and immersive experience. I could not look away from the screen and was practically on the edge of my seat the whole time.
I saw this film in advance back in November during the Australian Premiere at the Madman Anime Festival in Melbourne. The version I saw was the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. The release in Australia will be both the Japanese audio and English dub versions, just make sure you check with the cinema prior to buying tickets if you have any preferences in which version you want to see. I personally always prefer viewing Japanese audio with English subtitles, but that’s just me. I have not seen the English dub version of this film.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is Studio Ponoc’s first film and I honestly can’t wait not only to see this film again when it is officially released in Australia in January, but to also see what Studio Ponoc conjure and release next. I highly recommend viewing this film while you can, wonderful is an understatement. With themes of identity, power and love, I promise you that if you do see this film, you are in for a real treat.