Mary and the Witch’s Flower / Mary to Majo no Hana
Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Magic, Witch School
First Released: July 2017, 102-minute film
Summary: Mary is down on her luck and borderline miserable. She’s living with relatives and doesn’t have any friends in her new life. An unexpected occurrence causes Mary to follow Tib, a black cat, to a strange flower in the woods. A chain reaction of events occur that lead Mary on the adventure of a lifetime! It starts when she finds a broom unlike any other, one that shoots Mary into the sky and guides her to Endor College, the prestige school for witches. It’s up to Mary to adapt to her new and exciting life, even if the school is more than meets the eye.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first release of the recently founded Studio Ponoc, a Japanese animation studio started with several animators from Studio Ghibli. The name is Serbo-Croatian, meaning “the beginning of a new day”. Ghibli had basically gone on hiatus and the Ponoc team wanted to step up and continue the legacy of quality anime films. If you need proof, look no further than director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who worked on countless Ghibli films and directed two of them: The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There.
I cannot praise this film enough. From the beginning it reminded me of the quality of a Ghibli film, from the beautiful soundtrack to the breathtaking backgrounds. To create believable backgrounds the film crew traveled to Europe, where the film is set, and drew real landscapes. They say that studying real places, as opposed to photos, helped create the scenes because you notice more when you are on location. There is only so much you can gain from a photo.
I particularly enjoyed the world building in Mary, from the characters to the school. Endor College was amazing. Without giving anything away I will say that I loved the scene where they are taking Mary on a tour through the school. The teachers are interesting, Mary is a wonderful character, and Tib is perfect. I never knew I could care so much about a broomstick…
The film blends a good amount of humor with the right amount of drama and action to create an enjoyable film that piqued my interest in the beginning and held it straight through the credits. It confirmed it was a Ghibli-quality film when the ending credits rolled accompanied by a beautiful song that made me never want to leave the theater.
You might enjoy this if: You have wanted to watch a new Ghibli-style film with fantasy elements. Mary had its own feel that was distinctly its own, but the quality was up there with some of my favorite anime films. If you enjoy Harry Potter, you’ll love Mary. Several scenes reminded me of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Learning about magic as a foreign concept, fitting in at magic school, troublesome teachers, and a place with more to it than meets the eye.
You might not like it if: You’re a stickler for storytelling. There are parts that feel rushed, but if you’re not nitpicky and willing to go with the flow, this will be an enjoyable film.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower Official Trailer