Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the latest film by Studio Ponoc that could easily be mistaken for a Studio Ghibli film.
Based on the 1971 classic children’s book The Little Broomstick, former animator for Ghibli Hiromasa Yonebayashi directs this colourful tale of a budding witch who must overcome an evil plan to save her friend.
I was thrilled to see Mary and the Witch’s Flower in the cinema after patiently waiting six months for the English release of the film. While it may not have been born in the brilliant mind of Hayao Miyazaki, the film nestles right into the world of the retired creator.
With plenty of Ghibli work under his belt, Yonebayashi mirrors a world that has lit up our screens with the likes of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. The sweeping backgrounds of forests and hills are exquisitely detailed in vibrant colour. With the animation style unmistakably right out of the Studio Ghibli handbook.
The Little Broomstick or Harry Potter?
While I have not read The Little Broomstick, the story of Mary and The Witch’s Flower seems all too familiar (at least at the start). A young protagonist being swept up in a confusing adventure where they are whisked off to Endor College, School of Magic to discover their hidden talent for witchcraft. Other similarities to Harry Potter include Mary’s unruly hair and lack of friends, making her akin to Hermione from the award winning series. Her apathy to companion Peter blossoming over time to one of affection resembles Hermione’s relationship with Ron.
The similarities end there as it turns out Madam Mumblechook (voiced by Kate Winslet) isn’t the nurturing mother figure she was made out to be. Mary’s adventure doesn’t settle so much around the school and taking dangerous potion classes.
The vibrance and magic of Howl’s Moving Castle echoes in Mary and the Witch’s Flower.
Much like Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, Mary is an unwitting participant in the realm of magic. The exciting world of spells and lurking threat of dark magic translate from Howl’s world straight into Mary’s. The evil “goo” that has become well known in the Ghibli universe features throughout, and one thing I love from the Ghibli films is the flowing hair in the presence of magic. It was almost as if Mary and the Witch’s Flower was set in the same world as Howl’s Moving Castle.
The beauty of the painted sets down to the minute details really add to the engagement of the film. The story is compelling and sets a good pace, not allowing for any prolonged lulls or deviating away from the plot.
Studio Ponoc has delivered an intriguing and enjoyable debut film Mary and the Witch’s Flower, and in lieu of further Ghibli films I’m looking forward to their next project. Who knows, maybe Yonebayashi will be the next Miyazaki.
Oh, so you like Studio Ghibli? Snaps! Have a read of our top 5 Studio Ghibli films.