Mary and the Witch's Flower

Film, Animation
3 out of 5 stars
Mary and the Witch's Flower

The debut film from Japan's newest anime house is a visual feast that feels like a Ghibli mega-mix.

The Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli has produced the country’s most accessible and beautiful animes, from ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ to ‘Spirited Away’. Indirectly, it’s now spawned a whole new anime stable, too. Set up by a Ghibli alumnus, Studio Ponoc’s debut anime is a lovely-looking, if rather thin, take on Mary Stewart’s fable ‘The Little Broomstick’. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (‘Arrietty’), it’s a Ghibli product in everything but name. Almost to a fault.

Like ‘Spirited Away’ it centres on a headstrong young girl who trespasses on hidden, magical territory ­– in this case, a surreal witch’s college in the clouds that she bluffs her way into. And as in ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ (another Ghibli), this heroine spends a lot of time flying on a broomstick and talking to cats. It feels like a Ghibli cover version squeezed into a familiar plot.

Happily, there’s plenty of visual lushness to compensate, with dramatic cloudscapes puffing and roiling above the sun-dappled English countryside. Yonebayashi also fearlessly tilts into the realm of the bizarre, especially when we encounter the unfortunate subjects of some of the school’s less savoury spell-weaving. What’s not to love about mushroom birds, squirrel-snails and butterfly-winged monsters? 

By: Dan Jolin

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Release details

Rated: U
Release date: Friday May 4 2018
Duration: 102 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Screenwriter: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Riko Sakaguchi
Cast: Hana Sugisaki

1 cinema showing 'Mary and the Witch's Flower'

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