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?