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Film/TV Mary and the Witch's Flower

Published on May 4th, 2018 | by voxx

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Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Out: 4 May
Cert: U
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: 3/5

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Cast: Hana Sugisaki, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Yûki Amami, Fumiyo Kohinata

Plot: Mary Smith (Sugisaki) is a spirited young girl stuck in the country with her Great-Aunt Charlotte (Shinobu Ôtake) with no adventures or friends in sight - until she follows a strange cat into the forest and finds a mysterious flower.

When it was announced that Studio Ghibli founder and prestigious Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki would be closing the Totoro-shaped gates, Ghibli veterans Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura had left to form their very own studio, inspired by Miyazaki’s early hits – and from that inspiration comes Studio Ponoc’s debut, ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’. Adapted by director Hiromasa Yonebayashi from Mary Stewart’s best-selling children’s book The Little Broomstick, it’s clear that from the stunning opening moments the newly fledged Studio Ponoc is already following in Ghibli’s earlier footsteps. Yonebayashi had already worked on top animated roles in ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’ and finally ‘When Marnie Was There’.

Set in the Britain, Mary (Sugisaki) is an ordinary spirited young girl who’s stuck in the countryside with her Great-Aunt Charlotte. With nothing to do, no friends in sight and no adventure at hand, Mary is bored. That is until she stumbles across a strange feline that takes her to the nearby forest where she finds a mysterious blue glowing flower, an old little broomstick that would take her to a mysterious land. From just those few minutes it already sounds familiar. After the success of ‘Harry Potter’ and with another four ‘Fantastic Beasts’ lined up until the mid-2020s, it’s obvious that J.K. Rowling’s fantastic magical world has declared world domination. And from the early moments of Ponoc’s debut the British fantasy influence clearly shows its face. As soon as Mary is transported to this new world we already hit a few familiar streaks; first, a castle in the sky that shares a distinct similarity to Hogwarts, secondly, a headmistress figure which could be McGonagall, and finally there’s a young boy wearing circular glasses that could be a tongue-in-cheek version of Harry Potter himself.

But unlike its British counterpart, the Japanese version has issues. The story is largely predictable, and once we already know the villains it’s pretty clear where this story is going to go, thus leaving them about as dangerously compelling as ‘Thor: The Dark World’s’ Dark Elves. In addition, the script perhaps needs a little bit of remodeling. Still, while ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ may not be great film – it sometimes even struggles to be a good one – it’s a convincing proof of its British inspiration concept, plus it particularly makes up for the mistakes with its unstoppable ginger heroine, and happily, that might be more important in the long run.

VERDICT: While it doesn’t completely live up to Ghibli and most certainly isn’t a great anime, what it lacks in grandeur can be forgiven thanks to a compelling heroine.

- By Corey Denford


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