Hiromasa Yonebayashi brings his experience to Studio Ponoc in an enchanting story that is simple and beautifully animated. Mary and the Witch’s Flower follows Mary as she moves to her Great Aunt’s estate and discovers the secret world of magic and fairytale in the sky. While I was enamored by the visuals and details in the animations, the story was perfect for children in that it was easy and predictable.
The film starts off strong, with a witch escaping with stolen goods and being pursued, and is set up nicely for the rest of the film. At this point, I decided to make some predictions and see if they came true. They did. Like I said earlier, this is a great film for children, but the predictability lost me despite my interest in the animation and world. I think they created a solid base for their story arc but they didn’t do much to further it from classic stereotypes and it became a story I’ve seen a hundred times. It wasn’t enough to get me to stop watching, however, it didn’t keep my undivided attention for very long.
I started the film with the default dubbed version, which was a big mistake. The voices sounded strange and weren’t a good fit for the characters, and it didn’t help that I wasn’t expecting weird British accents. I say weird because even my British flatmate was put off from their voices, thankfully it was an easy fix to switch it to japanese. I can handle having to read subtitles, not bad english dubs. Also, the names and spells just sound so much better in Japanese. I don’t think I could have sit through a movie with terrible, rhyming spells and obvious names.
The character of Mary, and how they chose to represent her, was very typical. She was another new girl who thought she knew better than people who had lived there their whole lives and paid the consequences for it. She basically lies her ass off throughout the start of the film, enjoys the praise and response, so she lies her ass off some more. I will admit though, something I enjoyed about Mary was her actions at the very beginning, she came across as a kind, energetic, yet clumsy girl who only wanted to help those around her. Mary was lonely, without any friends or her parents and I think that if they had explored that and showed that vulnerability throughout the movie, it would have greatly helped the story and her character arc.
The aspect of this film that will get me to watch it again, is the animation. I am a massive fan of animated films (beyond and including Disney and Dreamworks) and Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a film I would like to revisit just to study the animation style and the world itself. Another thing I enjoyed, and realised was rare, was the incorporation of science. It didn’t become a film where there were ancient rituals and things like electricity were ignored, rather they were incorporated and used as a type of magic that enhanced their world.
Aside from it’s stunning animation and the incorporation of magic and science, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is an overall mediocre film with more potential as a children’s film. A positive though, is that it’s manageable for adults. That may not seem like a positive, but I doubt you’ll hear parents complaining quite as much if Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the movie that their kids get hooked on.