‘Mary & The Witch’s Flower’ Will Delight Studio Ghibli Fans

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‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ [Credit: Studio Ponoc/GKIDS]

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is an enchanting animated feature that has all the trademark characteristics of a Studio Ghibli film – from lovable cherubic characters to the coming-of-age narrative, magical transformations to a stirring musical score. Except it is not by Studio Ghibli.

That another Japanese animation studio could produce a film so Ghibli-like was hardly surprising once you find out who the creative people behind it are. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the debut film of Studio Ponoc, founded by former Ghibli animator and producer Yoshiaki Nishimura (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, When Marnie Was There) and directed by another ex-Ghibli animator and director, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There fame.

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Based on Mary Stewart’s 1971 children fantasy novel, The Little BroomstickMary and the Witch’s Flower tells the story of young red-haired Mary Smith who lives with her great-aunt Charlotte in the quaint British town of Redmanor. One day, she came across a mysterious flower known as Fly-by-night, or the Witch’s Flower, that blooms only once every seven years.

Mary soon finds herself embarking on a wild adventure as eccentric characters try to seize the one-night-only witching powers that she received from the magical flower. Even as she cherishes the opportunity to escape from her mundane lifestyle, Mary also learns that with power comes the responsibility to save and protect those you love.

Ghibli fans will love Mary and the Witch’s Flower as it has all the qualities of a lush, magical Ghibli film. In fact, the film pays much homage to past Studio Ghibli classics as well as other popular fantasy films that fans of the genre would recognize in an instant.

For the list of the major shout-outs, click the link below:
* 6 Great Fantasy Films That Studio Ponoc’s ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ Will Lovingly Remind You Of

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5 Things We Want to See in Studio Ghibli’s Theme Park in 2022
Studio Ghibli Sees First East-west Collaboration in the Wordless Wonder ‘The Red Turtle’

The Magic of Hayao Miyazaki

yoko_outI have been a big fan of Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki ever since I saw his absolutely brilliant film, Spirited Away (2001), which tell of a 10-year-old girl who wandered into a world of strange humans, spirits and monsters, most of which took place in a mystical bathhouse. Despite being a 2D film, with hardly any special effects or cutesy songs,  it was a visual feast for the ears and eyes, from its stirring plotline to witty dialogue to stunning animation. It was the same with his later films, namely 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle – albeit the moving castle was more, er, moving than the male lead – and the truly hilariously mind-blowing and magical Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (2008).
THE WIND RISES. © 2013 Nibariki - GNDHDDTKMiyazaki’s latest The Wind Rises – much declared to be his last as he’s “retiring” for the umpteenth time – is more straightforward. It tells of the story of  Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II and the only magical bits are the dreams he had as a boy in which he receives advice from his idol, Italian airplane maker Giovanni Caproni, on pursuing his dream of being an aircraft designer. Frankly, with its somber undertones – earthquakes, weapons of destruction, deadly illnesses – it’s more akin to the brilliant but utterly depressing Grave of the Fireflies (1988, not by Mizayaki but Isao Takahata albeit from the same studio) – a tragic tale of a boy and his sister trying to survive in Japan during World War II – but thankfully, not as one-box-of-tissues heart-wrenching. The main thing is, in simple 2D, Miyazaki once again produced a film that offers vibrancy in colours, compelling characters and captivating plots in equal dosages.
windrises_brideNot to mention – SPOILER ALERT – one of the most heartwarming love stories ever committed to the animated celluloid in recent times (okay, Up in the first 10 minutes still wins hands down), including one of the funniest yet beautiful and touching Japanese wedding scenes ever.

Does The Wind Rises glamorises war? No it doesn’t. It just remind people to follow their dreams, but not by forsaking the people they love; to live up to their potential, without stepping on anyone’s foot or losing respect for a fellow human. It’s a very quiet film and I liked to thank the moviegoers at the cinema I was in who, along with me, respected the silences by ceasing to snack during those bits and not a single phone rang.

Let’s hope it won’t be Miyazaki’s last animated feature. The movie world needs more of these…

Photos credit: Studio Ghibli

Other anime must-sees:
spirited awaygrave of the firefliesponyo on the cliff by the sea

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