Mary and the Witch's Flower is made by Studio Ponco,a studio full of people who work on Studio Ghibli. With this being their debut film, does it have the same magic that the Studio Ghibli movies have, or just be a knock-off version?
The story is rather simple, Mary moves to a new place with her aunt, and is always trying to help around the house, but always mess up. When she finds a flower in the forest she gains magical powers and goes on a magical adventure. Is a basic kid story premise that has been done lots of time with the purpose of the magical adventure to teach them a lesson. Unfortunately, this movie does not do anything new with it. The magical school she goes to is imaginative and fun, and there are reveals in the movie, but nothing felt impactful. Not to mention the beginning of the movie was an amazing chase scene that got me excited for the movie but went downhill as they could not top that scene and honestly make me rather see the story behind that witch instead of the main protagonist Mary.
Mary is a decent character who does act like a little girl. The contrast of feeling useless to being treated as a prodigy was fun to see, and she does her best to save the day from the villains wanting to abuse the flower. The problem is she does not grow that much as a character. I mean I guess she okay with how her hair looks now, but that wasn’t done that great or felt important. Most of these type of stories are effective because the characters have to overcome something personal, or have an end goal. Either in Spirited Away where the main character have to save her parent and does it with hard work and kindness or in Coco where the main character want to learn more about his family, want to be a musician and get back to the world of the living. In here, there no real goal until 3/4 into the movie. Is not like Mary had to overcome the fact that she have to accept her own faults or anything, as it does not feel like she learn anything except that magic exist. The villains are just mad scientists that are forgettable. The best supporting character is a freaking black cat that does not talk, it just had a rather weak story that manages to be fun enough for kids, but for me it was generic. I do have to praise however the dub voice actor who was excellent. The British accent felt authentic, and they did feel like kids.
That being said the technical aspect was great and did make the movie enjoyable to watch. As I stated before the people in Studio Ponco used to work in Studio Ghibli, and the animation and music reflect that. There just lots of great looking scene that are creative and fun, I just wish it was used more for the plot instead of showing us cool things like a magical spell book with all this different magic, but she only used one. That just a giant waste to what could have made for some creative scene that could rival the opening act. That being said is still an imaginative film with a great soundtrack to make this generic plot into a fun cute adventure.
Studio Ponco first film definitely looks like a studio ghibli movie, but plot-wise is not that great to compare to Studio Ghibli best work, and at best on par with their average movies. Granted its still miles better than the trash film Tales of Earthsea if that is any consolation. Is enjoyable enough that if someone was interested I would totally recommend, but is not something someone should go out of their way to see like me who have to drive thirty minutes to a theater I never went to before just to see this. But I guess it was worth it as the movie was entertaining despite its flaw and I give this a C+. (Originally part of Janimation Month at comicvine)
I wish I can comment and show support. I definitely promote it on AV Twitter and Tumblr.
2017 was the year for anime movies in terms of exposure and being released either pretty quickly from their Japanese release or released simultanously or being more available such as Crunchyroll or FUNimation streaming it.
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