Studio Ghibli may be on hiatus, but its wondrous magic doesn’t have to be.
Thanks to new up and coming film studio, Studio Ponoc, the unique animations and bizarre stories can continue living. Indeed, Mary and the Witch’s Flower serves as young Studio Ponoc’s first feature film but don’t feel bad for mistaking it for one of Studio Ghibli’s works. This film perfectly encapsulates the essence of Ghibli’s glory days—the creations of Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service and The Secret World of Arrietty (to name a few). And that should certainly come as no surprise considering that Studio Ponoc was founded by Yoshiaki Nishimura, a former Studio Ghibli producer—not to mention that the director of Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, worked on seven of Studio Ghibli’s most popular films and even served as the director for The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie was Here.Based on The Little Broomstick, a novel written by Mary Stewart, Mary and the Witch’s Flower follows Mary Smith, a little girl who moves into her great aunt’s country house a few weeks ahead of her parents as they finish up their work in the city. Finding her days rather uneventful and lonely, Mary attempts to help with the chores while further proving her excellence at being a major inconvenience to both the housekeeper and gardener. In her many attempts to be of assistance, adorable red-headed Mary crosses paths with young Peter, the local errand boy, who ends up teasing her about her wild and untamable hair. Upset by his mockery and envious of everybody singing praises about how helpful he is—to not only his poor mother but also the entire neighbourhood—Mary dismisses Peter’s attempts to accompany her into the misty forest when she makes the decision to look for his two missing cats.
Adventure soon ensues as Mary ventures alone into the forest, and with the help of Gib—her new feline familiar—she discovers magical “fly-by-night” flowers and an abandoned broomstick.
Sit back and experience the excitement as Mary obtains a ‘Cinderella-like’ witch status, discovers the wonders and evils of magic and learns to be at peace with both her beautifully wild red hair as well as her inevitable, naturally destructive clumsiness.Honestly, it’s absolutely undeniable that Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the Ghibliest non-Studio Ghibli film out there, and while I understand that this film was the result of former Ghibli employees yearning for everyone to experience once again the wonder of Studio Ghibli’s unique creations, this film can easily be boiled down to an amalgamation of an assortment of Studio Ghibli’s previous films. It felt as if Studio Ponoc had shoved Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Secret World of Arrietty and Spirited Away into a blender and decided to serve it up on a plate for all the hungry Ghibli deprived fans.
That is not, by all means, to say that this film was terrible, it just didn’t feel new.
On the other hand, Mary and the Witch’s Flower serves as the perfect reminder that everybody’s Studio Ghibli film marathons are severely overdue and, for those who have not yet experienced the works of Ghibli, this film doubles up as the perfect springboard into the wondrous world that is Studio Ghibli.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is screening at Luna Leederville on February 7, and at Luna Outdoor on February 23 and March 3.