In these last days of spring, Japanese animation returns to Italian movie theatres! From June 14 to 20, in fact, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, the first work of Studio Ponoc, “heir” of the most famous Studio Ghibli, will arrive on the silver screens. The movie, distributed in Italy by Lucky Red, is based on the novel The little broomstick, by Mary Stewart, and it is an exciting story of friendship and magic set between the English countryside and a school for magicians and witches (no, Harry Potter has nothing to do with it).
Little Mary Smith has just moved into the great-aunt Charlotte’s country house and is bored to death: no TV, no friends and every attempt to make herself useful ends up badly. Until one day, entering the forest, she finds a mysterious blue flower and an old magic broom that carries her to Endor College, a school of magic. Here Mary meets the principal Madama Mumblechook and Doctor Dee, who mistake her for a witch with extraordinary powers.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower answers a question that maybe some of you have asked at least once: how would Hogwarts look like if it was created in Japan? Well, it would probably be not so different from the Endor College imagined by director Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The atmospheres recall those of Studio Ghibli and it is no coincidence: Studio Ponoc was founded by animators who have worked on masterpieces such as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle (including Yonebayashi himself).
Given the premises, it is not surprising that Mary and the Witch’s Flower is technically enchanting, with backgrounds that look like paintings and animations flowing like water that will not make you miss the works of Studio Ghibli (mentioned in the film several times). What’s missing is the magic that Miyazaki infused in his feature films and a personal style that gives to Studio Ponoc its own identity. In short, it is not a memorable masterpiece like the already mentioned Spirited Away, but it’s nonetheless an excellent animated film and an excellent debut for Studio Ponoc.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower will be in selected cinemas in Italy for only one week, from June 14 to 20. We recommend it to all the fans of Studio Ghibli, Japanese animation and, why not, to Harry Potter fans who are curious to see what happens at another school of magic created in English literature. Did you see the movie? What do you think about it?