Mary and The Witch’s Flower (Meari to Majo no Hana)
It’s hard now, even a couple of years later, to remove myself from the sense of expectation that swept (what seemed like) most of the world during the lead up to the release of Mary and the Witch’s Flower.
There was a lot to look forward to – Studio Ponoc had formed from the ‘ashes’ of Ghibli and had Yoshiaki Nishimura and Hiromasa Yonebayashi on deck, bringing a lot of Ghibli animators with them. More, they were adapting a British children’s tale as Studio Ghibli had done so successfully before and the teaser art seemed to evoke the familiar wondrousness of both Kiki and Spirited Away.
Then the actual preview was released and my anticipation for the movie rose again; it felt like the film was going to be a stunning work, despite the lurking knowledge that not only was it rare for a successor to really live up to its predecessor, but that it was also entirely unfair of me not to judge Mary on its own merits.
And right up until the end of the opening sequence of Mary and the Witch’s Flower I’d thought that I could manage to step away Ghibli’s legacy but by the end of the story I’d caught myself making too many unfavourable comparisons.
Now, I know I tend to start more than a few reviews with a structure that outlines what I didn’t enjoy before finishing with the great things – so you can probably guess where this is going, right?
Because as with so many of my short reviews, I’m going to say that this is still a beautifully animated film with bold colours and character design, that the music is still distinctive and that there’s fun and adventure here and that if you haven’t seen it for whatever reason, you should still give it a shot.
Just go in expecting something bright and imaginative but something that doesn’t have that timelessness that Ghibli managed, nor anything quite so exciting as the thrilling opening sequence – as there’s nothing quite that impressive after, but again, I’m not at all claiming that it’s a bad film or even only an adequate one, it’s truly great but it’s not stunning.
And maybe that’s a cruel yardstick to try and hold a film up against, huh?