The spell Mr. Yonebayashi casts is effective, but also ephemeral. It’s minor magic.
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Mary and the Witch’s Flower is safe, containing no assertion of Ponoc as an artistic force beyond its overall technical accomplishment.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower may not be a great film — it occasionally struggles just to be a good one — but it’s a convincing proof-of-concept, and that might be more important in the long run.
What Mary lacks in the resources to visually gobsmack, it partially makes up for with its unstoppable titular ginger, whose empathy, depressive streak, and enviably fierce eyebrows place her shoulder to shoulder with any Ghibli heroine.
If Yonebayashi’s movie doesn’t have the visual richness and imaginative depth of Ghibli masterpieces like Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away,” its emotional warmth and wondrously inviting hand-drawn imagery carry on that company’s proud tradition.
Director Yonebayashi Hiromasa (When Marnie Was There) returns with a more lighthearted anime feature in Mary and the Witch’s Flower, a stirring adventure most suitable for tweens and teens.
It’s a movie with no greater ambition than to charm and occasionally delight. Mission accomplished.
This is a film about the adolescent pangs to belong that also mines its tale of magic and malevolence for an imaginative allegory about the excesses of scientific inquiry.
A lovingly crafted fantasy on an epic scale, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a film about transformation made by filmmakers in transition.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower doesn’t just borrow elements from Ghibli, it feels like a complete continuation of the studio’s work. It’s a welcome relief for every animation fan who thought that particular era of Japanese animation had, after 30 years, quietly come to a close.