In August 2015, a Japanese animation studio called “Studio Ponoc” was founded by former Studio Ghibli lead firm producer, Yoshiaki Nishimura. The studio is supported by former animators who worked under Studio Ghibli. Many of the former employees also worked together in order to come up with Studio Ponoc’s first feature film entitled Mary and The Witch’s Flower, which was released in Japan on July 8, 2017. If you haven’t heard of the film before, then it’s best to have a look at the story!
Mary and The Witch’s Flower starts with a house burning down. This prompts Mary, the lead character of the story, to move with her Great Aunt Charlotte into the British estate. She makes herself useful by doing household chores but she repeatedly messes up.
One day, Mary follows Tib and Gib, the cats of Peter, the boy who often teases her. She then sees some mysterious glowing flowers called “fly-by-night” according to the estate’s gardener. The flowers are believed to have magical powers.
The following day, Gib suddenly disappears so Mary and Tib start looking for her. They find a broomstick ensnared in a tree’s roots. The moment Mary tries to free the broomstick, a fly-by-night bulb accidentally bursts. This makes the broomstick come to life which then allowed Mary to ride on it.
The broomstick takes Mary and Tib to Endor College for witches. The headmistress of the school thinks Mary is a new pupil and takes her on a school tour. Mary’s advanced performance of spells makes her popular.
Later on, Mary confesses that her abilities came from the fly-by-night flower. Several adventures followed, including life-threatening implications. Mary also finds out that her Great Aunt Charlotte used to be a pupil at Endor College.
In the end, Mary realizes that she doesn’t need any magic and throws away the last magic bulb.
Mary and The Witch’s Flower was released in Japan on July 8, 2017, and was distributed by Toho Co., Ltd. It also premiered in other places such as New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, North America, and so on. This was made possible through an English-dubbed version of the film, starred by Kate Winslet, Ruby Barnhill, and Jim Broadbent.
Mary and The Witch’s Flower is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and produced by Geoffrey Wexler. The story’s gentle and beautifully animated story allowed it to gross $1.5 million in the United States and Canada. In Japan, the film grossed $3.9 million, putting it in second place during its opening weekend.
The film received favorable reviews, although some criticized that the story wasn’t really a masterpiece and somehow needed a bit of polishing. It scored 75 out of 100 based on 17 critics.
Mary and The Witch’s Flower showcases some similarities with other Studio Ghibli films. It also uses lush colors similar to that of Spirited Away, and the appeal of Mary’s character is very likable. If you haven’t watched this animated film yet, I strongly suggest you do! It is not a bad start for Studio Ponoc’s first feature film.
Studio Ponoc Website *Japanese only