With the ending of Studio Ghibli’s reign as anime studio supreme, it seems many believe Studio Ponoc should be its natural replacement. Mary And The Witch’s Flower is the first film from Ponoc, and it naturally showcases many of Ghibli’s most vibrant qualities, however, being in the shadows of what came before it, Mary And The Witch’s Flower struggles to commandeer past its unnaturally high expectations.
Mary (Ruby Barnhill) is a young girl with a lively personality. When she discovers a glowing flower in a mysterious forest, she is granted magical powers that surpass any that came before it. Beckoned to a school of magic for gifted children, Mary must now traverse school life, while avoiding those who want to take her powers from her.
Though a passionate effort, Mary And The Witch’s Flower just doesn’t feel as engaging or enthralling as Ghibli did on a constant basis. There are so many references to Ghibli throughout it often feels like a fan-made tribute. Even if it is, it takes away a certain portion of the quality it has to offer.
The story, based on the book The Little Broomstick, is interesting if unoriginal, and takes up most of the screen time. Leaving behind some shallow characters, the plot twists and turns slightly too often. It is common for the characters to make Ghibli films what they are, but that can’t be said for Ponoc on their first attempt.
It’s a solid story and looks deep into interesting themes, but it struggles to hold an identity and pull away from its idols. The voice acting does the job, with no particularly special elements, and the script can sometimes fall short in its explanations. Mary And The Witch’s Flower has quality, but not quality we haven’t seen before on multiple occasions.
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