Anime Boston is great when it comes to providing premieres to its attendees. This year they showed Studio Pontoc’s first feature length film, Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Having missed the theatrical release, I was extremely excited to catch this film while at the con.
Mary Smith is a girl with red hair, a rambunctious personality, and no friends. Having recently moved in with her Great-Aunt Charlotte, Mary tries to make up for her lack of friends by helping out around the house. This usually results in Mary making a larger mess than she was cleaning up, so she typically ends up spending a lot of time outdoors. To make matters worse, the delivery boy Peter constantly makes fun of her. It seems like Mary will never find a place that accepts her, until she meets Peter’s cats Tib and Gib. The pair of felines lead Mary through the woods to a mysterious flower and broomstick, which completely changes Mary’s life.
The flower – known as Fly-By-Night – is a beautiful flower with magical properties. Coveted by witches, the flower grants Mary the power of witchcraft, but only for a day at a time. This happens to be just enough time for Mary to land herself in a world of trouble.
What follows is a fantastical journey involving spells, kidnappings, and revelations Mary never could have dreamed of. She battles cunning villains, saves her only friends, and learns a lot of surprising information about her mild-mannered aunt. Although it seems like the magical world is perfect for her, Mary ends up finding the place she truly belongs in her world.
For a movie all about magic flowers and witchcraft, the most unbelievable part of the story for me was how quickly Peter forgives Mary. To break it down, a girl he barely knows causes him to get kidnapped by witches and transported to another realm for a flower that he believes to be a myth. By the way, he forgives her while he still believes it’s going to be next to impossible for them to escape. I can barely forgive my husband for eating all the Girl Scout Cookies, but this kid can forgive international kidnapping? Sure.
Studio Pontoc did an absolutely stunning job with Mary and the Witch’s Flower. The world they created is vibrant, detailed, and visually immersive. The Fly-By-Night is captivating and ethereal, and it’s easy to see why it is such a coveted flower. The only downside is that the facial design for the characters is very cookie-cutter. Some more diverse looking characters would have made this perfect.
One thing I really liked is how authentic Mary feels as a character. She behaves as a typical lonely kid would, looking for validation from the adults in her life. Despite that, Mary quickly learns that loneliness doesn’t give you the excuse to lie and act like a jerk. The same goes for Peter, who avoids the “boys will be boys” trope by seeming genuinely repentant of his teasing. This change in both of their behaviors allows for both a successful redemption arc, as well as a happy ending.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower also finds a superb antagonist in Madame Mumblechook. What’s especially interesting is that her purpose is for the greater good, at least in her opinion. She wants to help her students become the best and most powerful witches they can be, which she believes can only be done with the fly-by-night. The fact that she has to experiment on living creatures is just an unfortunate, but necessary, means to that end. While we don’t get to see the outcome of her plan literally blowing up in her face, I like to think that her and Doctor Dee are going to be more committed to nurturing their students’ potential the old-fashioned way from now on.
I highly recommend seeing Mary and the Witch’s Flower if you have the chance. More information about the theatrical release can be found here.