Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Title: Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Meari to Majo no Hana)

Animation: Studio Ponoc

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Based on the novel The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart

Eleven year-old Mary Smith is a kind, curious, and precocious young girl. She is also very very bored. Sent ahead by her parents to live with her Great-Aunt Charlotte, she has no friends and she manages to screw up any chores she attempts. One day, she follows a pair of cats into the nearby woods, where she stumbles across a strange blue flower. And so Mary finds herself granted magical abilities for a single night. Transported by broom to a witch’s school high in the clouds, she is introduced to Madam Mumblechook and Doctor Dee, who seem supportive and excited to see her — at first. But when they learn that she has the flower and that she gained her magic from it, their attitudes take a malicious turn ….

I somehow missed Mary and the Witch’s Flower when it was initially released in the United States in 2018. I only discovered the film when it popped up on a recommendations list here on ev0ke. So I settled in for a comfortable two hours and lost myself in the adventure.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a sweet, generous all-ages adventure about friendship, courage, kindness, self-confidence, and the dangers of obsession and power. Mary is a wonderful person as she is, but she dislikes her hair and her own clumsiness. When she discovers that magic exists, she uses it to have a grand adventure — but when things go horribly awry and her new friend Peter is put in danger, she uses that same magic to save him. In the end, Mary is not sorry to see the magic go; she knows her own heart and her own strength, and does not need magic to make herself feel important.

The theme of transformation also runs through the film. Mary initially uses magic to change others’ perception of her, and, in so doing, make her feel better about herself. But she quickly realizes the lie at the heart of that change and abandons it. Madam Mumblechook and Doctor Dee, on the other hand, are obsessed with the transformative powers of the little blue flower. They experiment frantically and irresponsibly on animals and humans alike, forcibly and violently transforming living beings into things they were never meant to be. Ultimately, it is up to Mary and Peter, using the the transformative magical power of the flower, to stop them.

The animation and imagination of Mary and the Witch’s Flower is stunning. The witch’s school high in the clouds is an amazing combination of science and technology and magic; as Madam Mumblechook explains, electricity is just another form of magic, and chemistry is just like making potions. Even better than the school, though, is Charlotte’s little cottage with its stained glass windows and living roof. Can I live there, please?

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a wonderful film, recommended to all of the little witches out there. It will particularly appeal to fans of Kiki’s Delivery ServiceHildaPachamama, and Spirited Away.

[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her published works can be found there.]