July 02, 2017

Flying Witch: The Review

Simple, short review:  Do you want to be happy?  Then watch Flying Witch.  It'll do the trick in no time flat.

Oh, you want more detail?  Okay!  

In this world, magical beings are a little uncommon but known of by the general public.  They don't announce themselves as a rule, but it's not like they'd be persecuted if they did.  It's just... easier, I suppose.  Our main character Makoto is a trainee witch.  Well, that's not quite accurate: she's recently turned 15, and according to the traditional ways of witching world, she has come of age and is supposed to be out on her own.  Her parents, progressive in the magical community, instead send her off from their home in Yokohama to the city of Hirosaki near Aomori to live with family until she graduates high school, since being a witch "isn't exactly reliable these days."  While she's there, she'll get to learn magic better.  Hijinks ensue.

Except they don't, not really.  Oh yes, it's that kind of show.  If you think ARIA, but without all those pesky rowboats flitting about, you've got the idea of the sort of pace Flying Witch brings to the table.  People do things, stuff happens, the odd semi-deity shows up, lets go get a donut.  Makoto is just a little bit off from the "real world", not enough to be annoying,just... well, she's a witch and people are people and the two don't quite align perfectly.  Don't worry too much about it, have some tea and admire the scenery.

In many ways, the city of Hirosaki and the surrounding area is a quiet member of the show's cast.  It's the sort of place you can probably only find in certain locations in the world: it's an urban center of about 175,000 (which is roughly the same size as Duckford), but with a density of about 340 people per square km.  Duckford's population density, by comparison, is nearly 900/km2.  As such, Hirosaki is very much a city where if you go this way, you're heading into the city center and everything is compressed and... well, city-like.  If you go that way, though, things get more and more rural until you aren't really in a city at all anymore.  Go a little bit farther and you're in the woods. 

Image is from the OP, but it shows what I mean perfectly.  What all this means is that the series has the ability to position itself in any sort of scenery it needs at any time, and to look good doing it.  Believe me when I say that it takes advantage of this every single episode.

So.  We know Flying Witch looks nice, but a show like this doesn't work unless the characters and their interactions are outstanding.  Does it measure up?

L to R: Chinatsu, Akane, Makoto, Kei
Our main character, Makoto, wearing a sweater in the picture above, isn't your average anime schoolgirl.  She's a little scatterbrained, but not really... as a witch, she doesn't exactly fit into society as a whole.  To other witches though, she'd be just fine, maybe a little young, but fine.  She's got a miserable sense of direction, but to give the show credit this doesn't define her.  This isn't a series about Makoto getting lost and discovering wacky and wonderful things... occasionally it's played for a chuckle, but that's about it.  She understands magic, but also knows that she isn't really skilled at it.  Talented she may (or may not) be, she's still only barely a witch and a lot of the series revolves around her learning the trade.  Which, it must be said, is a lot like gardening.  She's not really a spellcaster, more like an apothecary.  She's also just a nice kid.

Kei, the guy in the picture, is Makoto's cousin.  They've known each other since they were both little kids, but haven't seen each other in six years.  It's his family's house she's staying at.  Kei's the son of a farmer, so a lot of what he knows (or needs to learn) is shared with Makoto's education.  If you've watched any anime at all, that's very much a recipe for a romantic pairing, but Flying Witch doesn't do that.  They're friendly with each other, but that's it.  He's isn't at all magical, and as such is probably the touchpoint for the viewer to relate to the goings-on.  

Akane, with the white hair, is Makoto's older sister.  She's something of a rock star in the magical community, quite skilled in spellcasting and potions alike.  It's through her that Makoto (and the audience) learns about both magic and the Magical World.  Akane is supposed to be 21, but I'm of the belief that she works better if she's a bit older, like 24 or 25.  She's hardly afraid to party and tie one on, but she's also surprisingly adult.

Chinatsu, the short one, is Kei's little sister.  She's nine years old and knows nothing about magic at the beginning of the series.  It's through her that we learn how ridiculously cool it is, and how much fun living "on the magical side" can be.  She is also the breakout character of the series, mostly being the highlight of every episode she's in.  

Other characters involved are Kei and Chinatsu's parents, Nana and Keiji.  She is a children's book illustrator and writer, he's a farmer with an accent so thick you need a translator to understand it.  I mean, I don't understand Japanese, and I can't really tell the difference in regional accents as played in anime, but this one... this one screams "hick from the sticks".  It's that obvious.  Both appear in the series from time to time, making them the rarest of anime characters: living, present, involved parents.  It is a wonder indeed!  Nao is a friend of Kei's from childhood.  Her parents run a liquor store where she works when not at school.  She initially BSOD's when she first encounters magic (Makoto flying on a broom), but quickly accepts it though still finding it... odd.  Inukai is another witch, a friend of Akane who is a fortune teller... and a piece of chocolate that Akane put a spell on has turned her into a dog furry.  Others flow in and out of the story, but those are the important ones.

The nice thing about this cast is that they are all comfortable with each other.  There's no rivalries, no tensions to speak of, just a bunch of people who are all friends or friendly.  It's really quite uncommon in any form of media for that to occur and have it work.  It could have turned sappy quite easily, but never does.  Instead, it's more pleasant and refreshing.  When an episode ends, you want there to be more right away.  I was fortunate in that I didn't have to wait and watched all 12 episodes over the course of three days.

There are shows out there that are so wonderful that it's obvious the care that went into the making of them.  The aforementioned ARIA, for example, was so beloved by the cast and staff that everybody returned to do a 10-year anniversary show, and everybody involved said it was like returning to an old friend.  Flying Witch has that same air to it, the "this is something different from the rest" feel.  I mean, look... here's a story about this show.  Episode 11 was delayed a week because of "animation difficulties."  The difficulty was the amount of detail that went into the scenes involving a giant flying whale.

Okay, you're saying, that's kinda cool, but it's not terribly uncommon for a show to need an extra week... there's usually one every season or two.  And you'd be right, except that's not the end of the story.  The rest of the story tells you a lot about Flying Witch: the whale is only involved for about 8 minutes or so of the episode... which is the exact same amount of time that is spent later in the episode discussing the history of, and the best way of making, pancakes.

And an equal amount of care went into the animation of making pancakes as the flying whale.  One is fantastic, the other mundane, and in this series, equally wonderful.  That's says a lot about Flying Witch.

It's not hard to imagine some people not liking Flying Witch.  If you want your series to have an actual plot, this isn't for you.  If you want action or drama or romance, this isn't the show for you.  There's no real fanservice to speak of, unless you count adult women wearing comfortable clothes (such as a t-shirt) as fanservice.  The music for the most part is forgettable though pleasant, except for the OP which is catchy as all get out.  If you like flashy magic in your anime, you won't like Flying Witch.

But if you're looking for a charming, relaxing, intelligent series that will leave you with a smile on your face?  Flying Witch is a show you want to watch.  Repeatedly: putting this review together took a lot longer than I expected simply because I would pop into an episode for a screenshot, then wind up watching for 10 or 15 minutes.  Yeah, it's that kind of show.

That says it all.    Go watch.  You'll have a better day for it.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:59 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 1566 words, total size 12 kb.

1 That sounds like a good show. I love when shows DON'T shoehorn in a bunch of unnecessary interpersonal drama, especially when the characters are supposed to know one another well. Can you imagine a sitcom where a husband and wife actually communicate with each other instead of constantly deceiving each other over the tiniest things? Yeah, me neither. 
Will's been slowly introducing me to anime; I really liked Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars (so much so that I actually wrote a tiny one-shot ficlet for it (but refused to let Will read it bc I was embarrassed)), Sword Art Online, and Banner/Crest of the Stars. I also liked Haibane Renmei. But I did not like Gurren Lagann...

Posted by: Mrs. Will at July 03, 2017 06:25 AM (JPRju)

2 OK, see when I was first taking a run at it, Flying Witch struck me as going to go in the ditzy-for-comedy-value thing full-force and it didn't make me want to continue.

Huh. Well, it's not like I'm really watching anything else at the moment...

Posted by: GreyDuck at July 03, 2017 07:56 AM (rKFiU)

3 I'll bite. I haven't found anything else the past year that I finished.

Mrs. Will: those are some fine choices.  It's a shame we're likely to ever see the end of the Crest/Banner story.  I have to admit I've never been able to figure out the target audience for Gurren Lagann.  I've heard it gets quite absurd at the end, but I've never been able to make it that far.  And that despite the show creating one of the most iconic character designs in anime/manga history.

Posted by: Ben at July 03, 2017 09:29 AM (cdgd/)

4 Fair enough, sounds like my cup of tea.

Posted by: Ed Hering at July 03, 2017 11:55 AM (kublq)

5 From your little review here, it seems the obvious comparison would be to Someday's Dreamers.  Did you ever watch that series, and if so, how would you compare the two?

Posted by: David at July 03, 2017 12:16 PM (Kdr95)

6 I've watched this twice since it came out and enjoyed it well enough for a third. (Though it'll have to wait for the end of this Amanchu rewatch...)

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at July 03, 2017 04:15 PM (/lg1c)

7 David, I did watch Someday's Dreamers.  They might seem superficially similar, but really there's not much of a comparison between the two.  I'm also of the opinion that Flying Witch is a much better series... in that I really, really enjoyed FW, and the same could not be said for SD.  Oh, I didn't object to the older series or anything like that, it just isn't as good.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 03, 2017 07:49 PM (FssuW)

8 Yeah, I really loved it when it first came out. I think I wrote about it, but never posted any screenshots. Inukai was cute for a Furry, and you know me and white-haired tan girls....

But if I had to choose one word to describe Flying Witch it would be "Pleasant."

Posted by: Mauser at July 04, 2017 11:27 PM (TYvUn)

9 The Curse of Wonderduck's Taste is in full force here, unfortunately: I really didn't care for Flying Witch, but I loved Someday's Dreamers, especially the part of Angela. It was a stronger production in every conceivable respect, even in voice acting. Every time Kei opened his mouth, it was a torture. I lasted just long enough to see if Inukai would rescue that wreck, but of course it was a faint hope from the beginning. They could not even draw her in a convincing manner.

Regarding "a sitcom where a husband and wife actually communicate with each other", Danna ga Nani wo Itteru ka Wakaranai Ken is most excellent exactly because of that.

My views on Gurren-Lagann evolved over time. When I saw it initially, I didn't care for the post-timeskip part. But these days, it's all I rewatch. It reaches deep into the realm of Seven Samurai, Bridge over the River Kvai, Twelve O'Clock High. I think I only saw something like that in MS 08th Team in anime previously. But in the same time the sheer power of the post-timeskip destroyed the simple fun of the Simon The Digger growing up etc.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at July 08, 2017 07:28 PM (pjL8P)

10 Funny, Pete... I've got a different name for it.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 08, 2017 07:39 PM (2EECN)

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