It was very crowded the opening night of the 37th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) presented by Halekulani, as we were waiting in line for Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s very popular Japanese animated film, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, produced by Studio Ponoc. The film is based on Martha Stewart’s The Little Broomstick. It is an adventure/fantasy film about a little girl who discovers the Witch’s Flower which gives her magical abilities, and makes her seem like a special prodigy of magic in contrast to her true self, where she cannot seem to do anything right. Unfortunately for her, the magic only lasts for about a day.
When I first saw the trailer for this film I thought it was a Studio Ghibli film because I could recognize that artistic style anywhere. However, after closely watching the trailer and doing a little research I noticed it was produced by a different studio that I had never heard of. Then I discovered that the founder of Studio Ponoc was a film producer formerly of Studio Ghibli so it made sense that the styles of both studios would be similar in resemblance.
The artistic style of Mary and the Witch’s Flower was powerful, beautiful, paint-like, reminiscent and even at one point, realistic. Being familiar with the works of Studio Ghibli, I was able to pinpoint specific scenes that were similar to or reminded me of scenes or characters from the Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films which was a nice touch because they felt connected even if this movie was by a different studio. The one aspect that was most impressive was the motion and movements of the characters during the intense action scenes. Even the music by Takatsugu Muramatsu was beautifully crafted, powerful, and some parts reminded me of popular/iconic themes from Studio Ghibli movies.
It is nice that there is now another studio that is capable of creating similar work so there is a variation in the stories and a rise of new ideas to come. In essence, this film came off to me like a cousin of those other films which is to be expected. This film was beautiful and family friendly. I am excited to see what other works are in store for this new arising studio and what other stories are yet to come.