MARY AND THE WITCHS FLOWER
(Meari to Majo no Hana)
All of Hiromasa Yonebayashis films so far are works based on books by British childrens authors. In this case, Mary and the Witch's Flower is adapted from The Little Broomstick (1971), a childrens book by Mary Stewart (1916-2014), who was known for a series of historical romance novels and in particular a trilogy of books that retells the Arthurian legends from the viewpoint of Merlin.
Hiromasa Yonebayashi is seen as the carrier of the mantle of Hayao Miyazaki in that his films most often approximate Miyazakis works and visual style. If one did not know otherwise you could easily see any of Yonebayashis films as unknown Miyazaki works, so much do they come with the same artistic style, visual palette, themes and characters. Mary and the Witch's Flower touches base with many motifs that run throughout Miyazaki. It is hard not to see Mary and the cat flying on her broom as a sister to Kiki in Kikis Delivery Service (1989). The city on the island of land in the clouds echoes Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986). The girl discovering a secret magical world while staying with her relatives in the placid countryside echoes My Neighbor Totoro (1988).
Mary and the Witch's Flower is an amiable film. It is sweet and likeable. It has the typical Miyazaki heroine of indeterminately pre- or post-adolescent age who takes on the whole world armed with little more than her pure-hearted determination. The plot is okay, although the emotional highs and lows are never quite the ones that a Miyazaki film finds, which makes Mary and the Witch's Flower a slighter work by comparison. The witchs school is one that Yonebayashi and co have determined to create with colour and energy and not make the film just another Harry Potter knockoff even a peculiar mix of magic and technology, including a weird scientist who scuttles about in a crab-like waldo suit accompanied by an army of robots.