Witches have been a part of our culture since time before time, and come with a variety of labels and expectations depending on where you search. For the longest time in the U.S., they were synonymous with the historical town of Salem as a warning of sorts against ignorance and mass hysteria. Currently, the works of J.K. Rowling have blasted witches and wizards into our consciousness as people walking by our sides unbeknownst to the general populace (perhaps with the aid of a memory charm). In other countries, witches might be called shamans, druids, or even priests. These diverse interpretations reflects themselves in anime, with works like Soul Eater, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and, more recently, Maria the Virgin Witch.
This season presents Flying Witch, originally a manga and now an anime by J.C. Staff. This magical new show is presented in a meandering and calm manner in the spirit of other works like ARIA and Natsume Yuujinchou. Even the art is drawn in a softer color palette. We see a good variety of witches presented: the gifted and passionate sister, the fortune teller, and the restaurant owner. Like these three, protagonist Makoto is born into her ability, but she maintains a closeness to the audience and her human family due to still learning about her skills and plans for the future. She seems to have a special connection with plants and herbs, but spends an equal amount of time simply eating them to actually using them for potions or spells. Then there’s Chinatsu, Makoto’s young cousin who is not a witch, but carries on many of our wishes as someone who wants to become one. Her excitement feels completely real as a product of her optimistic outlook on life and the audience’s own desire to enter this magical world.
Flying Witch stands out from the rest of other magical shows in a number of simple, but fantastic ways that bring the series up from forgettable to a work that I expect will stand the test of time. We have witches who do what they want when they want, and see them often slip when treading the unknown.
The witches of the anime often act as agents of their own aspirations. While some devote everything to their arts, others are content to live barely using any magic side by side with humans. The clincher is that the less a witch uses magic, the more he or she loses the ability to wield it. We see this very clearly when Akane scolds Makoto for not flying on her broom more regularly.
We also get to see more experimental approaches by these witches; not every spell has the expected reaction. Akane is a prime example of the pioneering scientist. She dabbles in new spells and often finds errors through experimentation. While teaching a simple spell to Makoto for calling crows using black hair, she forgets that using a witch’s hair is miles more powerful than using a regular human’s hair. She has also made candies to temporarily turn the consumer into an animal. Her friend’s disastrous test has lasted a full year with daily transformations into a dog, the end of such an effect remains unknown. These uncertain paths make me even more interested in seeing where each episode will lead, as well as dread the coming end to this season.
With only three more weeks of Flying Witch left, I find myself wondering what type of witch I would choose to be. I love animals, but don’t think I have the guts to deal with wild and supernatural creatures. I might lean more towards owning a cafe and bookstore in the vein of Cafe Concrucio, a place that stands on the border between worlds servicing their respective guests. The idea of cataloging a variety of works spanning magical texts, to reference books, to entire sections dedicated to works of fantasy by human authors sounds positively delightful!
If you haven’t tried out this series just yet, I highly recommend it. The masterful mix of gentle humor with random excursions into the normal and magical will hopefully lighten your spirits as it has mine.