Flying Witch: Whimsical and Experimental

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.

9 thoughts on “Flying Witch: Whimsical and Experimental

  1. I’ve loved Flying Witch, even if it’s hard to write about sometimes when they don’t accomplish much in an episode. You can only write so many times about the atmosphere, the art, or even the wonderful incidental music (how many anime actually time the incidental music and cues to what’s happening in the show?).

    One thing I’ve liked is how they’ve wrapped in a really good feel for the witchcraft in the show. For me, I’ve been finding similarities to the witches in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, which are some of my favorites. The different specializations, the non-secret aspect of it, the embrace of nature and the downplaying of ‘spells’, at least for most of the witches we’ve seen.

    I also like that they’ve been bringing Makoto and Kei back to a little more typical ‘teenager’ behavior, as opposed to the very adult behavior they had at the beginning of the series. They’re still atypical teens, especially Kei, choosing to weed the garden and the yard, finding wild edible (although frequently possibly poisonous) plants, but they did let themselves go a little bit at the cafe, doing things that I certainly would have been annoyed by had I been the fox or the ladybugs (or even Hina).

    But one characterization that’s been spot on throughout is Chinatsu, from her initial suspicion of Makoto to her full embrace of the ‘secret’ witch lifestyle. She’s realized that most of the stuff Makoto is showing her is safe, and her acceptance of the characters she’s met since the Haru no Hakobiya has been nice to see.

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    • Wow, Discworld certainly brings me back to my childhood. I remember trying to read a few of those books based on several recommendations, but could never get into them. Now that it’s been decades since my last attempt, it might be worth it for me to try again🙂

      Chinatsu is such a fantastic character. I think the writers did an amazing job bottling up childhood in her mannerisms. I particularly enjoyed the episode where she followed Chito around the town. I’d love to see that energy and curiosity last the years into adulthood, perhaps a bit like Akane. Chinatsu’s also a wonderful example of how much children absorb the world around them, whether that’s with an open mind like she has exhibited in the show, or the complete opposite like many other unfortunate examples I’ve seen in real life.

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      • I never tried to read Discworld books until I was well into my 30s, I just didn’t know about them. But I’ve since read all of them. If it’s been ‘decades’ since you tried reading them, I’d say you were probably too young when you tried, and possibly read some of the more opaque ones (like Rincewind stories). I definitely have some favorites, and would be happy to recommend.🙂

        I think it’s great that Chinatsu is her own person in the show. She’s not just “the kid” to be pushed around as needed by the plot or circumstances. I thought the best thing about her following Chito around the town was that she saw her going out and decided to drop what she was doing and follow. “This is going to be interesting, I want to see it.” And it was great to then see the difference between what Chinatsu imagined Chito was seeing and what Chito actually did see.

        And Akane is a completely different kind of character that I think works because she’s not really that involved with Makoto. Every couple of episodes, she’ll show her a new spell. And I am spending so much time thinking about those spells: How did someone discover this? How were the effects first determined? Were they designed on purpose? Or was it a happy accident? And that they are generally so low-risk. And the effects are so well designed. That multi-colored mushroom cloud when Makoto made that stuff for Inukai was just the perfect *Poof!* for the scale of the spell.

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      • I actually don’t use Crunchyroll all that much, but if the shows are streaming for free, then I’ll start looking into using that one as well! I also have Amazon Prime, but I haven’t had a chance to look at any of the anime selections there. So much to watch!

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      • Yes, for the most part, Crunchyroll is free–you’ll just be a week behind currently airing shows. You can pay for a membership for almost immediate access to new episodes. Glad to feed your addiction! :p

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  2. For me … well … Flying Witch is hands down my favorite series of the season (no surprise to you probably Marina😄 ) – but I was charmed by the manga a year and change before the anime adaptation announcement came out, so my “favoritism” before it aired was not … unexpected.

    You have done a good job here introducing the series and praising many of its good qualities – I have seen a fair number of people decide to give the series a try while it has been airing and unexpectedly became (yes, totally appropriate word choice here) thoroughly _charmed_ by it.

    Bh the by, dont know if you heard, but ep 11 will not air this coming Saturday (June 18th) but the earliest the series will air both the 11th and 12th episodes on the Sunday after (26th) for a double dose wrapping up the season. I have hopes that the series will end on a certain note/event in the manga – a very … erm … wow’ing scene (at least it was for me).

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    • Oho! You’re one of the lucky few I’ve spoken with who has actually read the manga, and far before the anime at that! I’ve been so happy to see people giving this show a try throughout the season after overlooking it at the beginning.

      Thanks for the heads up about the last two episodes. I had no idea they were delaying the penultimate in favor of airing the last two at once. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town when it comes out so I’ll have to be careful to avoid spoilers until I can get back home!

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