Ghibli-style magic sooner than expected

Studio Ghibli fans and animation aficionados: today, we’ve been granted a gift:

witch-image

That is a still from Mary and the Witch’s Flower, the first anime film from Studio Ponoc, helmed by Studio Ghibli alum Hiromasa Yonebayashi (director of When Marnie Was There and The Secret World of Arrietty). The film will be released in July 2017 in Japan with a late 2017 English release, according to Anime News Network. Studio Ponoc was founded in 2015; many of its animators are ex-Ghibli employees.

The film follows the adventures of a young girl who is granted magical powers for a single night. The anime is an adaptation of Mary Stewart’s 1971 novel,  The Little Broomstick.

Simply put, this is fantastic news. After viewing the trailer, the Studio Ghibli influences are undeniable. The fluid and high detailed animation takes the forefront, the Miyazaki-esque aerial shots ooze with style, and like most Ghibli films, the protagonist is a young female.

Comparisons to Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service  will be inevitable. Based on the trailer, Mary and the Witch’s Flower seems to take place in a darker environment than that of Kiki’s bright and picturesque European village. Both stories seem somewhat similar, but that will be determined once the film hits theaters.

Also, the animation style and some objects look similar to past Ghibli films, notably Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo. Check out the Ponyo comparison below.

ponyo
Wave-like fish in Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo. The animation style and character designs look strikingly similar to those in Mary and the Witch’s Flower.
witch-ponyo
Gray, liquid-bird figures in the trailer for Mary and the Witch’s Flower.

My hope is that Yonebayashi and Studio Ponoc’s film differentiates itself enough from that of its Ghibli inspirations. After all, an imitation can only be so good. Conversely, it wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if Mary and the Witch’s Flower feels like the next Ghibli film without actually being that.

Also, the expectations for Yonebayashi and company are quite high. When Ghibli’s Miyazaki and (possibly) Takahata (director of Princess Kaguya and Grave of the Fireflies) are taking their time to produce films, Ghibli ex-pats such as Yonebayashi are presumed to take their places as anime feature hit-makers. That is certainly not the easiest of tasks.

Regardless, the announcement of Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a wonderful surprise and an absolute delight for all Studio Ghibli fans.

 

 

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