The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Flying Witch- Review and Reflections After Three

“Love and magic have a great deal in common. They enrich the soul, delight the heart. And they both take practice.” —Nora Roberts

Set in the tranquil regions of the Aomori prefecture, Flying Witch follows Makoto Kowata, a young witch whose moved from Yokohama to live with relatives. Although she’s predisposed to getting lost, she nonetheless settles into life in Aomori, grows closer with her cousin, Chinatsu, finds a mandrake, introduces Chinatsu to the Harbinger of Spring, creates a small garden and learns a new spell from her sister, Akane. Unstructured, relaxing and quiet, Flying Witch has proven to be an unusual anime after three episodes, weaving elements from Non Non Biyori with subtle traces of magic; Makoto’s adventures always remains within the realm of what is plausible and as such, even though she’s a witch-in-training armed with a keen eye for the supernatural and magical abilities of her own, she nonetheless remains a consistent, realistic character whose optimistic, easy-going personality allows her to find adventures in her everyday life. However, despite being a witch, it would appear that Makoto and the other witches’ powers are limited in the sense that, while they are attuned to the more unusual things in their environment and can perform some magic, the witches’ magic is nowhere near as potent as that seen in the Harry Potter universe, nor is it as abstract as the powers that J.R.R. Tolkien describes his Istari as having. This balance ensures that Makoto’s everyday life is about the people’s she’s with and what she’s doing, rather than the magic itself.

Flying Witch takes the familiar genre of rural slice-of-life and adds a bit of magic to provide new avenues from which Aomori can be showcased: Makoto’s adventures have been utilised to great effect in showcasing some of the more subtle elements in the Aomori area, such as when she and Kei gather fuki bulbs and fry them as tempura, or Makoto’s attempts to capture a pheasant while creating a garden. These small details would almost certainly be missed by most non-locals; Flying Witch capitalises on Makoto’s witch training as a catalyst that allows her (and the viewers) to partake in some of the more obscure but highly enjoyable facets of life in Aomori. With this in mind, Flying Witch might be seen as suggesting to its audiences that exceptional events and miracles can be closer than one might imagine, rewarding individuals who stop to savour the moment. Taken together, the combination of magic and the mundane complement one another to paint Aomori as a very calming, laid-back and beautiful prefecture in Japan.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Flying Witch represents a welcome change of pacing from the likes of Hai-Furi; whereas the latter swings between suspense and comedy, Flying Witch is consistently peaceful. Makoto Kowata is the protagonist and is a witch-in-training who, unlike Harry of Harry Potter, prefers potions over spell-craft. This anime is based of the manga, which started in 2012.

  • Here, Makoto meets with Kei for the first time in six years and expresses wonder at the amount of snow in Aomori: Makoto is from Yokohama, where December and January, the snowiest months of the year, yield around 2 and 4.8 inches of snow, respectively. My home city has an average of double that, but this year’s been unnaturally dry; only 10mm of precipitation was recorded for the past four months.

  • Chinatsu is Kei’s younger sister and initially regards Makoto as quite strange for talking to cats. I wish that I could say that my city is as verdant and cool as Aomori, but the lack of precipitation’s been a curse; a massive forest fire of some 850 square kilometres in size is raging in the province’s northern regions, forcing the complete evacuation of Fort McMurray over the past few days. I’ve made a donation to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts and presently hope that the area gets some badly-needed rain soon.

  • While Chinatsu is hesitant to trust Makoto, Kei’s suggestion that she accompany Makoto to the local shopping mall changes Chinatsu’s perspectives on short order. The two are shopping for donuts here, which Chinatsu are particularly fond of. The hole in a doughnut has unknown origins, but is present to allow the doughnut to cook evenly through by increasing the fried cake’s surface area.

  • In keeping with the image of a witch, Makoto picks out a broom and takes flight on it. Her stance suggests that the broom is merely an apparatus for helping her fly, as she’s not riding the broom itself. The origin of this imagery has an interesting, if incomplete, history: some accounts suggest that accused witches often used their brooms or staffs to deliver hallucinogens, and were reported to straddle brooms in a manner evocative of flight. This imagery persisted, resulting in the modern image of a witch riding her broomstick.

  • The first episode’s highlight is Chinatsu’s reaction following Makoto having taken her on a flight through the skies: from the moment Makoto sets her down, for a minute, she joyfully expresses delight at having flown and can be heard in the background even as the others are having a conversation: Nao is introduced here as one of Kei’s friend who runs the family liquor store.

  • The soundtrack in Flying Witch is a joy to listen to, featuring gentle musical pieces that seem to speak volumes about the atmosphere and mood in Aomori. The soundtrack is set for release on May 25, two days before Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s home release hits the shelves. Far from being the remote, desolate site of a nuclear processing facility as seen in Terror in ResonanceFlying Witch presents Aomori as a much more welcoming place, and with due respect, Flying Witch probably has the more accurate, faithful representation of Aomori.

  • Makoto and Nao share a short discussion during their high school’s opening ceremony: these are typically held in April in Japan. Makoto is shown to have an uncommonly poor sense of direction, and earlier in the first episode, gets lost quite quickly until Kei corrects her heading. Because Kei is occasionally busy, he recruits Nao to help Makoto find her way home.

  • A gentle and polite girl, Makoto insists on getting Nao a gift for accompanying her, and manages to locate a Mandrake: like the Mandrakes of Harry Potter, the Mandrakes of Flying Witch scream when unearthed, although the latter are white and more slender than their counterparts in Harry Potter, which are further characterised by the fact that the cries of a mature Mandrake are lethal to anyone who hears it (here, they merely scream loudly for a short period).

  • The approach of spring in Aomori is shown to be a gentle one: while buds and greenery begin re-emerging into the landscape, vestiges of winter, such as snow and cold air, linger on. This is normally the case where I am, but the unusual weather patterns have meant it felt like summer for much of late March and early April. Whether or not this is attributable to global warming is not up for discussion in this post.

  • The Harbinger of Spring makes an appearance: resembling Slenderman, the Harbinger of Spring is a benevolent character who’s set out to meet Makoto. In spite of this, Chinatsu is frightened by his appearance and promptly retreats. Makoto shares a conversation with the Harbinger of Spring and offers him the Mandrake root from the previous episode, and in turn, the Harbinger of Spring gifts a bouquet to Chinatsu as apologies for having scared her earlier.

  • The Harbinger of Spring’s gift to Chinatsu convinces her that individuals with unusual appearances might not be all bad; she wonders whether he’ll return next year. It’s a relatively simple lesson about reserving one’s judgement about others until one’s seen their actions, rather than appearance, and is cleverly incorporated into this episode’s events.

  • Later in the episode, Kei introduces Matoko to fuki, a plant that can also be found in Europe. It’s quite bitter as a result of the alkaloid compounds, which can promote tumour growths and liver damage: the Japanese method of preparation involves treating it in baking soda and water to remove most of these toxins, thus rendering the bulbs safe to eat. However, the plant also has anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Chinatsu’s reaction to the fuki bulbs is absolutely adorable. Later, Kei’s Pro At Cooking tips helps Makoto properly prepare them, and a cursory glance at some recipes shows that his suggestions are correct. Unlike Dave of Pro At Cooking, Kei properly walks Makoto through the preparation process and slings no insults (doing so would break the immersion). While we are on the topic of Pro At Cooking, only seven episodes were released, and it was meant to be a spin-off of Pure PwnagePure Pwnage T3h Movie is the latest instalment: it premièred back in January and will be available for purchase in a few days.

  • Fuki tempura is supposed to be quite bitter, but it’s probably not too bad, as Makoto enjoys several freshly-fried bulbs here. The plant has several beneficial effects: it can help with coughs, allergies and improves digestion. Moreover, the chlorogenic acid is thought to have anti-oxidation properties, and has been utilised as a natural remedy for asthma asthma, whooping cough, fever and spasms.

  • Makoto’s witch training is quite diverse, suggesting that being a witch is multi-disciplinary in nature. She de-weeds the field in the back of their yard the old fashioned way, and her approach is reminiscent of how K-On!‘s Mugi tried to open a baumkuchen cake during the movie. Makoto is voiced by Minami Shinoda, a newcomer on the block: this is her debut role, and so far, she’s done a fantastic job as Makoto.

  • In fact, I would say that Minami Shinoda’s voice seems to have a quality similar to that of Minako Kotobuki (of K-On!‘s Mugi). Kei is also voiced by a new voice actor, although both their performances come across as being quite natural. Here, Makoto finds herself going off-mission when she sees a pheasant in the yards and proceeds to (unsuccessfully) capture it.

  • One of the more subtle elements in Flying Witch is the notion of persistent non-living entities that carry out through the anime: Chinatsu is watering the flowers that the Harbinger of Spring gave her. Attention to these details is often overlooked while watching an anime for the first time, but revisiting the episodes can find that minute elements have been given consideration to create a more plausible world.

  • To the right is Akane, Makoto’s older sister. A witch who’s completed her training, she has a much more boisterous, forward personality compared to Makoto, but nonetheless cares deeply for her younger sister, taking the time to visit whenever the opportunity presents itself. By this point in time, Chinatsu’s become quite accustomed to magic and the supernatural, taking things in stride and eventually develops an interest to see these things for herself.

  • After one of Makoto’s spells triggers, a murder of crows appear. The magic in Flying Witch is more explicit than that of Gandalf’s, but less direct than that of the Harry Potter universe, suggesting that spells have their limits. With this figure caption, the post comes to an end. I would have had this out sooner, but things have been rather busy as of late. They will settle out by Sunday; tomorrow is preparations for Saturday’s TEDx talks, and Saturday is devoted to the TEDx talks themselves. I’ve heard that Hai-Furi‘s fifth episode is to be aired on time, so I am pushing back the fifth episode talk to Sunday for the present. As for the Sniper Elite V2 review, that will be completed within a week or two.

Because Flying Witch is this season’s slice-of-life anime with a novel component, it goes without saying that Flying Witch conveys a sense of relaxation similar to that of Non Non Biyori and Tamayura. Its magic comes from the sum of the character dynamics, beautifully-rendered settings and consistent (if slow) world-building surrounding witches and the supernatural phenomenon that the characters seem content to take in stride: Makoto’s excursions for witch training is quite diverse, and the breadth of her skills suggests that there’s more to being a good witch than just magic. Flying Witch is an anime that definitely is worth watching, and the slowly-paced depiction of Makoto’s daily experiences serves as a fantastic counter to the suspenseful Hai-Furi. However, there is not really too much more that can be said about Flying Witch insofar (as far as thematic elements go); it should be clear that Flying Witch is not particularly conducive towards episodic reviews, and as such, I will return at the season’s end to see how Flying Witch turned out as a whole.

3 responses to “Flying Witch- Review and Reflections After Three

  1. Edward May 6, 2016 at 04:30

    I’m very glad to have Flying Witch to watch this season. The portrayal of the ordinary everyday life of a girl who just moved to live in a rural town with a light sprinkling of magic works well for me. If your interests lay in magic, you probably could do episodic reviews of Flying Witch by commenting on the magical aspects in each episode, rather than the slice of life aspects. I like slice of life anime, so I prefer that your reviews of such anime focus on the those aspects.

    A correction is needed in the caption of the third screenshot. It should read “Chinatsu is Kei’s younger sister”.

    Like

    • infinitezenith May 6, 2016 at 08:53

      The rectification has been made, and thanks for pointing it out. I guess that’s what I get for trying to write a post while running on fumes :p

      Now that I think about it, the magical elements could work as a discussion element. With that in mind, I think the main reason for why I won’t go the episodic route is simply because I’m already writing about Hai-Furi weekly. On top of the tasks left in my studies to finish, I do not imagine I’ll be able to make that commitment for Flying Witch. Still, Flying Witch has proven to be an excellent anime, and I just finished watching the fourth episode; I’m curious to see how Inukai will interact with the cast in later episodes (given her presence in the opening).

      Like

      • Edward May 6, 2016 at 18:42

        Fair enough. Episodic blogging for one series is time consuming enough as a hobby, and this isn’t your full time job. I would be happy to see Inukai appear again, hopefully with her condition cured, and perhaps in a mentoring role for Makoto.

        Like

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