It's taken many years, wishes and spells cast at all the UK distributors, but finally Flying Witch has been released courtesy of MVM. It's no secret that here at UKA, we're huge fans of this show which was nominated in our yearly awards when it originally aired all the way back in 2016 (that's right, a staggering 7 years ago!). But has the intervening time caused the show to loose some of its luster?
When young Makoto moves from the hustle and bustle of Yokohama to a quiet, rural town in Aomori in northern Japan, she causes something of a stir amongst her relatives and their friends. Makoto is a witch who has set out to complete her training in the magical arts, but instead of fighting demons, magical transformation sequences and pursuing romance, she'd rather spend time in her garden and observe some of the fascinating creatures (both magical and mundane) who call the area home.
Flying Witch is, without a doubt, one of the most relaxing shows ever produced. Even after rewatching it again I can't recall a single moment where the series has any actual tension to it. Everything is played to be a homely, comfortable and enjoyable family show which just happens to have magic in it. It's like all of the gentlest scenes of Ghibli movies rolled into a single series and it is fantastic.
What really sells the series is the way in which everything is accepted. Bar Makoto's friend Nao (who's hilarious reactions to the paranormal goings on are brilliant), all the characters just take everything more or less in stride. Kei in particular barely bats an eyelid at magical cafés or the sight of his cousin on a broomstick. Young Chinatsu meanwhile becomes one of the rare child characters who doesn't make you want to throw them off a cliff. Rather than being annoying and precocious she acts as the audience perspective into the world of magic, mirroring Makoto who effectively does the same job but for life in rural Japan.
No matter what the cast are doing they are consistently likeable and engaging throughout, whether they're up to something mundane or magical. When the magic does happen though, the inventiveness of the series is a joy -throwing out inventive, modern takes on magical ideas that the likes of Harry Potter could barely even dream of. From spectacular flying whales and shy ghosts to spells that can change the colour of the world just for a photograph, so many of these ideas could make up a whole series on their own, but here they are easily integrated as just a part of this wonderfully imaginative world.
The charm of the show is palpable and it's such a pleasure to watch. This carries over into it's brilliantly catchy theme song, the gentle rhythms of the background music and the beautiful animation which renders fresh vegetables and strange spirits with equal care and never looks less than stunning, especially now that it's on Blu-Ray.
The one slight downside to the series is the dub which is quite jarring and utterly fails to match up to the charms of the series, with many of the cast clearly just wrong for their roles. In particular Juliet Simmons is badly miscast and makes young Chinatsu sound like a woman in her 20's. Stick to the excellent Japanese version!
We must however note that on our review copy did have a production error as when watching episode 3 in the Japanese dub it played the audio from episode 4. This issue has been fixed for the retail release by MVM and is the reason the release was held back a few months.
This is simply one of the best, most enjoyable series out there. It can be watched over and over again and will provide constant entertainment as you relax and de–stress from the first run through of the pop-style opening theme to the gentle roll of the end credits.