Mary and the Witch’s flower: Traverse your inner fears | Sunday Observer

Mary and the Witch’s flower: Traverse your inner fears

24 October, 2021

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a 2017 Japanese animated fantasy film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, produced by Studio Ponoc founder Yoshiaki Nishimura, animated by Studio Ponoc, and distributed by Toho in Japan. Based on the 1971 book The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, this is Studio Ponoc’s first feature film.

The film tells a story of a girl named Mary Smith who finds ‘fly-by-night’, a mysterious flower that can give her the power to become a witch for only one night. The film was released in Japan on July 8, 2017. In the English-language version of the film, which was concurrently released with a subtitled version in the United States on January 19, 2018, the film features the voices of Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, and Jim Broadbent.

On December 15, 2016, Yonebayashi and Nishimura held a press conference. Here Yonebayashi, who had previously worked with Ghibli on When Marnie Was There and Arrietty, said “This is the first movie since leaving Studio Ghibli. At Studio Ponoc, we are working diligently with Yoshiaki Nishimura, a producer, and excellent staff.”

When Nishimura was asked about the establishment of the new studio he said, “When the Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki notified me about the dissolution of the Ghibli Production Department, I was stimulated by the overseas creators when I went to the Academy Awards venue with The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Remember that you received it.” After announcing it was based on The Little Broomstick, Nisimura said “Marnie of Memories is a work that proved that Yonebayashi, who excels at dynamic painting, sealed his specialty and can draw trivial emotions. But as a producer, I want to see dynamic animation, so I decided to do a fantasy with a cheerful girl moving around.” When asked if he consulted with Takahata or Miyazaki, he said he did not show Miyazaki any storyboards but he did talk to him. They both said the same thing, “be prepared”. Yonebayashi announced the voice actors on April 13,2017.


Composer Muramatsu Takatsugu, who also scored Yonebayashi’s last film When Marnie Was There, is in charge of the soundtrack for Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Joshua Messick, one of the world’s leading performers of the hammered dulcimer, participated in the score recording.

The theme song is Rain, performed by Sekai no Owari.


Mary and the Witch’s Flower was released theatrically in Japan on July 8, 2017 by distributor Toho, airing on 458 screens across Japan.  Altitude Film Sales announced at the Berlin International Film Festival that it had acquired the worldwide rights to the film, and would release it within the UK.[16] Madman Entertainment announced that it had secured the rights to the film within Australia and New Zealand, and would premiere it theatrically at Madman Anime Festival in Melbourne on November 5, 2017, with a wider release on January 18,2018. GKIDS later announced that it would distribute the film within North America, with a one-week Oscar qualifying run on December 1, 2017, a limited opening on 18 January 2018, and a wider release on January 19, 2018. Altitude (the UK distributor) confirmed in early March 2018 that the film will have a special holding at selected Vue Cinemas on 10 April 2018 before its official UK-wide release on 4 May 2018.

The English dub of Mary and the Witch’s Flower (starring Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent) was directed by Giles New and produced by Geoffrey Wexler. The English dub was recorded in July and August 2017 in London, and had its premiere in Los Angeles on October 23, 2017 at the GKIDS ‘Animation is Film’ festival. On August 31 2018, the first broadcast was performed on NTV’s Friday Road Show!.

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 89 percent of 90 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Mary and the Witch’s Flower honours its creator’s Studio Ghibli roots with a gentle, beautifully animated story whose simplicity is rounded out by its entrancing visuals.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on 23 critics, indicating that the film received “generally favourable reviews”.

Sheila O’Malley of gave the film a rating of three stars out of four and stated that “the total lack of inner conflict in Mary might be why Mary and the Witch’s Flower—as transportive and entertaining as it is—feels a little slight”. Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times noted that although the film “isn’t quite a masterpiece” and “the screenplay needs a polish”, she concluded that the film is “a joy to look at: a visual adventure, and a continuation of a remarkable legacy”.