|An incredibly well crafted adaptation of the source material with breathtaking art.||That it had to finish. Would have liked to see more of the Harbinger of Spring.|
It is a wonderful and rare treat for a fan of manga when a series they love is adapted so beautifully and lovingly as this one has been. Where can I even begin to sing the praises of this series? I have spent so long lauding the incredible work J.C. Staff has done with it week in and week out I may sound like a broken record to those who have looked at each episode with me by now, and quite likely there will be nothing “new” I have to offer in the final review of the series that I have not already said. But really, if you have not seen this series yet and have the chance do give it a try – it will very likely be worth it!
How I wish … how I fervently wish I could somehow magically convey to those reading this post not only now much delight the source manga this anime adaptation is based on gives me (it is still ongoing), but also how surprised and taken aback I was at J.C. Staff’s treatment from the very get go. It surpassed my expectations, and I must admit that they were quite high based on the previews before the season began. What I saw was handled gently, carefully and with deftness and a love for the material – and in my opinion it showed. I was … blown away. And it never lapsed from keeping that pace right to the end.
This yet another one of the series I happen to love (I have been following the manga since its release back in 2012) that is difficult to write about and describe. As a beginner, here is a rough summary of the series: “”
As one can see this is definitely slice of life type material, yes, but it is slice of life in the real, actual sense of the word. Many nowadays use the term “slice of life” to describe a show with light-hearted moments. However, slice of life is a show without plot (in the narrative sense). A plot is defined as “a succession of events revolving around a central conflict.” A true slice of life show has events but not a central conflict, so it doesn’t form a plot. And with that in mind yes; Flying Witch is one of the few true slice of life shows out there – this is as pure a slice-of-life as you’ll see in contrast to nearly 90% of the series to which the term is misapplied.
One of the definite strengths of this series is its deft touch in being able to intertwine the supernatural and the mundane in such a way that each colors the other without loss of their qualities or characteristics, but in a way that comes across as “jumping off the page”. The combination of “matter-of-fact’ness” and delicate care that the mangaka (and the faithful adaptation by the anime staff) really is not an easy thing to pull off, and is all the more impressive in how easy and effortless it appears to be thus far.
And this balance of presentation has been noticed not only by many other commenters on the series thus far in the various internet mediums it is discussed on, but even in the comments on the episode posts here on the site. (And both the visuals help to strengthen this balance, but the background music does as well!) The ability to effectively transmit the balance between magical and mundane … or perhaps to bring out how the magical is actually mundane and the mundane is magical, perhaps … is another thing this series excels at, yes, and in a way that reminded me a bit of the Aria franchise.
While there have been many aspects about Flying Witch that were extremely well done, one area that has continuously stood out for me has been the art. Take, for example, episodes four and eleven – I thought the drawings of the cherry blossoms were downright masterful, in particular the ones that showed the blossoms and their falling petals (at the speed of five centimeters per second, of course XD) reflected in the river at the very beginning and the very end of the episode: to be honest those scenes took my breath away a little. In episode eleven the animation of the flying whale was downright incredible and well worth the wait! The backgrounds of the buildings and the nature have been consistently excellent overall, and have only served to enrich the masterfully developed slice of life setting.
Another excellent aspect for me was the audio content of the series. While the ED was only pretty good (although the visuals associated with it were quite fitting) the lyrics were especially effective in driving home that balance that makes the everyday “magical”. The upbeat OP, however, was much more engaging for me, and became one of my favorite OP or EDs of the season (losing by only a few inches to the OP of Kizaniver). The background music of the series, however, was very appropriate and quite effective at helping to bring out the contents of the episodes more vividly. The use of “folksey” sounding instruments and styles of performance really fit!
One of the more interesting things that came to the foreground regarding the series was how it showed a beginning sketch of sorts of how many different types of witches there are out there. We have Makoto, a very earthy, nature-oriented, green thumb sort; then there is her older sister Akane, who is a great practitioner of the magic arts (and a bit of a genius mad scientist sort with regards to casting); we have Inukai, who specializes in fortune telling; we have the the owner of Cafe Concrucio (unnamed at the moment); we have the latter’s daughter Anzu, who is also in high school, loves archeology and is a history buff … there is a huge variety.
In a similar vein we are also exposed to scratching the outer shell of the “richness” of the “other world” that the witches inhabit and into which the viewers are slowly made away of alongside Chinatsu when she is taken on as a probational apprentice of sorts by Akane: sentient plants like the mandrake; the witches’ familiars Chito amd Kenny (cats), Al (a hamster) and Aurore (an owl); “characters” like the Harbinger of Spring (who brings the season of Spring), the Curtain of Darkness (who brings the night every evening), the ghost waitress and baker Hina at Cafe Concrucio, and the morning witch’s newspaper … thing; then there are special animals like the flying whales and the earthfish. Yes – the world setting is shown to be unexpectedly rich, but it does it very slowly, over time, and in retrospect the cumulative effect is quite something.
But it is not only in the magical side of things that we receive unexpected richness – this is a story about Makoto first and foremost, and Makoto has a deep level of the natural world, of plants, animals, herbs and the like. Her choice to stay with her cousins, who are rather well to do apple orchard farmers, it seems, is completely natural (no pun intended). Through Makoto with the help of her relatives we are also introduced to the natural world, and in interesting ways: things like how to properly prune apple trees to most effectively bear the best fruit; foraging for wild plants that are good for eating (bakke and fiddlehead ferns, for example); preparing the ground, growing and cultivating gardens and preparing one’s own food – Makoto seems to opt for pickling most often (a very traditional Japanese choice). All these events both introduce and enrich the world Makoto “inhabits”.
As mentioned above, though, it is not only the practices that are interesting – it is also the people who inhabit the “natural world” that Makoto is staying with who are quite interesting, and help to form “another side” (though not an “opposite” one) of Makoto as a person. These begin especially with the Kuramotos – Keiji (the heavily accented father), Nana (the children’s book author and illustrator), Kei (who is nothing shy of a great guy and awesome in almost every way) and the inhumanly adorable Chinatsu (who becomes a probational witch). The other main character of the series who falls into this category would have to be Ishiwatari Nao, Kei’s childhood friend and whose family runs a liquor store. All of these characters become distinct and endearing – especially Chinatsu!
The series ends with a lovely scene – Akane and Chinatsu both sleeping on the porch in the evening summer air while Makoto watches the myriads of floating, glowing red earthfish in the yard. The time is soon coming when she will have to give an official report to someone regarding the time she spent thus far in her probationary training period (perhaps that could be animated in a future OVA). Akane has stayed nearby to watch over her during this important time, yes, but even so many things have happened to Makoto, and she rightly says that she will have many things to say. Flying Witch ends in a way that is a perfect reflection of the core of the series – quiet, magical and centered around Makoto on the eve of a festival.
I would love, love to see another season of the series, but this adaptation covered much (not all) of the material present in the first 21 chapters of the manga or so, and the manga itself has not yet reached 30 chapters last I looked. Since it is a monthly serialization, if it does get a season two it may be a while yet. Flying Witch is definitely one of the few slice of life series out there, yes – it was a beautiful work by an anime staff that really understood the source material (even “grokked” it in my opinion) and gave it extra effort and attention and care. I don’t know what more can one ask for from an adaptation. This series gets a solid A ranking from me, and is just a nitnoid shy of an A+ grade.
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