And here we go with another anime review. This time, we’re looking at the series that came runner-up in the 2016 Crunchyroll of the Dice tournament, Flying Witch. While the four episodes viewed during the competition were of a pretty consistent quality, that isn’t necessarily an indication of the overall product. Even so, I went into this one with high hopes. Did it live up to those expectations? Let’s find out.
Background: The series is produced by J.C. Staff, who have produced a plethora of series ranging from Slayers to A Certain Scientific Railgun, and is based on the Chihiro Ishizuka penned manga that is currently serialised in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine.
The story is fairly simple: Makoto, a young witch from Yokohama, travels to Aomori in order to continue her training. Here, she stays with her cousin’s, the Kuromoto’s, and proceeds to make friends, learn about the area, and generally do witchy things.
The Good: I’m going to start things off here by saying that I love the this show from a technical standpoint. The animation is beautifully smooth, the scenery is absolutely stunning at times, the character designs are understated in a way that fits with the series, and the soundtrack enhances the feel of each episode rather than intrudes upon it. Oh, and let’s not forget that catchy opening song! Honestly, the whole presentation is done in such a way that it makes the ordinary feel wondrous, and that is a fantastic thing to achieve.
Now, if you saw the word ‘witch’ in the title and had pictures of big magical battles and rampant spell casting with all the oomph and fireworks of a Harry Potter movie, you may be disappointed. It would be fair to say that Flying Witch is a show where very little happens in terms of action, and the spells themselves are as understated as the character designs. Don’t let that fool you though; Flying Witch is anything but boring. Sure, it runs along at a laid-back pace, but after a few episodes it becomes hard to picture it any other way. These characters have simply not been built for high octane situations, and that’s OK. The execution is such that their reality based interactions are far more gratifying than any high paced battle would be. And that really is the key here: if you feel that levelling up and fighting is necessary for your enjoyment of a show, this won’t be for you. If you’re happy to just sit back and watch the world go by with a bunch of fun characters that can find pleasure in the simple things in life, then you’ll love it.
Of course, to enjoy such a show, you either need some good character development or a suitably varied cast to bolster the quiet moments with appealing interactions. Does Flying Witch manage this? In a word, yes. Despite a short running time of only twelve episodes, the series features a rather large cast. That being the case, it would be very easy to fall foul of failing to dedicate enough time to each character and in doing so end up with a cast that has simply not shown enough personality to be interesting. Thankfully, Flying Witch manages to avoid this pitfall. The key characters (our titular witch, Makoto, and her cousins Kei and Chinatsu) are all perfectly likeable, with Chinatsu in particular getting a thumbs up for authentically encompassing what young, quirky children are like. There’s also Makoto’s cat, Chito, who is absolutely adorable.
Meanwhile, the extended cast all serve to add some interesting foils for the main three to play-off in various ways depending on the situation that has been set up for the episode. My personal favourites were Makoto’s brash, (often) drunken older sister Akane, a local fortune-telling witch named Inukai who (after a drunken night out with Akane) is now an anthropomorphic dog, and Nao, a school friend of Kei’s that runs a local liquor store. I think that, in part, it probably helped that those three in particular had enough screen time to essentially be a second tier of lead characters. Some of the other side characters, such as the Café Concrucio staff and The Harbinger of Spring, get far less time, and so we don’t get to know them quite so well. That doesn’t necessarily detract from them though, as their roles in the world are well established, and they do make the most of their appearances, at least for the most part.
The Bad: If I’m being objective here, the above section should make it clear that this is not a show for everyone. Despite being in a shonen magazine, Flying Witch is not going to be the next Bleach or Fairy Tail. But then, it’s not trying to be. Throughout the twelve episodes, it’s very honest about the sort of story it’s trying to tell, and much of whether you enjoy it will come down to whether or not you’re willing to watch a show where the focus is on character interactions rather than big flashy events.
As much as I enjoyed each character in the show, it would have been nice to see a little more of some of them too. The Harbinger of Spring was set up in such a way that he couldn’t really be anything more than the one episode oddity that he was, but the Café Concrucio staff could have had a little more to do. OK, so the ghost waitress Hina had her moments, and the young witch Anzu made an additional appearance in the season finale, but we only get a brief moment with Anzu’s nameless mother in comparison to the others. That’s a real shame, because the other characters are likeable enough that I found myself wanting to know more about everyone that appeared for more than a single scene. When that didn’t happen, it was a little disappointing.
In a nit-picky moment, there’s a scene at the start of the first episode where the bus that Makoto is on was animated using CG (much like the School-Live opening). From a personal standpoint, I don’t like this style of animation and found it quite jarring.
Subbed or Dubbed: I watched the subbed version on Crunchyroll and was very impressed with the cast as a whole. Given the nature of the series, a poor performance would risk taking you out of the moment, and that could be quite disastrous in terms of enjoyment. As it was though, everyone pulled their weight and really helped to create the atmosphere that’s so integral to the show. I’m not sure if there is an English dub or not, but if there is (or will be), the cast have some big shoes to fill. I truly hope that they manage it though, as this is the sort of show that you can happily watch with young kids.
Final View: From start to finish, Flying Witch is one thing: charming. The overall feel of the series is one of a laid back, simple life filled with good friends and some occasional magic. If you want to relax, and you’re interested in a more positive portrayal of a witch, then this is definitely worth checking out. Sure, it has some minor issues, but none of them detract from the overall quality of this magnificent series.
Final Score: 5 / 5
Like what you read? Want to help me out a little? Click the affiliate link below to purchase the first Flying Witch manga. You get the source material, I get some cash. Easy, right?