Pop culture witchcraft with a Japanese flavor
In anime and manga there’s a subgenre that we only have a passing familiarity with over here, that of iyashikei or “healing” series. These are series may be part of the slice-of-life genre and offer a more atmospheric and relaxing tone for their audience. With that, you have a good idea of what to look for in 2016’s 12-episode Flying Witch anime series.
In the world of Flying Witch, once a girl reaches the age of 15 she must leave home and become a professional and independent witch. So begins the story of Makoto Kowata, a newly independent witch who has just moved from Yokohama to the rural region of Hirosaki, Aomori in the far north of Japan. Needless to say, this is a big adjustment for Makoto, Chito, her black cat, and for her relatives with with whom she is staying and hasn’t seen in six years.
Makoto meets Chinatsu, her younger cousin and Kei, Chinatsu’s older brother, who are both, initially, weary of having a witch in the house. Chinatsu’s fears quickly subside when she and Makoto go shopping for a broom that Makoto uses to take Chinatsu flying. Makoto further repays the family’s kindness with finding a screaming mandrake root. If you are familiar with the world of witches in Western tradition you will likely find lots of similarities here: broomsticks, black cats, enchantments, spells, etc. all have a familiar place in this world.
The series focuses on Makoto and how she adjusts to rural life and helps however she can with her magic, which is used very sparingly. Along the way we meet other characters such as the fortune teller Inukai who has been afflicted with a particularly bad spell. We also meet Makoto’s older sister who travels the world drinking alcohol and partying, a distinct contrast to her sister.
If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of iyashikei series, others that might fit that description are Aria The Animation, Piano, To Heart, Bartender, or Kokoro Library. It’s likely that you’re not familiar with any of those shows either, which shows how small a genre iyashikei is. However, this shouldn’t dissuade you from watching Flying Witch.
Flying Witch may be the best show of its type. It’s a wonderful, relaxing show with some beautiful artwork and animation and a fantastic cast of characters. Each character adds something unique to the show. The way the show combines traditional aspects of popular culture witchcraft with a Japanese flavor adds a special sense of wonder, especially later when we are treated to some beautiful imagery.
The show takes great joy in showing us the benefits and beauty of a rural lifestyle. It takes time to show us how calming life in the country can be, which the Japanese are dealing with now as rural towns and villages are becoming depopulated. However, none of those issues show themselves in this show; it’s all about the ideal rural lifestyle.
You’ll want to watch Flying Witch to make you feel good, as you might expect with an iyashikei-style show. I think we can agree that Flying Witch is exactly the “Anime for the Soul” that we could use right now. Recommended.
Studio/company: Sentai Filmworks