Mary and the Witch's Flower ★★★★

I liked this a lot. It’s hard not to compare it to a Ghibli film though—even Studio Ponoc seems to hope you will—and when you do that it’s a little disappointing. The animation was beautiful, even though it wasn’t quite up to Ghibli’s amazing standards. The music was enchanting and unique. The characters were charming and I laughed throughout. The story was interesting but I think the telling of it was rough. Some threads were left dangling and the ending felt rushed. I’m struggling to pin down exactly what it was after just one viewing, but in the end it’s clear that Ponoc just doesn’t have the skill and experience that Ghibli has. I’m optimistic though—it’s hard to think a studio with this much talent doesn’t already see exactly how they can improve next time. My favorite part was that this film felt a bit different from what Ghibli gives us. My hope is that they’ll find that essence and nurture it; my fear is that they’ll keep chasing Ghibli’s shadow.