by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Flying Witch ?
Flying Witch stayed the course this week in an episode that devoted half of its running time to appreciating the magic of gardening and the other half to celebrating the magic of, well, magic. There were deadpan gags and intentional anticlimaxes and sleepy upbeat folk songs, all the ingredients you'd expect from this quietly excellent slice of life. I don't think every joke landed with quite the impact it was hoping for, but this was still a fine episode of a fine show.
The episode's structure is probably a good place to start, as it nicely reflects how Flying Witch naturally celebrates its genre. The most exciting thing to happen in the first half was the appearance of a pheasant, as Makoto and her cousins attempted to prepare some land for future vegetable gardening. That pheasant was exciting, framed from Makoto's perspective as far more bewildering than something like a screaming mandrake. Through its structure and Makoto-based perspective, Flying Witch naturally contrasts learning about magic with learning about life in the country, and in doing so emphasizes the wonder and magic of the everyday. In the end, there's nothing more fundamental to great slice of life than that - such shows are predicated on the belief that there is warmth and beauty in the celebration of ordinary experiences.
Of course, a show has to actually sell that warmth and beauty in order to succeed, and this episode's first half did a fine job of that as well. The farming sequence was full of tiny jokes based on timing and anticlimax, as Makoto's guileless enthusiasm ran into a variety of unlikely hurdles. Makoto being terrible at weeding played out for just the right length of time and relied heavily on strong voice acting for its comedic punch. Makoto's reaction to the pheasant was also strong, and the episode's mix of establishing information (a TV announcer talking about the approach of spring), subdued colors, and light winter outfits made the crispness of the early spring air feel almost palpable.
The second half, which introduced Makoto's nomadic “sister,” felt a bit more loose in its delivery. The elaboration of her sister's personality was very natural, and the final sequence of Makoto accidentally summoning a hundred crows was excellent, but a number of the jokes here felt undersold. Much of the humor seemed to be based in reactions that were intentionally timed to be a half-step off, and though this did create an odd sense of emotional incongruity (likely intended to emphasize how Makoto's sister puts everyone else out of their comfort zones), it was sometimes just more awkward than actually funny.
There was also just not all that much happening in the second half - introductions were made, Makoto's sister demonstrated one spell, and then the episode was over. I did appreciate this sequence's elaboration of the spell to summon crows, though. Flying Witch's magic generally seems to be grounded, recipe-based stuff, the sort of rural remedies you'd get from the old witch on the edge of town. That understated style of magic feels more interesting to me than simply waving a wand, and it also makes for a better parallel between the mundane details of ordinary life and magical experiences.
Overall, while not all the jokes landed and the second half was a little slight, this was still a fine episode of Flying Witch. The show's fundamental contrast between rural and magical life is extremely strong, and this episode elaborated on that platform with a variety of nice gags and endearing experiences. It's a very reliable show.
Flying Witch is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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