by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Flying Witch ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Flying Witch ?
There's a lot of often unsung craft that goes into constructing an excellent slice of life show. They tend to be more “fragile” than shows in other genres - what they are attempting to create is a very specific sense of atmosphere and place, and when a show like that trips over itself in execution, it can lose its very reason for existing. So things like sound design, pacing, and shot framing can actually become more crucial than they might be considered in a show driven wholly by its narrative. Slice of life shows are by their nature holistic experiences, where almost every element of the production is a load-bearing variable.
So far, Flying Witch is managing the requirements of its genre with consistent grace. The art design is quite strong, the character designs are grounded but expressive, the show's goofy expressions are understated but appealing, and the backgrounds are lovely. The show often takes time simply to revel in its peaceful country surroundings, dedicating the early minutes of both episodes so far to characters exploring Makoto's adopted town. These moments are actually some of the show's best; combining a strong soundtrack with gentle narrative movement and lovely scenery, they firmly place the viewer in this small town on the edge of spring.
Makoto herself is a strong point in the show's favor. Her inexperience with this town is a natural boon to the show; by positioning the viewer alongside an outsider, we're able to experience the town at the same pace she does. On top of that, her poor sense of direction and general sense of airheadedness lends itself well to the show's goals, since her pace ends up becoming the show's pace as well. And her own matter-of-fact treatment of magic helps create the show's very specific sense of subdued wonder. The contrast between her easy acceptance of things like flying and mandrakes and the nonplussed reactions of her friends creates some of the funniest moments of the show so far, while the way she gracefully integrates magic into her daily routine underlies some of its moments of actual wonder.
The humor is very light, so far - in fact, the second episode barely has any jokes at all. Personally, I think the show could use a bit more humor density, but I obviously wouldn't want things to move towards abrasive, artificially constructed gags. The mandrake gag was easily one of the show's best moments, but the mandrake gag isn't necessarily repeatable. That joke worked by setting up eighteen minutes of peaceful expectations and then knocking them down with a piece of fantastical absurdity, but if Makoto's magical world continues to be used that way, not only would the joke grow stale, but the show's consistent tone would suffer. Jokes like Kei's offhand “this is your mother” seem more sustainable - that exchange seemed like something almost out of Yotsuba, a piece of deadpan humor that naturally integrates with the characters and tone.
Flying Witch's second episode instead focused on the mundane, everyday experiences of its principal characters, with only the silly exchanges between Chinatsu and the Harbinger of Spring offering much humor. The episode seemed almost like a statement of intent, demonstrating how magic isn't necessarily a major part of these characters' lives, but the show's opening song seems to imply things will get slightly more fantastical going forward. I'm all in favor of that - I really appreciated the first episode's balance of the mundane and wondrous, which almost reminded me of Eccentric Family's masterful grasp of magical realism. Magic doesn't have to dominate the narrative - in fact, like everything else in a great slice of life show, it can be more powerful for its restraint.
Overall, I'm greatly enjoying Flying Witch. The characters are charming, the setting and backgrounds are lovely, the pacing is slow but confident, and the occasional elements of magic fit nicely into the whole. The show's music deserves particular note - it's a diverse mix of light wind instruments and horns, understated percussion, and acoustic guitar, perfectly matching the fresh country tone of the narrative. Flying Witch certainly leans heavily towards the atmosphere end of the atmosphere-comedy spectrum, and I'm hoping the show moves just a bit further towards both comedy and fantasy, but it's hard to complain about a show this charming and solidly constructed. It's a low-key highlight of the season.
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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