Warning: I try to avoid any spoilers in the review below, but themes and plot points do get discussed in a general way. If you’re rigorously trying to avoid spoilers for this series, please proceed with caution!
Our second CSoLMFTT entry takes the genre in a slightly more fantastical direction, with the addition of magic. That’s right, we’ve got witches!
Not that one
Flying Witch by Chihiro Ishizuka (published by Vertical Comics) in some ways is very similar to Yotsuba, as both series begin with the main character moving and adjusting to new surroundings, and focus on finding humor and humanity in the little events in life. However, while Yotsuba is firmly grounded in reality, Flying Witch spices things up with a healthy dose of the supernatural.
The main character, a fifteen-year old novice witch named Makoto Kowata, starts the series moving to a new area with her black cat/familiar, Chito (who is very, very cute). Similar to Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service (another favorite of mine), Makoto is considered an adult witch and is supposed to go off on her own and start her witchy training. However, her parents still want her to have some degree of familial support, and to also finish high school (which is very sensible, way to go Kowata Parents!), hence the move to rural Aomori to live with her aunt, uncle and cousins Kei and Chinatsu. She quickly makes friends, and we’re treated to a large and varied cast of characters – both normal and supernatural.
As Makoto, who has a notoriously bad sense of direction, gets settled into her new surroundings and starts to find her way as a witch – both literally and metaphorically – we’re treated to vignettes about her daily life. The chapters do follow a general plot line to some degree and there are a few narrative arcs that get revisited from time to time, but for all of that most of the chapters can be read as stand-alone stories. One of the best things about Flying Witch is how it effortlessly blends magic with the mundane. Makoto is a witch-in-training, so there’s plenty of magical tasks and lessons for her to do and things to experience, but she’s also a student in a regular high school with non-magical friends and classes. Chapters range between the truly fantastical, like a special encounter with a steampunk-looking flying whale that used to hold cities on its back, to completely ‘normal’, such as a chapter depicting a school cooking class. Other chapters blend the two within the story itself, like one where Makoto et al visit a cafe for some cake, only to find that this particular cafe happens to be run by witches & staffed by a ghost. A particularly fun part of the series is how creative the character design is – all sorts of supernatural people and creatures show up, and they’re all unique and interesting.
However, there’s also a different type of magic present in Flying Witch, and that’s the series’ relationship with nature. The series follows a general timeline (it starts in April and as volume 6 is in July), and many of the stories are season-specific. You really get a feel for how peaceful and idyllic Aomori is – the seasons and the natural world play an important part in many of the chapters and are beautifully depicted. Plants (mostly the garden-variety – sorrynotsorry – type with the occasional supernatural one thrown in) in particular have a starring role in many of the chapters – Makoto and her cousins forage for wild greens on several occasions, they grow their own garden, they help prune the trees in her uncle’s orchard. For all the actual honest-to-goodness magic that occurs throughout the series, you get the feeling that the natural world is the most pervasive type of magic of all.
As for the theme of this series of posts – calming slice of life manga and all of that – I find Flying Witch to be a particularly peaceful read. I don’t mean that as a euphemism for ‘boring’, because it’s a fun, quirky story with legitimately funny moments. But there’s rarely any real conflict in the plot, or even disagreements. This attitude is extended to the characters – most have a very “go-with-the-flow” outlook and even the most surprising supernatural visitor or occurrence of magic rarely elicits more than a shrug and a smile. Maybe a squawk or blank stare if it’s something really shocking. I also love the covers of the volumes, which depict scenes of the various main characters hanging out with each other around Aomori. They really contribute to and reinforce the relaxed feel of the series in a beautiful way.
Flying Witch shows that magic doesn’t have to be flashy spells and wand battles – magic can be just the little moments that make up a nice spring afternoon. It’s peaceful, it’s calm. Some may call it ‘slow’. I prefer ‘serene’.
Name: Flying Witch
Author: Chihiro Ishizuka
Publisher: Vertical Comics
US Published Dates: 2017-present
Status: Ongoing (Six volumes released in the US so far. No date given for any further volumes, but the end of the sixth volume says the next one is ‘coming soon’). In print and easy to find.
Ages (per publisher): All ages
Anime: A beautifully well-done, but short (12 episodes) anime adaptation is available on Crunchyroll and DVD/Blu-ray. I might even say that the anime does a better job than the manga depicting the idyllic rural setting of the series, since it’s able to show it in full color and motion. And it’s really beautiful! The opening song is what I believe kids these days would call a ‘bop’ – and a lot of the more characters make an appearance! Check it out:
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