Flying Witch – 12 (Fin)

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As I wrapped up Flying Witch with these last two episodes on a Sunday afternoon, I noted how similar in speed and atmosphere my lazy day was to this final outing (alas, I did not explore a flying whale earlier). FW was fine on a Saturday, but I think Sunday is its perfect timeslot.

Episode twelve gets started with Mako simply organizing her things and trimming her broom, but she finds her old handmade robe from junior high, and decides it’s time to make a new one. Chito accompanies her for style tips (and navigation).

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While on her trip, which serves as a kind of farewell tour to various parts of the town, Mako catches a glimpse of her heavily-drinking sister and an Inukai and Nao hard at work telling fortunes and delivering booze, respectively.

Back home, Mako tries to keep the fact she’s making a red robe for Chinatsu first a secret, but Chinatsu is too curious, and Mako doesn’t really see the harm in her knowing now rather than later.

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That turns out to be a good move, since Chinatsu isn’t just handed a completed robe: she closely watches the process of making one, something she’ll want to do when she grows up in order to get the style she wants for cheap. Akane orders her robes online, because of course she does.

Akane also ends up treading on poor Inukai just as she’s closing up shop. Inukai is hesitant to hang out, but when Akane presents a fine bottle of sake, she sighs and drops her guard. These two have always been very Yin and Yang.

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When Akane stumbles home, she finds one of Mako’s mandrake roots. While searching for another, Kenny discovers it’s being chewed on from below the earth by a blue earthfish, one of the more adorable creatures in FW to date.

The fish are tricksters that eat rice crackers and turn red when they drink Akane’s offering of sake, but when everyone is asleep except Makoto, they start floating about like cute little round lanterns (or giant red fireflies). Just one of many things Makoto has seen, heard, and experienced to add to her first association report.

I can report that Flying Witch was an immensely relaxing and enjoyable magical realist slice-of-life anime: bursting with warm characters, sights, smells and tastes; perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon…or twelve! Part of me hopes this isn’t all the FW we’ll ever get.

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Flying Witch – 11

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Flying Witch goes big with the magic this week, and Makoto, Akane, and Chinatsu have a…ahem…whale of a time. An ethereal postman delivers the newspaper for the witching world, and news comes that a whale will be flying over Aomori soon. The girls fly out on their brooms early in the morning to try to spot it. And flying witches on Flying Witch are always welcome!

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The massive stone whale is also a Laputa-esque flying island covered in gardens and fish pools, and extensive ruins, and when the girls gain access to the “flight deck” they find Shiina Anzu, budding archaeologist, already there exploring.

There’s a palpable sense of awe and grandeur to the big flying whale, and the segment owes much to films like Castle in the Sky, but with FW’s own easygoing atmosphere. Yes, this is a big deal, and everyone’s stoked about being on this whale, but there’s no possibility of harm or of anything sinister happening.

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Despite being abandoned long ago, the whale is a bringer of joy and wonder to everyone’s hearts. But the girls can’t just stay up there forever; for one thing, stomachs are starting to growl. So they say goodbye to their new giant flying friend and head to Casa Kuramoto for the newest installment of Kei’s Cooking Corner. Anzu joins Makoto, Akane and Chinatsu, and gets to see her anthropology mentor, the wise and well-traveled Kenny.

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From flying on brooms to exploring floating whale ruins to conversing with cats, this episode gave me my magical fix, so the addition of some down-home hotcake-making and eating was the icing on the cake, as was the arrival of Anzu’s owl familiar with a lengthy bill for Akane from Anzu’s Mom’s cafe. Better scrounge together some cash to pay that, big sis!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try Kei’s method of layering batter to make thicker hotcakes. It’s such a simple technique I feel pretty dumb for never thinking to augment my frisbee-thin pancakes…

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Flying Witch – 10

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In this brisk, breezy episode, we have two distinct segments: cooking class and apple tree thinning. In the first, Makoto and Kei provide moral support and the occasional pointer as Nao, who believes she’s cursed in the kitchen, makes a pretty tasty-looking Hamburg steak from scratch.

While nervous and weary at first, Nao eventually gets the hang of the smells and sensations of working with the raw ingredients, and gets to experience the sense of victory one feels upon completing a dish. She also gets freaked out by Makoto’s cookies that look just like witche’s fingers, and no one remembers to steam any rice.

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Things get more pastoral and idyllic in part two, when everyone (even Akane) get up early and head to the apple orchard to cull the blooms in order to enable the growth of fruit. Both Makoto and Akane feel the sting of not looking where they’re going, and Akane feels bad for the blooms that are snipped, but as Kei remarks, they have a use too, as nutrients for the soil.

Makoto gets a lovely view from the short tree-tops upon her ladder, which is very different from flying on a broom, and meets one of the bees that pollenates the orchard. The bee doesn’t sting, but it does bite her, and Kei shoos it away. But in the end, Makoto gets to dip one of her creepy cookies in the fruit of the bees, i.e. fresh honey. Delicious.

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Flying Witch – 09

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All of the little adventures in FW form part of a bigger picture that’s always being added to. Chinatsu’s encounter with a real fox last week compels her to point out to her mom that the fox really says woof, not kon-kon, for her children’s book.

This also marks the return of Inukai in her day white, who was supposed to tell Makoto’s fortune but never got around to it.

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Inukai frames the rest of the episode by using her stone-throw divination to tell fortunes for Makoto, Chinatsu, and Kei, which we anticipate will come true at some point, we’re just not sure when. We also get to see “Pretty Inukai” when the sun goes down.

Another return to a previous story point: Makoto’s garden, which is really coming along nicely, including the mandrake root Nao refused and continues to refuse, as politely as she can.

There’s also a nice little high school rooftop lunch scene, with Nao announcing she’s on a diet and Makoto being particularly grandma-like with sayings like “a healthy body makes a pretty girl” and “guys like girls with a little bit of fat.”

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Nao meets Akane for the first time, though due to timing Akane mistakes Nao for Kei’s girlfriend when she wakes up to find them chatting happily.

Nao shoots the idea down so fast Kei actually seems hurt (especially since she calls him “that thing”, but the truth is the two do get along pretty well. And at any rate, Akane’s very unsubtle initial go-get-’em-tiger attitude is pretty funny.

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After enjoying some of Makoto and Chinatsu’s massive crop of radishes (which Makoto believes might have weight-loss properties), Nao goes home, and everyone retires to bed, something strange happens: an animate paper crane enters Makoto, Chinatsu, and Kei’s rooms and summons them to the living room, P.A. style.

It’s Akane, who is jet-lagged, can’t sleep, and wants to give the three her traditional travel gifts, this time from Burkina Faso, and in an unexpected way, those gifts fulfill the fortunes Inukai gave Makoto and Chinatsu, just minutes before that day ended.

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Flying Witch – 08

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Makoto Chinatsu and Kei just be chillin’ like vanilla villains playing violins in a villa. Put less poetically, they spend the entire episode hanging out in the cafe, meeting its owner (mistaking her for her nearly identical daughter at first), are formally introduced to Hina the ghost, and also meet some of the cafe’s regulars.

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Yet no matter how insectoid (the thistle-eating ladybugs), vulpine (the cherry-loving fox), or intimidating (the Veil of Darkness and Bringer of the Night, everyone they meet is nice, welcoming, and friendly, even if Chinatsu is being a bit nosy or intrusive.

The overall feeling is that this definitely a cafe where I’d like to spend some time, sip some tea, and munch on some pastries. Anzu’s mom’s comment about Kei not having to worry about being “normal” (because he hangs out with witches) was pretty funny, too.

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While the others are at the cafe, Akane is hard at work on a potion, but for what we don’t learn until after the credits roll, Marvel-style. She teleports with Kenny all the way to otherworldly, picturesque Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, where she accidentally turns the entire landscape monochrome.

It’s temporary, though, so rather than panic, Akane teleports back to Aomori, grabs a half-asleep Makoto, and has her snap a photo of her and Kenny…which Akane later remembers as a strange dream. But that’s life as a witch: sometimes things get a little surreal and dream-like, and ya just gotta roll with it.

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Flying Witch – 07

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It’s another lovely day in Aomori, perfect for going on a lovely hike in the lovely forest. But before they set off, Nao manages to insult Chito by asking if she’s put on weight. She also learns that she’s seventeen—older than all the humans around her on the trip—making her and not Kei the true senpai. That familiars live longer and age slower than regular pets its another interesting tidbit of witching wisdom.

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Once in the forest, Makoto gets really giddy, as is apparently typical of witches. There’s so much energy in the trees and water and grass, and so many resources from which to make other things. It’s basically a witch supermarket, and they collect things like ostrich ferns and victory onions. Another great tidbit: those onions make your farts smell terrible. Keeping bears away by scaring Nao with frogs is also a little mean, but ultimately beneficial.

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Once back home, we enter Kei’s Kitchen, as he expertly toasts sesame seeds and tosses them with the blanched ferns. Makoto finds them immensely tasty, but Chinatsu, little kid that she is, still has too unrefined a palate to find the taste appealing. Everyone assures her when she gets older, she will. They certainly looked scruptious to me!

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Akane recommends Chinatsu cleanse her palate with some cake from an off-the-beaten-path cafe. Makoto worries Kei has gotten them lost for once when there’s nothing but a decrepit ruin of a house at the address provided. Makoto is on it; by praying as if at a shrine like Kenny says, the spell on the house is lifted, at they see a well-kept mansion.

Once inside, the lack of a verbal welcome is conspicuous, but they find a note and learn from Akane that while the cafe’s proprietor is a witch, the waitress is a Meiji-era ghost. Seeing the notes and ice water suddenly appear, like the house suddenly transforming, are all great demonstrations of Flying Witch’s subtle but effective brand of magic.

While we don’t catch the waitress’ name, Akane uses a magic circle to make her visible, at first, without her knowledge. When she realizes they can see her, she turns beet red and finally gets a few words out, but it’s clear she’s very very shy and shouldn’t be teased too much, as she’s doing her best.

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Flying Witch – 06

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This may not make much sense, but Flying Witch felt like it was almost trying too hard to be about nothing all last week, which pulled of took me out of its world. But this week it returns to its effortless coziness. Like the magic it contains, Flying Witch is not usually flashy, but it can be powerful.

Just seeing Mako in the air on her broom again was a sight for sore eyes, and Akane’s suggestion that she not try to ride a broom she is levitating, but levitate herself along with the broom, provides invaluable insight into the ways of witching.

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While Makoto figures out how to ride properly, Chinatsu is satisfied she’s seen enough: she wants to be a witch too, and formally requests Akane take her on as an apprentice. Akane entertains the request, waiting until the young child is out of the room when she tells Kei that it’s a difficult, possibly life-changing path for one who was not born a witch.

But young and impulsive as Chinatsu is, there’s no arguing with her assertion Akane and Makoto are cute and amazing. And Chinatsu’s fantasies of how she’d use her powers are just as cute.

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Akane drives home the point that magic isn’t always about telekinetically manipulating toys, transforming cars into pumpkin carriages, or creating candy houses that eat people. The basic stuff is subtle, and yet still requires precise preparation to work at all.

Akane proves to be a good teacher, precise in her directives while maintaining her pupils’ faith throughout, in spite of evidence of the spell working. I like how Kei, meanwhile, is simply sitting on a bean bag watching dumb movies. Hey, after that weeding, he earned a break!

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When the spell is finally complete, and Makoto eats the newly-enchanted Pocky, I perked up to see what, if anything, would happen. Turns out the lesson also served as a prank, which is it’s own lesson about the power of even minor spells. Makoto ends up crying at everything for about an hour, while Chinatsu ends up laughing at everything

Cats be all like “humans be crazy”, Kei’s movie is interrupted by their noise, while Chinatsu and Kei’s mom has a little fun making her daughter laugh (though I dunno about letting Makoto handle a knife while crying uncontrollably). As for their dad, he eats both snacks and is domed to spend the next hour laugh-crying over everything. Magic, man: You gotta respect it.

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P.S. One issue I wish would be addressed, but probably won’t be: the music. There seems to be one main musical theme to FW, and it’s used every week, usually more than once. It was cute and matched the mood, but it’s totally played out. More musical variety, please!

Flying Witch – 05

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This week, the dreaded Walpurgisnacht arrives, and no one is spared the ensuing carnage. Kidding, kidding…this Spring’s most naturalistic show has its most laid-back, uneventful outing yet, which makes sense: it’s Sunday, and no one in the Kuramoto residence has much to do.

Makoto leisurely goes through the last of her unopened boxes, Akane dozes in the living room, Kei reads books in his room, and Chinatsu decides to follow Chito on his cat rounds.

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The journey nets her a lucky cherry petal on her head and dirty pants and hands from falling in a small hole. After she returns and the family has lunch, Makoto goes on the same basic walk as Chinatsu did, only this time using Chito as a GPS rather than trying not to be discovered following him.

Chito, like the cat in Whisper of the Heart, has very specific places to show his walking compansion, along with a dog to tease. The most exciting thing to happen in the whole episode is when the dog breaks loose, but Makoto and Chito manage to get away.

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Makoto and Chito then join Nao for a sake delivery to the house of a well-off elderly woman (the same one who told Chinatsu about a lucky petal that could get her the man she loves). Nao seems interested in such a love spell, despite not having anyone in particular she likes.

Makoto and Chito return home, where now both Akane and Chinatsu are dozing away. Chito curls up with Chinatsu, and the credits roll. Not terribly much to say here, except that this was another lovely, cozy portrait of a particularly slow day in quiet Aomori. The only thing you could call magic on display was Makoto’s ability to understand Chito. No witch flying today!

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Flying Witch – 04

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Makoto, Kei and Chinatsu attend the cherry blossom fair, eat many pleasant snacks, tour a haunted maze, and finally meet a strange-looking woman wearing a suspicious hooded full body coat reading fortunes by the road. The woman’s name is Inukai-san and it’s quickly revealed that Akane playfully changed her into a half-dog during the previous festival and Inukai is desperate to return to being fully human.

After a lengthy and roundabout introduction, Makoto agrees to help Inukai, but the magic is beyond her ability to undo. However, before everyone can get too upset, Akane shows up, explains that the whole mess is Inukai’s fault (due to being very drunk) and says the spell will wear off eventually. Everyone is sad but accepting, and Inukai flies off into the night.

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As always, this week’s Flying Witch was packed with lovely details and little exposition. In one example, Mokoto mixes an interesting potion without explaining what she’s doing or how it would work — and the transformation process, which fails, happens entirely off-camera.

The resulting humor is pure deadpan, but soft, and the world-building is natural. It’s even more interesting in contrast with the opening act, which focuses on the cherry blossom fair itself, and is packed with the characters telling us about the fair, its food, and what they like about it.

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Flying Witch continues to remind me of a travel show. The slow pace, pleasant suggestions about what I may like about its setting and people and why, just have that style.

Even without that unique style, it exudes pure charm and surprisingly witty dialog, often sneaked into the background: when we learn that Inukai is Kei’s type, only Makoto seems to notice, but neither she nor Kei are dominant in the frame, and her reaction isn’t given significant visual consideration. It’s subtle, natural, part of the flow. Awesome!

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Flying Witch – 03

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Flying Witch continues to engross and enchant with a deft, gentle touch. It excels at showing life at the pace a Yokohama girl transplanted into the boonies would see it: much slower, but pleasantly so. I appreciate the dialect barrier: she has no idea what her uncle is saying, so it’s good her cousins do.

When Makoto wants to start a garden, Kei and Chinatsu help prepare a patch of the field out back, neglected since their grandmother’s passing. Like their dad’s accent (and their lack of same), the family’s move away from farming is a sign of the times, but the show doesn’t dwell on it in a negative light; it’s just the way things are.

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Similarly, when Makoto, city girl, sees a pheasant tantalizingly close up for the first time, she and Chito just can’t resist trying to catch it. Makoto exerts almost as much energy chasing the thing (which has nothing to do with her witch training) as she does preparing the earth. But the three get the job done, and now it’s up to the soil to absorb the nutrients, which will take, you guessed it, time.

It’s a testament to just how calm and quiet this show is that Chinatsu later describes Makoto’s world-wandering sister Akane as a typhoon, even though Akane isn’t particularly forceful or stormy or a burden; she’s just not at the same pace as this quiet country life.

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Akane is a mover and a shaker, living as a nomad (currently in Africa); giving everyone unprocessed gifts of cacao, salt, and oil; and correcting her modesty by agreeing with her sister that she is, in fact, a big deal in the witching community.

But like the signs of the times, the show makes no bigger a deal of Akane than anything or anyone else. It’s a rare anime instance where hearing bits and pieces of the larger witching world is more effective than showing everything. It leaves the imagination step in to wonder.

Akane hears (from Chito…the cat) that Makoto hasn’t used any magic since moving there, and only flown on her broom once. This confirms what I’d already suspected: not only is the show downplaying more overt forms of magic, but Makoto herself still isn’t comfortable with them.

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That’s okay with Akane, and even sees it as a boon for her sister, not having to rely on spells the way she does. That being said, she wants Makoto to cast spells from time to time, lest her powers dwindle. I like the the idea that the magic a witch possesses must be nurtured and polished like any non-magical skill.

To that end, Akane shows Makoto and Chinatsu one of the simplest beginner spells there is: summoning a witch with a girl’s black hair, fire, and an incantation written on paper. Makoto uses her own hair and ends up making a huge column of black smoke that summons all crows, which is what happens when a witch’s hair is used.

I’m fascinated by the fact that the power of a witch can be expressed in such a subtle way as her hair burning differently than a non-witch. It’s another detail that enriches the world of the show, a world grounded in reality with little flourishes of magic you’ll miss if you’re not looking.

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Flying Witch – 02

 

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Part travel guide to the magical world of the countryside, part cooking show, this week’s Flying Witch is leisurely and incredibly comfortable. I’ve never been so transfixed by a show with so little drama or humor and has no stakes at all.

What happened? Makoto finally makes it home from school on her own and spends a pleasant afternoon with Chinatsu-chan. Then the Harbinger of Spring arrives and poor Chinatsu is terrified by his mask and great size.

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Later, after learning about the Harbinger’s job (to bring spring) and receiving a gift of spring flowers from him, Chinatsu’s heart warms and she asks if he will return soon.

The second act is presented in 3 small parts. First, Makoto dreams that Nao is marked with a sign of great luck only to wake up, having no idea what the class is being quizzed on. Second, as they walk home talking about witch dreams, Kei stops and shows them Bakke growing beside the road, which they pick for dinner. Finally, Kei deep fries the bakke for Makoto to try while Chinatsu alludes to this being a sign of being an adult.

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Flying Witch reminds me of taking a casual walk with a friend in spring. It’s crisp, un-strenuous, and surrounds you with subtle details to admire and talk about. When picking bakke, Kei reminds us not to pick near utility poles because dogs pee there. While cooking bakke, Kei reminds us that the bubbles on our chopsticks mean the oil is hot enough to cook.

Slow bites, warm smiles, loving conversation.

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It’s worth watching: because each character feels ernest and specific. Its characters are cute, but not KAWAIIIIII over the top and when they are nice, they are nice, not absurdly selfless.

Its all so welcoming, there’s no reason to criticize it for a lack of overall plot, lack of conflict, or clear purpose. Flying Witch is just Makoto’s happy life, observed closely, as if we were sharing the space with her.

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Flying Witch – 01 (First Impressions)

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Like Shounen MaidFlying Witch has a very self-explanatory title, and is also a lighthearted slice-of-life tale about a young person starting a new chapter of their life.

In this case it’s an of-age witch, Kowata Makoto, moving out of her parents’ house in Yokohama to live with her second cousins in sleepy Aomori, where she’ll remain until she becomes full-fledged.

She also brings along her black cat Chito, though he only speaks Cat, not Human. Still, the first thing that came into my head was Kiki’s Delivery Service, only Makoto isn’t living all the way on her own and doesn’t have to worry about money and such.

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I like the excitement of moving to a new place and basking in its newness, though by God Makoto has a lot of moving boxes!

I also like the very realistic way her younger cousin Chinatsu is initially weary of the new freeloader, especially when she hears her talking to her cat.

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That changes when the two girls go out shopping, Makoto picks up a bamboo broom, and starts levitating above the ground, a magical scene full of quiet awe.

Once Makoto takes her on a ride around town (which we unfortunately don’t get to see), Chinatsu’s weariness is replaced by the sheer glee of, well, having been flown around on a broom by a real witch.

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Another girl who doesn’t initially warm to Makoto is her cousin Kei’s childhood friend Ishiwatari Nao, who first meets Makoto while the latter is on her broom.

‘Alarmed’ and ‘cautious’ are the best word to describe Nao’s attitude, though Makoto makes it clear that besides being a witch, she’s just a normal girl who would like to be friends, and would hope that Nao bear with her occasional lapses into…witchiness.

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The latest comes when Makoto smells something and starts bushwhacking in a random lot to procure a “present” for Nao that turns out to be a Mandrake root.

Both the horrifying screams of the root and its bizarre cooing and squirming thoroughly creepy Nao out, and who can blame her? Makoto is her first witch acquaintance.

Flying Witch is a calm, quiet, earnest slice-of-life with tinges of supernatural-ness and comedy dispersed throughout, and Makoto is a kind, likable Amami Hibiki-type with a healthy tinge of eccentricity. A nice little feel-good show if you have the time.

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