I decided to sit down and give Flying Witch another chance.
I reviewed this show a decent while back, but I wrote the review after I had dropped it halfway through (after episode 6). In said review, I did float the idea of coming back to finish the show, but once I posted the review to the website, I was content to just move on to something else.
Rereading that review a few weeks ago, I was a bit surprised with how harsh I was towards this show, especially given this is some cheerful, colorful slice of life show. Does something with that sort of vibe really deserve that much… criticism? I guess that’s what spurned me to at least try it a bit more, and well, here we are!
I went back and rewatched episode 6 to get myself back into the show, and then went from there, buuuuut I decided to drop it again after finishing episode 9. While I could sit here and finish the rest of the series, I think I’m satisfied for now and ready to watch other stuff instead. Also, I’ve decided to do this more freeform discussion piece, rather than making an updated formal review.
For this piece, I’ll be sharing my experiences watching episodes 7, 8, and 9 (so spoilers ahead, for anyone who actually cares), and comparing that against what I had written down as my thoughts in the previous review. Soooooo let’s begin!
An Updated Look
Flying Witch, as a mini refresher, is about the witch (in training) Makoto, who decided to move out to her relatives’ house in a more remote, sleepy town. While here, Makoto explores various aspects of the world of magic and she often brings along her cousins Chinatsu and Kei for the ride as well (and in episode 6, young Chinatsu decided that she wants to become a witch too).
Each episode features Makoto (usually with cousins in tow) going to a new place or discovering a new thing. A relatively minor complication occurs, but it gets sorted out in no time and the episode usually ends with the everyone making it back home and doing a bit of chit-chat.
I’d say, however, that there are 3 core issues with this show (two of which I’ve touched on in my review): 1. the joke delivery is just terrible; 2. the characters are all the same, essentially; and 3. the pacing is sooooo slow – even for a slice of life show.
These 3 issues reared their heads in full force in episode 8, which is what ultimately prompted me to drop the show again. Episode 8 involves Makoto, Chinatsu, and Kei all hanging out in a magical café and interacting with the other magical beings or creatures that come in to frequent the café. Not particularly bad as an idea, but the execution was just… weird.
A strange issue with this episode and the one prior (where they discovered the cafe in question) was that the main cast seemingly forgot about the existence of personal boundaries and comfort levels. They came across a ghost that hid herself because she was shy, but rather than respecting that, Makoto casted a spell to make her visible, just because Chinatsu wanted to see what a ghost looks like. Episode 8 had other patrons arriving at the cafe, and Chinatsu would just walk up to them, start throwing a barrage of questions, and touching them. Even when she started asking for permission (like touching a person), she asked the cafe wait staff for permission, rather than the person she was touching. It was just kind of uncomfortable to watch, as someone who tries to be a bit more respectful of others’ preferences.
However, ultimately no one took issue with any of Chinatsu’s or Makoto’s actions; the ghost got a bit flustered, but that was it.
Really, when I’m thinking about all of the characters in this show, everyone is always super friendly, pretty kind, and rather easy-going; no one has any form of attitude or is overbearing or anything. I mentioned in my review that “I feel almost all of the characters in Flying Witch would react the same way no matter what situation you threw at them”, and that’s kind of the same conclusion I came to again. Each character does have a slight quirk or difference, like Chinatsu being notably bubbly, Kei being a bit more detached, Akane being a bit more casual and lax, et cetera. But it does feel like you’re just watching carbon copies of the same character interact with themselves. (Actually, Kei being detached is maybe an understatement – I think the show just kind of sweeps him under the rug sometimes, like they somehow don’t know what to do with him. He’s present in most scenes but relatively rarely interacts or says anything.)
I know that this is meant to be a very easy-going slice of life show, and in comparison to shows like GJ Club, Arakawa Under the Bridge, or Daily Lives of High School Boys, it is nice to have a show where someone isn’t always the butt of a joke. It doesn’t seem too often that I find an anime where everyone is just generally nice to each other. But making all the characters carbon copies of each other to the point where most everyone feels the same way about everything isn’t the best way to go about it; instead, you’re just kind of left with everything feeling bland and flat. You can have shows with a laid-back attitude, where everyone has differing personalities but still get along well, as shown in New Game!, Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, or Non Non Biyori (that last one might be debatable).
Also in episode 8, we see two ladybugs fly in and hang out in the café (like, actual ladybugs). One of the waitstaff mentions “you know a ladybug brings good fortune if it lands on you”, clearly meaning to be the setup of a joke. But then rather than cutting to the punchline of seeing Makoto and Chinatsu running around, trying desperately to get a ladybug to land on their finger… there’s all this build up instead that takes the air out of the joke before actually showing that punchline. Scenes like Makoto and Chinatsu prepping to hop out of their spots, multiple zoom-in shots on the ladybugs, and then a shot of Makoto and Chinatsu just standing in place with their fingers in the air and grunting… all this stuff just took what could’ve been a funny scene or moment and just turned it into… meh.
A lot of other jokes in this show are also just set up weirdly or are just weird in general.
But a big part of the issue with the jokes, and kind of a lot in this show, is the slow pacing. Slice of life shows are known for taking a more leisurely pace, focusing on nice moments with the cast and breathing in the scene. But slow pacing is also pretty bad for comedy, so we’ll see other slice of life shows with snappier moments or editing to deliver a punchline or keep a joke rolling. Flying Witch… doesn’t do that. A lot of its potentially funniest jokes tend to become unfunny because it takes too long to actually get to somewhere. This was an issue in the latter half of episode 6 as well, where I dropped the show last time.
Slow pacing is present throughout the entirety of episodes 7 and 8, though, not just during the jokes. It feels like it takes this anime a decent while longer to get through a scene than it would in a different slice of life show. Maybe part of it is I’m more used now to how other genres are paced in comparison, but thinking of shows like all that I had mentioned a handful of paragraphs ago, I feel like these shows wouldn’t go this slowly either. I recall multiple moments while watching Flying Witch where I was like “soooo… where is this going?” and waiting for the show to do something. These two episodes featuring the cast searching for, arriving at, eating at, and interacting with others in the café… this would’ve been just a single episode in most other slice of life shows. There’s not enough going on in the cafe to warrant this single trip to it taking multiple episodes. Luckily, episode 9 was a bit better in this regard, although it still felt a bit sluggish at points.
I didn’t take much of an issue with the pacing in my original review, although I did comment that it could’ve been a bit tighter. And to be fair, it’s not like the pacing is really that horrendous. But I don’t know, it got to me more this time than it did before… maybe it’s just me.
One thing that did bother me in my original review though, was Chinatsu. But during my time coming back and revisiting this show, I didn’t take as much offense to her this time around. Perhaps it was because I didn’t start back with episode 1, where she was super shy in comparison to how bubbly she is in future episodes, but yeah, Chinatsu is fine… beyond her being really rude in episode 8. The bubbliness and lack of personal boundaries is a bit much, but I’d chalk that up to her being a whimsical child still learning rather than her being a terrible character.
I also lamented in my review about how, despite Makoto being a witch in training and the show ultimately being about exploring the world of magic that exists all around you… there wasn’t a lot of magic exploring. There wasn’t no magic exploring, but it felt paltry in comparison to how much world building and intriguing concepts we could’ve gotten. I was definitely looking more for something like Little Witch Academia or Disney’s Owl House. And to be fair, like I predicted in my review, episodes 7, 8, and 9 did start to show more magic and magical creatures beyond how much we’d get in an episode before that… but it does still feel like we were just scratching the surface with how much we could explore or get into.
The more I think about this show, this show kind of more feels like a more natural, realistic take on a group of people hanging out… and there happens to be some magic lightly involved. In comparison to other anime (or most TV in general), nothing here ever feels played up for drama or laughs; things stay relatively calm and light-hearted. In fact, episodes don’t even really have much of a conflict at all; if there is a hurdle, it’s usually easily dismissed or overcome.
It gives more of a feeling of watching an accidentally recorded adventure of 3 normal but imaginative kids, rather than an intentionally put together show.
And for some people, that might be the type of vibe or atmosphere they want. I think I would’ve actually enjoyed this show more if I watched it in English, as it’s something I could have on in the background while I’m doing other things; the pacing is slow enough that you don’t need to keep your eyes on the screen every second. Luckily, Sentai Filmworks has indeed made an English dub (although that isn’t present on Crunchyroll). However, of course, if you’re going to be reading subtitles, you kind of need to be facing the screen for that, which kind of defeats the purpose in that sense. (And my Japanese isn’t nearly good enough to attempt watching this without subtitles.)
Overall, this show isn’t problematic. It isn’t really a bad show, and the slow pacing and general lack of conflict, again, may be something that someone else explicitly wants. I think there is a place for this kind of show; I’ve definitely watched shows where I felt there really wasn’t a reason for it to exist, and Flying Witch isn’t one of them. I’m sure others have a soft spot in their heart for this show, while acknowledging or even welcoming the “flaws” I pointed out here.
(Oh! Also, the commentary I had on the visuals, animation, music, and other stuff in the “Atmosphere” section of my old review ultimately didn’t change at all, so if you wanted to know my thoughts on those, just check back on the original review. It didn’t feel worth it to rehash the same thoughts over again.)
At the end of the day though, I find myself in roughly the same place I found myself at the end of my old review. I think the… emotion I had has faded, and coming at it again with a cooler head, I’m a bit more understanding of what’s happening here, but the problems I had the first time around are still persistent here. This just doesn’t do it for me. The lackadaisical attitude and slowly timed comedy isn’t what I want in a show. At least, not here, not now. But I gave it another shot, got a bit further, and yeah, I’m good with that. I’ll leave this show for the fans who truly appreciate it, and I’ll move on to something that’ll be more engaging to me.