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Mary and the Witch's Flower

Director:  Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Year Released:  2017
Rating:  1.5

Red-haired Mary Smith (a normal Japanese name) finds a strange fruit that looks like a blueberry but grants magical powers when smooshed into a paste and is transported, via broomstick (witches love 'em), to magical Endor College, where the headmistress and one of the instructors are conducting vile experiments on animals (and people). Yoshiaki Nishimura, who used to work with Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli, started his own production house called Studio Ponoc and made this their debut film ... except it's purely derivative, rehashing the same trademarks (girls! cats! spells!) to make a knock-off Kiki's Delivery Service (hell, even Ponoc's 'logo' is a rip-off of Ghibli's black and white Totoro design). The animation is crisp and easy to admire ... but time would be better spent watching a brilliant series called Little Witch Academia, which does the whole Realm of Witchcraft idea but inhabits it with cute figures worth rooting for (go Shiny Chariot!).

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