Think: Kiki’s Delivery Service, but in show format, and with less of a plot. Think chilled out country life in Japan and a refreshing lack of tension. J.C. Staff’s latest gift to the anime world is Flying Witch. A relaxed slice-of-life show, the first three episodes offer little but slow-paced and drawn out scenes filled with casual conversation and cute gags- and that’s okay. Because it’s what we’d expect.
J.C Staff are responsible for many brightly coloured high-school slice-of-life bundles, having created Sakurasou no pet na kanojo and the extremely popular Toradora. But at least these shows have emotion and a good amount of plot going for them, right? Flying Witch seems to be taking slice-of-life to a whole new level, and is one of the shows this year to bring the genre to the forefront. A slice-of-life show generally seems like any other show but with less tension and more focus on relaxation and enjoyment than making/releasing tension. Flying Witch is the same- except one episode contains only two full scenes. Despite how boring that might sound, Flying Witch may just have achieved what it set out to do: de-stress us.
Episode one meets the teenage protagonist, Makoto, as she arrives in a sleepy town to stay with family members, as a professional witch. The minimal soundtrack, minimal action and minimal everything immediately sets up the tone of the show. We’re introduced to the conversational dialogue, which demonstrates the little quirks of each character. Makoto’s key trait is that she’s bad with directions, a small gag which is played upon in the coming episodes. It gives a sense of continuity to a show that is mostly at a standstill. The ‘little sister’ character is refreshingly easygoing. Makoto’s male cousin is self-absorbed but not in a conceited way. All of them are so normal, and it’s easy to get swept up in their cute little family setup.
Slice of life can be a hard genre to love, simply because there isn’t a plot and so it’s difficult to keep viewers interested. The trick is to make the protagonist’s daily life interesting enough on its own. We’re kept with Makoto as she learns new things about the countryside- as small as learning how to cook herbs they find on the side of a road. We also follow as she teaches the non-magical folk all about witchcraft, often in a hilariously mistimed manner. The gags and jokes are what keep the show moving. But, if it’s not your particular brand of humour, you’ll be bored to death. This anime relies on tickling just the right funny bone, and if it doesn’t hit you, it doesn’t hit you. It’s a problem that plagues the genre, but it might be a worthwhile sacrifice for Flying Witch. It may be a big problem, but the genre is popular in spite of it.
So, is it worth watching this season? Now that the Spring 2016 shows have finished airing, you can go ahead and binge them instead of having to wait a whole week for every episode. Even if it’s not on your must-watch list, if you like slice-of-life, give it a go. Heck, give it a go even if you don’t normally go for it. It might make you laugh enough to carry on watching. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress or Boku no hero academia may have caught viewers’ attentions more with their swift action, but in between the nail-bitingly tense episodes, it’s nice to stick in a slice of Makoto’s life. She’s a peaceful, quirky witch who gives her show a fresh, Studio Ghibli- like feel. While almost nothing significant happens in the first three episodes, we’re coming to learn that we must appreciate the small things in Flying Witch.