Flying Witch Volume 1
Don’t be misled by comparisons to Sabrina the Teenage Witch — Flying Witch by Chihiro Ishizuka is more in the vein of Yotsuba&!, a comfortable exploration of everyday domestic life, with a country flavor and the occasional weirdness.
Makoto, accompanied by her cat Chito, has come to stay with her cousins Kei, a boy about her age, and Chinatsu, a younger girl. (The mother shows up later but isn’t particularly involved.) Makoto’s a witch — although that’s handled in odd ways. We once see her flying on a broom, so it’s not a mistake in identity or a metaphor. Yet we don’t see her do much of anything else supernatural, and when she does, it’s played for laughs, as when a friend doesn’t want a scary screaming plant.
Makoto talks about it a lot, though — even though she’s been told “we’re not supposed to talk about it.” She isn’t very good at hiding it, introducing herself as a witch to Kei’s friend. Now that Makoto is 15, she’s supposed to be out on her own in the world, but her parents sent her to the cousins to finish high school first, which is why she’s out in the country town.
Chinatsu and Makoto look very similar, with only slight differences in bangs and height. The characters are manga generic, with school uniforms and common appearances.
The chapters are lightweight, as Makoto tries to plant a garden or walk around the neighborhood. That’s difficult because her most prominent character trait so far is that she gets lost easily and has no sense of direction. These various bits and simple premises make for an easy, escapist read, although not a very memorable one.
My favorite chapter, for its oddness, is the one where the Harbinger of Spring arrives, who looks like a combination of the commedia dell’arte Harlequin and No-Face from Spirited Away. I like the idea of that moment, of the change of seasons, being personified as a reserved but thoughtful tall being.
The last chapter features the arrival of another witch, one who tells Makoto something I read as a blueprint for the series:
You haven’t done any serious magic since you left home, have you?
… don’t apologize! Being a witch isn’t just about using magic…. I think you should just learn and wield spells at your own pace.
Still, your magic can get dull if you don’t use it. So keep it up, even if it’s just the basics.
A back page promises that readers will meet more witches in volume two, out this summer. I’d like to see them. The relaxed pace and quiet moments of Flying Witch would make for a great vacation read.