I am in love with this manga series. It is about Makoto, a trainee witch, who, just like Kiki in the Studio Ghibli movie Kiki’s Delivery Service, has reached the age at which she must go out into the world and start living independently. She moves to rural Aomori to live with her cousins Kei and Chinastu and their parents. She goes to school as normal, but the rest of her time is spent hanging out with her cousins and friend Nao, and working on her witchiness. She has a broom and she can fly, she has a small plot of land where she plans to grow crops and she has an older sister Akane, also a witch, who pops in occasionally to see how she’s doing and to offer up words of wisdom and new spells to try out.
None of that description captures the complete and utter loveliness of this story and the way it is told, however. The structure is episodic, each chapter a short story loosely connected to those preceding and following it, all told with gentle humour and a ridiculous amount of charm. And the artwork is sublime. It is so finely drawn that everyday details like the reflections in a roadway mirror, a view of rooftops and telegraph poles, or a crowd of Morning Glory in a hedgerow get as much loving attention as the adorable characters. This focus on surroundings and details draws attention to the importance of the natural world and the seasons to Makoto, and I kept flipping back just to kind of soak in the atmosphere.
I’m not a big manga reader. I’ve tried out a few, but the only other thing I’ve read through before now is Chobits by CLAMP, and that was a while ago. Recently however I kind of stumbled onto Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura while browsing (read: methodically scouring every shelf with hawk-like concentration in case something awesome was waiting for me to discover it) at my local book store. I bought volume one on a whim, thinking if I didn’t like it Thumbs might. I’m now on volume five, and volume six hasn’t been published yet. (Princess Jellyfish satisfies my desire for the cute and the occasionally absurd, and when I’m in a blue funk and can’t face reading – which happens – it’s an excellent medicine). Anyway, having enthused about Princess Jellyfish’s Tsukimi and company to those nearest and dearest to me, my other brother (we’ve all agreed that ‘in-law’ sounds mean, so I have a second mother and my other brother) bought volume one of Flying Witch for me for my birthday, (because family is awesome).
As soon as I’d finished volume one I ordered volume two online, and read that as soon as it arrived. Imagine my despair to discover that that’s all that has been published so far. Volumes three and four don’t come out until late September and late December respectively. I am not a head-of-the-queue/ riding-the-wave kind of person for many good reasons (1, I’m lazy; 2, I’m still catching up on all the stuff that was published before I was born in the mistaken belief that I can read everything SFF that has ever been written; 3, sometimes I can’t sustain my excitement about a thing … so many reasons), but the sensation I’m currently experiencing is perhaps the best reason why I don’t like to be in this position. It’s a kind of impatience-frustration-excitement-despair kind of feeling. I want to read more Flying Witch now. But I have to wait. And even when I’ve read the next instalment, I’ll still have to wait for the next one. I’m much more of a wait-until-everyone-else-is-done-then-discover-it kind of gal. That way I get the awesome thing all in one gulp, (and if there’s merchandise it tends to be cheaper – win!). Patrick Rothfuss and Jo Walton are the only other two authors that I watch, you know, the way a dog watches someone holding a ball: Write the thing. Are you going to write the thing? When will you write the thing? Now? Now? Now? *salivating*
Anyhow, if you love Studio Ghibli films, read this. Reading Flying Witch is like reading a Miyazaki movie. It’s gentle and beautiful, lingers on the incidental and the everyday, and has a similar humour that isn’t mean (nor is it based around boobs and panties, which is one of my biggest issues with manga – grrr); I’ve actually laughed out loud while reading this, and that doesn’t happen as much as I’d like. If I were to make a teaser-trailer-style list of all the things that are adorably-awesomely-wonderful about Flying Witch, it would go something like this: Makoto’s sense of direction, Kei’s sense of humour, Chinatsu, Uncle’s accent, pheasant-catching, Chito the cat, the Harbinger’s visit, Chinatsu, Akane and Kenny, Kei’s school bag, Nao’s good fortune, Inukai’s problem, Chinatsu *heart*, the candy spell, being wary of bears, and frogs … and did I mention Chinatsu yet?
And that’s only so far…
… Oh my goodness, waiting is so hard …