Tomorrow the month of Wyrd and Wonder begins! I am stupidly excited about it and have even managed to book a couple of days off so I can attempt to keep up with all the awesome stuff that’s going on. I’m going to try my hand at the daily Instagram prompts, I’ve got some exciting stuff lined up to read and I am totally psyched for the group read-a-long of Jen Williams’ The Ninth Rain. My cloak is newly laundered, my pointy hat is freshly starched, and so as a gentle limbering up exercise I thought I’d dip back into the world of Flying Witch before the fun really starts …
A magical ring! Snow in July and rain indoors! What two cheeky cats will do for a pork cutlet lunch! It’s all going on in these next two volumes of Flying Witch and I’m loving it just as much as ever. It’s now summer – cue outdoor cooking and fishing trips down to the river – and while Nao tries to teach Chinatsu and Makoto how to skip stones, Kei gets a serious case of hiccups for which there’s only one cure: playing with cuddly toys! Makoto also gets her first paying job as a witch, and Chinatsu uses magic for the first time. We meet a new character, the serious upperclassman witch Sayo Kazuno, and several new magical creatures.
Everything I’ve said about this manga series up until now in my first and second posts still stands, the artwork is consistently beautiful and creator Ishizuka continues to choose interesting and unusual angles and points of view for her/his panels. The gentle humour is just lovely and running jokes are developing as the story continues, like Akira’s disorganised and bottomless bags (Mary-Poppins-style bags crack me up every time), Makoto’s lack of any sense of direction and Kei’s bear bell. And while it’s near impossible not to love everyone you meet within these pages, but Chinatsu has nevertheless managed to become my favourite because of her irrepressible enthusiasm and bounciness. She steals any scene she’s in.
As do Chito and Kenny, Makoto and Akane’s cat familiars. There’s an utterly gorgeous near-wordless Chito comedy at the beginning of volume 5 in which she chases a butterfly and learns that she can punch holes in the house’s paper shoji screens. The expression on her face as she looks between her paw and the first hole in the screen is priceless – I laughed so hard. Then she gets a starring role in the cuddly toy play Kei and Chinatsu act out to rescue Kei from eternal hiccups, and Chito and Kenny visit Makoto, Nao and Kei at school when they hear there’s pork cutlets for lunch. It’s all small stuff, and yet it’s ridiculously delightful.
Ishizuka’s skill lies in making the details of the everyday beautiful. Almost twice as many pages are dedicated to the repair of the shoji screens as to the funny way in which they were destroyed, but this is just as fascinating. It’s like reading an exercise in mindfulness. Or a celebration of slow living. While I love all the magical elements that find their way into the story, I would just as happily read this manga if the mundane was all it focused on. I’m aware that some of this fascination is due to it depicting a life that is very different from mine (traditional rural Japanese living being about as far away from my own experience as it’s possible to get), but I think that it’s also a tribute to Ishizuka’s talents as a storyteller.
And the magical details of this world are starting to accumulate into a coherent whole. The series is in no hurry to reveal all, but we learn some significant things about Makoto’s journey towards being a full-fledging witch in volumes 5 and 6. For example, there are the Nine Paths, and we learn that Makoto is most likely a Terra because she gardens and doesn’t mind digging about in the dirt, while her new friend Sayo is a Ventus and able to create wind (ha ha … I just made myself laugh – I know, I know, childish!). We also meet a young Rain Master, Yomogi, who’s an Aqua presumably. We encounter another Harbinger, the Harbinger of Summer, and learn a little about what he does to enable Summer to arrive. And we learn how a witch is chosen for a job, how she then accepts the work, and how she is paid for it afterwards. Oooooo, and then there are the Magical Items (A.K.A. MIs), like Akira’s music box that prevents witchy conversations from being overheard by non-witchy people, Chinatsu’s ring which enables her to squirt water from her finger *giggle* and Makoto’s newly acquired Visibility Ointment that allows her to see magically-camouflaged creatures; and there’s mana the “fuel” that is used whenever magic is performed.
I’ve also been impressed that even though the cast of characters just keeps on growing it’s never gotten confusing or overcrowded. There’s at least one new human character and one new magical creature per volume now, and yet they’re all intriguing enough to remain distinct from one another. The creatures, in particular, are just wonderful. I didn’t think anything could top the stone sky-whale from volume 3, but the puddle-supping manta ray in volume 5? Oh my goodness! All the hearts!! And the narunaru in volume 6 is awesome too, with its wicked turn of speed and penchant for worms. Adorable!!
So I’m going to keep posting about Flying Witch despite the fact that I’m soon going to run out of words for just how delightful I find it. I may even drown in exclamation marks, I don’t care. These posts are consistently my least popular ones from what I can tell, and I don’t care about that either. I defy you all not to pick up volume 1 of Flying Witch and not be captivated, charmed and, yes, delighted by what you see. This series is totally worth it and I will keep harping on about it until the end of time (or at least until I get distracted by something sparkly). I keep a box for things that are 100% joyful for those times when I get a bad case of the blues and need to be reminded about cake and rainbows and all that good stuff … and these books? They’re going in there.