“Aya and the Witch” arrives exclusively on Netflix. Between respect for themes and break with studio Ghibli traditions, what is the new film by Gorō Miyazaki worth?
WHAT IS IT ABOUT ?
Aya grew up in a cozy orphanage since she was a baby and doesn’t know her mother had magical powers. Loved and pampered, the 10-year-old girl never wanted to leave her cocoon and her dear friend Custard. Mischievous, cunning, she leads her little world by the tip of her nose! When a strange couple comes to adopt her, Aya rebels and follows her new family backwards… But what can this mysterious Mandrake and this disturbing Bella Yaga be hiding? To the rhythm of the enchantments, an extraordinary adventure awaits the adorable shameless… because her pretended parents are none other than wizards!
DOES IT DESERVE A LOOK?
After several postponements due to the closing of theaters, it is finally on Netflix that Aya and the Witch arrives in France, the inevitably eagerly awaited new production from the Japanese studios Ghibli. This third feature film by Gorō Miyazaki, son of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.
One of the main themes ofAya and the witch is that of inheritance. Of course, there is this connection between little Aya and her desire to become a witch, without even knowing that her mother – whom she did not know – was herself a follower of black magic. But this same connection links Gorō Miyazaki and his illustrious father, since Aya and the witch is taken from a novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones, whose book Hayao Miyazaki had previously adapted The Castle of Hurle under the title of Howl’s Moving Castle.
In Aya and the witch, all the ingredients that have made Ghibli Studios so successful in the past seem to be in place: a mischievous and rebellious little girl goes through nonsense and wants to learn magic after being adopted by a witch and her demon husband. There is a lot of humor in this film, but surprisingly little emotion, the plot does not really exploit the orphan nature of its heroine except to occasionally evoke that she misses her best friend.
Insisting more on the joker side than nostalgic of Aya, the feature film surprises by completely eluding the character of the mother, although vague clues about her past and her relationship with the adoptive parents of the girl are nevertheless given to us. The main attraction of the film is of course its visual aspect. While it has happened in the past that Ghibli productions have used computer graphics techniques, never before has a studio film been produced entirely in CGI.
It is now done with Aya and the witch for a rendering which is certainly suitable from a technical point of view, but which no longer possesses that part of the magic which had made the originality of Ghibli films in the past. Sometimes convincing, sometimes frankly ugly, the animation of the feature film does not leave indifferent in any case.
There is a big debate among fans of Japanese animation as to whether or not Gorō Miyazaki is a worthy director of Ghibli Studios. While there is little doubt that he does not possess his father’s talent, Gorō demonstrates with Aya and the witch of a certain talent, but certainly incompatible with the very essence of Ghibli productions. His feature film has neither the poetry nor the depth of the works of Miyazaki father, and even testifies to significant deficiencies, both in its sense of narration and in its staging, often flat and agreed.