Here we are, Studio Ghibli’s first feature film in six years, and today, we’ll be going to review it! Earwig and the Witch is based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, tells a tale of a witch who left her child at St. Morwald’s Home for Children, later the child is 10 years old and with a new name “Erica Wigg” and has become very comfortable with staying at the orphanage and doesn’t want to leave, that is until an unusual couple comes in and adopts her against her wishes. She then learns that Bella Yaga and Mandrake aren’t what they don’t seem to be as Bella Yaga tells her that she is a witch and later learns that Mandrake is a Demon! Her life is about to change, as she begins to live under the house of the Mandrake.
“Not every orphan would love living at St. Morwald’s Home for Children, but Earwig does. She gets whatever she wants, whenever she wants it, and it’s been that way since she was dropped on the orphanage doorstep as a baby. But all that changes the day Bella Yaga and the Mandrake come to St. Morwald’s, disguised as foster parents. Earwig is whisked off to their mysterious house full of invisible rooms, potions, and spell books, with magic around every corner. Most children would run in terror from a house like that . . . but not Earwig. Using her own cleverness—with a lot of help from a talking cat—she decides to show the witch who’s boss.”
One thing I would like to point out before this review begins that this film was co-produced between Studio Ghibli, NHK, and NHK Enterprises; even though it recently premiered on HBO Max and opened in American Theaters, it first aired on NHK General on December 30th, 2020. Directed by Gorō Miyazaki, the son of Studio Ghibli Co-Founder Hayao Miyazaki, Gorō Miyazaki isn’t a stranger to the animation industry, 2006 he directed and was the screenwriter of Tales from Earthsea which was animated by Studio Ghibli; also served as the director of another Studio Ghibli film From Up on Poppy Hill but after that, he went onto other things, then later in a few years came to Earwig and the Witch but he was left on his own to make the Anime and didn’t consult the Elders at Studio Ghibli according to an interview he had with the Mainichi Shimbun.
The story’s premise is good, the screenplay was handled by Keiko Niwa and Emi Gunji, both have worked with Gorō Miyazaki on previous projects, and their dedication to the legacy of Ghibli’s rich history and knowledge of animation. My favorite scene would have to be when Erica realizes that the worms that were conjured are not regular worms, getting a first-hand look at how angry the Mandrake could get and how much he cared for Erica, even if he appeared cold at times. There was more to Bella Yaga and Mandrake than meets the eye, including how their fate was intertwined with each other, especially the mystery of Erica’s mother.
Next, I would like to discuss the animation used in this new film which has had fans disgruntled. You see, fans have grown accustomed to the beautiful hand-drawn animation that the Studio is known for, sometimes things change, companies and studios have to try something new and if it doesn’t work out then maybe its time to go back to what you’re known for; the 3DCG Animation may seem to lack the charm but I think that the screenplay helped carry the film through the tough moments of it such as the emotional impact in certain scenes. Be sure to keep an eye out when watching this film, it has quite a handful of easter eggs from previous films that fans will adore. The Film is available to stream currently on HBOMax.
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