Earwig and the Witch

Alt title: Aya to Majo

TV Special (1 ep x 85 min)
2.608 out of 5 from 194 votes
Rank #8,801
Earwig and the Witch

Growing up in an orphanage in the British countryside, Earwig has no idea that her mother had magical powers. Her life changes dramatically when a strange couple takes her in, and she is forced to live with a selfish witch. As the headstrong young girl sets out to uncover the secrets of her new guardians, she discovers a world of spells and potions, and a mysterious song that may be the key to finding the family she has always wanted.

Source: GKids

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Earwig and the Witch was a marvel of CGI animation technique, and while a sound contribution of a second-generation Studio Ghibli, it maintains all the charm of a Spirited Away.  Just another glimpse of Miyazaki magic. The storyline is presented in snatches of development, starting with the lead-up.  The scene is set up by a dramatic chase scene leading to a dropping off of a young child left at an English orphanage with nothing but a blanket and a cassette tape bearing the name 'Earwig.'  The offended matron shows disgust at the word and christens the baby Erika Wigg. Erika grows up and becomes the paragon of the manipulative and mischievous.  She plays up to the matron and the staff and in theory runs the orphanage.  That is until the coming Bella Yaga and Mandrake.  In spite of Erika's methods of getting rejected in moments like this (her goal is to stay with her best friend Custard), the ghastly pair choose Erika.  They walk to their nearby home (quite picturesque and modest) and there reveal that Yaga is a witch and Mandrake is ... scary.  Yaga only needs an assistant (aka slave) to help in all the incantations ordered by Yaga's customers;  Erika wishes to train as a witch.  Yaga laughs off the request and begins to make Erika's life miserable. It is in enduring the bizarre antics of homelife with witch and "warlock like entity with all the demonic powers at hand" (Mandrake is hard to define, but boy, his eyes pack a punch) that Erika learns of a strange connection between Yaga, Mandrake, and Erika's mother.  And hard-driven rock has everything to do with it.  Yaga hates music, but once was a credible drummer.  Mandrake loves music, as Erika discovers the demon-thingy rocking at the organ.  An inconsistency that Erika can use to wield some influence in a home where she can't easily manipulate anyone.  And, in the end, Erika meets the mysterious red-headed bombshell who just happens to be the woman motorcycle daredevil who left Erika at the orphanage.  A mother and child reunion? A fantastic puzzle that just falls into place as the closing theme gives you that moment to take it all in and say, "Wow!" The animation is nothing like what I have seen done by Studio Ghibli before, though I need to watch a few more of S.G. productions to make a fair assessment.   But man, the clarity and fullness were eye-opening!  The setting and room designs, with the suggestions of stench and slime … truly the Studio Ghibli stamp.   The facial expressions ... Erika's evil grimace, Mandrake's slow burn (aka, The Towering Inferno), Thomas' soft-spoken resignation, Yaga's wicked leer.  All these powerful examples of the movie's magic.  And, as there is a clear link to rock 'n roll, the opening and closing themes are crisp and lively. I had waited long for Earwig and the Witch to see what the next Miyazaki will do.  It's a good start as, while he pushes the technology, he honors the tradition of quaint stories told with zest.

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