On the Danger of Flying Witch and Its Ilk

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Here is the article I promised on magic in anime, which will especially focus on Flying Witch.  My arguements proceed from several premises, developed from Catholic theology and my years reading fantasy fiction, which I shall list here:

  1. All occult magic–i.e. not the kind resorting to deception or sleight of hand–in the real world is evil.
  2. Magic in the real world is evil because it involves the diabolic.
  3. To encourage or to support magic or the occult is always wrong.
  4. In fiction, there can exist types of magic not associated with the diabolic because the rules of fictional world and settings are not those of the real world.
  5. The decision to approve or condemn a fictional work’s portrayal of magic depends upon its similarity to the occult and whether it presents the magic as positive or negative.

Reaction to Ostrich Ferns

From those five points, you can already see the writing on the wall for Flying Witch; so, let me start by giving two good examples of the presentation of magic in fiction.  The first example is the American animated movie The Swan Princess.  The villain Rothbart (excellently played by Jack Palance) is an evil sorcerer bent upon gaining the kingdom of Odette’s father by any means.  He uses magic in order to manipulate people and events toward his vile ends.  Here, it hardly matters that the magic is quite fantastic and unrelated to the occult.  If Rothbart’s magic were more closely related to the occult, it would have made for harder viewing no doubt, but Rothbart’s very villainy shows the wickedness of magic in itself.  This presentation in nowise distorts the viewer’s morality as to the nature of magic.

Can I Pet the Fox

I claim Slayers as the second example, because of how outlandish the magic is.  (Feel free to debate me on this choice.)  The words of the Dragon Slave spell are troubling when one pays attention to them, but you won’t find teenagers attempting to cast Dragon Slave except as play acting.  Most of the other magic, which relies upon saying a single word and drawing upon an inner font of magical power, is also obviously fantastic, not having any cognate to occult practices.

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So, what has Flying Witch done wrong?  Though set in the real world, it stands as a work of fiction, which does give it some leeway.  However, it mimics real life occult practices (spells with the pentagram, fortune telling, and magical items/potions) and lends them a favorable air.  It even lends a favorable air to the witches themselves by making them very attractive–contrast that to the bald Rothbart!  I am afraid that certain youths, not grounded in ethics and theology, might indeed be intrigued into entering the occult by this series–like Chinatsu, who swiftly moves from fear of magic to becoming an enthusiast for it.

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A similar phenomenon occurred following the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone.  Many young people were moved by the books to dabble in the occult.  Pursuant to a school project on the book, yours truly even read about famous wizards and sorcerers.  Thankfully, my research going far beyond the intended scope of the project led to an embarrassment which killed my desire to pursue occult history further.

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Young minds are terribly eager for new knowledge, even if this knowledge turns out to be the endarkening of the intellect–think of it as similar to advancing in the study of pornography.  No doubt, watching Flying Witch will produce no harm in those viewers with solid morals; but, it might have the unhappy effect of ruining the morality of certain youths in regard to magic.  The show itself seems to lack any notion of morality except for an all-encompassing “niceness.”  Christians ought to impress on everyone the understanding that all forms of fortune-telling, spells, seances, potions, the Ouija board, spiritualism, and all manifestations of the occult ought to be strictly forbidden.

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10 comments on “On the Danger of Flying Witch and Its Ilk

  1. For a Japanese viewer, I’m pretty sure that the Western occult practices come across as just funny foreign stuff, for the most part, whereas the fortunetelling would seem more serious. The traditional links of Shinto to various forms of divination and mediumistic practice make it such; and sure enough, the fortunetelling is taking place on the grounds of a pagan temple, in connection with a pagan festival.

    Also, although I was not happy with the cauldron junk, but it was the idea of bowing and clapping hands before entering the cafe that struck me as creepy. It was explicitly telling the viewer that the cafe was primarily a temple of worship, not an eatery.

    It’s a cute show in many ways, and I do like it. But you are right that it has problematic elements. I’m not sure what the heck is going on in the mangaka’s mind, because the collision of Western fantasy magic, Western occult, and Eastern religion is not a normal one.

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    • I agree about fortunetelling. Probably nothing make me more uncomfortable than the episode about that. The part with them clapping and bowing before entering the eatery struck me as odd, but I did not connect it to the fact that the eatery was also a temple of worship until you mentioned it.

      It is hard to tell what is going on in the mangaka’s mind. Is she promoting witchcraft? Or, does she think that having witches as the main characters promotes an aura of fantasy and wonder in the story? Sometimes, it does do the latter, but I am still concerned that this might create a positive image of witchcraft in the audience’s mind–particularly in younger viewers. There’s not enough information to tell whether anything nefarious is behind this presentation, and the show eschews making any moral judgments whatsoever.

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  2. GoodbyeNavi says:

    I would have to agree with @suburbanbanshee’s comment. Writing this with a Western point of view would of course lead to a different picture due to Catholicism and Western Christianity. However, as this is a series from an Eastern culture with different beliefs, I don’t think your argument quite stands for them. However, I will be honest in that I was only able to make it past one episode before deciding that it was not for me. It may create a positive image of witchcraft in the audience’s mind (young viewers) but which ones are you concerned about: Japanese or Western? I doubt this will affect their beliefs very much. And for Western views especially young ones, it is up to their parents to ensure that they are watching appropriate shows.

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    • Suburbanbanshee is on the mark: it is hard to determine the intentions of the author (in part, because the series never tackles moral topics) and those in the East view witchcraft and its associated practices differently. I may be too scrupulous on the subject. One need not be influenced to engage in witchcraft by Flying Witch, but that does presuppose the viewer has an aversion toward the occult already. I can certainly see a younger viewer daydreaming about the show and it’s delightful characters, deciding that there is nothing wrong with witchcraft, and perhaps being led astray by a friend with interests in the occult. In that regard, I am less worried about knowledgable Christians, and more worried about people who were not instructed about the evils of witchcraft.

      Yes, when it comes to what children watch, parents have the ultimate say. And, Flying Witch is far less subversive than Harry Potter, for example. Still, I wanted to note some problematic elements in the anime and to give potential viewers something extra to consider.

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  3. Samuru says:

    I have only watched 2 episodes and so far, it’s ok. I don’t see myself watching the whole thing though.

    In regards to the spiritual aspects, I 100% agree with you. In America, many times we think the supernatural is a fairy tale, fake, a hoax, or something funny/scary we watch in a movie. It’s basically seen as fiction. While in other countries, it’s not something to play with. Myself having seen and been around witchcraft, santeria (the worship of saints but not related to Catholicism, it’s a Caribbean religion, myself being Cuban) and seeing people delivered by God from witchcraft that they would do all their life, I know what it’s like.

    The supernatural is real, and yes, opening doors to this diabolical practice brings demonic activity, curses, and all the other terrible things that go along with it. The blessing from God is infinitely times greater than anything satan can give. I do not want nothing to do with him, so I put my trust in Christ and His supernatural power to live my life.

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    • Yeah, Flying Witch is a mediocre show, and many people like it for how relaxing the episodes are. But, it does not seem to say anything of value about human nature or morals or much of anything, which makes for a dull show–even if relaxing–and possibly dangerous, as I wrote about in the article.

      I had not heard of santeria. That religion seems very similar to voodoo. I do remember hearing reports years ago that the number of exorcisms happening around the world have increased. That increase likely has much to do with the fact that witchcraft, Satanism, the occult, and other diabolic practices are becoming more prevalent. So, I do think that it is a good idea to warn people against it.

      God’s blessing is indeed infinitely greater than anything Satan can promise, because God’s promises are real while the devil’s are mere illusions. The problem for human beings is that they often mistake the devil’s deceits for actual goods, simply because human beings are so ignorant and subject to concupiscence. But, by the grace of God and humility, Christians conquer all the devil’s lies.

      I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m part Cuban on my father’s side. We have a lot of relatives in Florida because of that. 🙂

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  4. YahariBento says:

    If a witch is flying in the sky near my town, will you believe there’re gigantic people who hurry and use “certain device” to take shot & share pic/video. Flying Witch tries to erase this cruel reality into calm reality. Even Makoto’s friend is calm later.

    If you already watched flying witch, do you watch it in another version or not?
    In Facebook, There’s “Flying Witch Petit” clip, short anime for promoting main series. So I watched.

    I watched this 2 minutes anime and maximum kawaii 3D punches sent me flying & knockout like that from this overwhelming power, their cuteness are too much for me. That’s why, after I recovered (from injury), I did anime review for respecting their level SS cuteness.

    If you want to explore, you can see Petit via post link in my username.

    warning: please prepare your body & soul before proceed it.

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  5. M. F. Sullivan says:

    I always find it so curious that the theologic mind focuses so exclusively on harmless and cheerfully cute depictions of magic of the type found in things like Harry Potter and The Flying Witch while excluding far more accurate depictions as shown in, say, The Master And Margarita or Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Shouldn’t you be far more offended or troubled by an anime which is more or less a thinly veiled instruction manual for the selling of one’s soul to the Devil?

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    • I understand what you’re saying: the author might have no desire to tempt its fans to practice witchcraft and is simply creating a cute and cheerful tale. But, the point I wished to make was that portraying magic as harmless is harmful. More people are practicing witches than ten years ago, and media portraying witchcraft as cool or acceptable have played a part in that.

      I have not read The Master and Margarita or watched Madoka, so I don’t feel confident in judging them. Both seem to contain a Faustian theme, which is fine–as long as the anime shows how evil it is to sell one’s soul to the devil.

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