Flying Witch did for witches what Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid did for dragons: just had them be kinda there, going about their daily business instead of getting wrapped up in some sort of epic fantasy plot. Makoto, the protagonist of Flying Witch, is a young witch completing her training, but is she rollicking along on some sort of Harry Potter-ish adventure attending a haunted magic school and defeating evil incarnate? No, she’s just doing the gardening. Occasionally she unearths a howling mandrake and disturbs her friends and neighbors, but otherwise she lives a relatively conflict-free existence, sitting where she does in the place where the “supernatural” and “slice-of-life” genres meet. Which is, it turns out, pretty near the dreamy land of magical realism.
Spoilers for Flying Witch Episode 11 beyond!
Flying Witch is not a show you watch for conflict and action—it’s quite literally just the day-to-day goings on of a girl’s life in a rural town, including high school cooking classes, vegetable planting, and long conversations about the history of the pancake… oh, with the occasional bit of magic woven in. There’s no overarching plot, no tension, no mysteries or intrigue as we glimpse the magical world. The witches in this universe don’t have a statute of wizarding secrecy so much as just keep to themselves because they like it better that way, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the series’ casual tone and casual acceptance of magic. Apart from some initial shock when Mako floats on her broom for the first time (and some comedic reactions to the yelling plant), the existence of magic is basically accepted by the cast and by the story without anyone batting an eyelid.
I’ve always loved wingfic—that is to say, stories about people with wings—ever since I was very young, and so when someone recently recommended me a magical realism book about a girl born with wings, I immediately snatched it up from the library. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that despite the actual wingfic part of the book, the rest of the book wasn’t something I was particularly into. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton, tells a story about lust, love, and loss, but fell somewhat short when it came to making the book more than an exercise in good prose. Spoilers after the jump.
One of my very favorite genres is magical realism. I first discovered it when I was in college and my writing teacher informed me that my writing was more like magical realism than fantasy and encouraged me to write my thesis in the magical realism genre. Before this, I had never even heard of the genre, and I was extremely confused as to how it differed from fantasy. I remember at first being really defensive of my then-favorite genre, fantasy. In the world of literature, it has been my experience that academics tend to look down on sci-fi, fantasy, and horror as lesser genres that aren’t as complex as other genres in realistic fiction. Magical realism gets a lot more credit in the academic world because it isn’t as fanciful or escapist as fantasy. At first, I saw the attempt to push me toward magical realism as a dismissal of fantasy, but as I grew in my understanding of the genre I learned that they did very different but equally wonderful things.
But first, let me explain a little bit about the difference between magical realism and fantasy, as well as discuss some of my favorite examples of magical realism in storytelling today.
Let’s start at the beginning. Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block is a dystopian sci-fi story—which is actually quite light on the sci-fi and heavier on literary magical realism, in my opinion, but I’ll get to that in a minute. We follow a teenage girl, Pen, on her quest to find her family through the American Southwest, which has been devastated by a giant earthquake and tsunami. During the course of her journey, Pen picks up a rag-tag group of friends and they have to battle monsters and mesmerizers, which mimic the obstacles the hero had to face in Homer’s Odyssey. And the best part—all the kids are queer and have superpowers!
A small desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and the mundane is more awe-inspiring and wonderful than the magical horrors we see every day. Welcome to Night Vale.
Welcome back, viewers. It’s time for another Magical Mondays, and today I will be discussing how the magical surrealist nature of Welcome to Night Vale’s storytelling actually makes the mundane things that we experience every day seem more magical.