Earwig and the Witch (アーヤと魔女 , Āya to Majo), also referred to as Aya and the Witch, is a 3D CG animated film directed by Goro Miyazaki, written by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. This is the first Studio Ghibli film released since "When Marnie Was There", and the first film since "The Wind Rises" to be produced solely by Toshio Suzuki. This is the first full-length 3D CG animated film produced by the studio.
It is based on the 2011 book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, whose novel "Howl's Moving Castle" was previously adapted by Ghibli as well. The original novel, "Aya and the Witch", is translated by Kaoruko Tanaka and published by Tokuma Shoten in 2012. This is the third film directed by Goro, after "Tales from Earthsea" and "From Up on Poppy Hill". The story revolves around Aya, a bright orphan who pits her wits against life in a mysterious new home and magic-wielding foster parents.
The film aired on NHK General Television from 7:30 - 8:52pm on December 30, 2020, and pre-released at the Lumière Festival, from October 10 to 18, 2020. All 26-episodes of "Ronja, the Robber's Daughter" was also broadcast in conjunction with the film's premiere on NHK.
A woman with thick, curly red hair is tailed by a yellow car with mechanical pinchers on the highway. She flees by motorcycle with a baby swaddled to her chest with a blanket. The baby peacefully chews on a tape titled "Earwig" in pen. The woman has magical capabilities, using a lock of her hair and turning it into worms to obscure the car's vision as she successfully gets away to St Morwald's Home for Children. The woman tells Earwig, the toddler, that she has to stay at St Morwald's now before leaving her on the doorstep.
Earwig's cries bring two women to retrieve her from outside, also picking up the blanket with a note attached to it. The note says "Got 12 other witches all chasing me. I'll be back for her when I've shook them off. It may take years. Her name is Earwig." The younger woman, Thelma, reading the note aloud ponders what the child's mother had done to anger the other witches in her coven. The elderly woman, holding Earwig, finds the idea of witches to be "rubbish" and dislikes the name Earwig. She is also Matron of the Home. She renames Earwig to Erica Wigg.
Years later the children of the home rush outside dressed as sheet ghosts. Erica sneaks off with a friend with a key to the bell tower. Her friend, a boy named Custard, is reluctant to join her sneaking into the building, but joins her as he is too afraid to wait outside. She taunts him with scary stories on the way to the roof, where they look at everything for miles. They spot a ship in the water, marveling at it and wishing they could be on it. Custard then asks if Erica has ever wanted a family or to be somewhere other than the Home. Erica shrugs it off and says not at all. She then adds that no one would want to choose her unless they were unusual. She finds a normal family to be worse, where at the Home, everyone does what she wants. She even goes on to recite the words told to her as a baby when initially dropped off at the home, that there is plenty of sunshine from the large windows and the shepherd's pie is really good. Custard does not share this outlook and seems to really want a family.
The next day, Matron comes rushing in alarmed after hearing the children were dressed as ghosts in the cemetery last night. Erica willingly takes the blame and says she held a farewell party to whoever may be chosen for adoption today. Matron forgives her and wonders aloud why Erica hasn't found a family yet, since she is so wonderful and sweet. Matron then surprises Erica with a sweater and Erica then carries Matron's bag for her. It's clear that Erica has Matron under her thumb. It appears Erica is the smartest one around and all the children look up to her for all kinds of help.
When it is time for couples to visit the children, they are all focused on the infants, ignoring the older children completely. Erica is clearly irritated by this and leaves. She explains to Custard that she is frustrated by how the adults look at the children like they are ornaments and not individual people. An unusually dressed couple arrives at the Home, both colorfully dressed with fine jewelry. They are there to meet the older children. The woman is stout with a disdainful look on her face while the man accompanying her is rather waif with pointed ears. He isn't even looking at the children, his eyes are untraceable through his glasses. When he notices Erica's eyes on him, he seems to grow taller and loom over her with a dangerous aura. Erica is the only one that sees this. When the Matron starts to introduce Erica, the woman turns to the man she calls Mandrake and asks what he thinks of Erica. He states she "should do" coldly and Erica outbursts with resistance that she wants to stay with Custard. Her say holds no value as she is forced to pack her belongings to go with the odd couple. While packing her things, she finds the cassette tape labeled "Earwig".
Erica is made to follow her new parents to their home, but they seem to care little about her at all, letting her nearly be hit by a car when crossing the sidewalk. She takes this as a challenge. Erica notices the large windows at their home and deems this as her being able to run away whenever she wants, but then the house gate locks magically behind her. When inside the house, Mandrake shuffles off stating he got the woman what she wanted and wishes to not be disturbed. The woman snatches Erica's bag and tosses it into Erica's new room. She turns to Erica and introduces her as Bella Yaga, a witch. She explains she chose Erica because she needs a hard worker and if Erica is lazy, she will be hurt. Erica merely smiles and says she will help as long as she is taught everything Bella knows about magic.
When entering the shop, Erica is met with the stench of the room. The place is covered with all kinds of sludge, filth and clutter. Bella tosses rat bones to Erica to grind to a powder. Bella warns Erica of the Mandrake, that he must never be disturbed. Despite being disgusted with her surroundings, Erica is eager to learn about the magic she is helping Bella with. Bella then notices her current recipe requires the help of a familiar and brings a black cat named Thomas over. The phone rings and Bella picks up, her tone switching to delight as she greets someone as Madame. She then begins to take an order for a spell down, one to get rid of a ballet lead. Erica takes this chance to skim through Bella's spell book, finding recipes for all sorts of things, such as one for winning a dog show. Erica then witnesses Bella cast a spell for the dog show.
As the night draws in to a close, they have dinner with the Mandrake. Bella insults the choice for dinner, angering the Mandrake, but Erica gleefully compliments it, which calms him down. As Erica gets ready for bed, she determines that if she can't get Bella to do as she wants, she will run away. Erica peers through the bathroom door to watch Bella enter a room, the door disappearing behind her. Erica then enters the room Bella was previously in, finding a grand library far too large to logically belong to the little cottage house. She approaches the Mandrake's study, reading his novel progress and insulting it when two small bat-winged creatures with red eyes begin pushing books to fall on her head. She rushes out of that room, choosing the door at the end of the hall to explore next. Yet another room with a putrid smell, she covers her nose to explore it. It is an entryway to a room of stone arches and columns. It is being used as the garage, holding the same yellow car that chased the red-haired woman when Erica was still a baby. Inside the car, Erica finds a stereo and album called Earwig, so she takes it. She finds that the front door is gone when she returns to the main hallway. Returning to her room, she learns her window is painted shut and cannot be opened. She settles for lying on her bed, comparing the cassette tape she has labeled Earwig and the record she found in the yellow car.
Erica learns the next morning that she is the only one that uses the bathroom, so tapes a picture of Matron and Custard to her mirror. Bella teaches Erica how to make breakfast and Erica asks Bella where she sleeps at night. Bella threatens her to mind her business and that if she doesn't she will be given worms. The day is spent sending Erica back and forth to collect things from the garden. Erica learns that the Mandrake guards all the entrances and exits of the house, as well as controls all the demons. She will now not only have to get Bella under her control, but the Mandrake as well if she wants freedom. Due to all the picking and washing Erica has done today, she figures Bella has no intention of teaching her magic. That night Erica finally listens to Earwig the first time, hanging out with Thomas and drawing.
The Mandrake has been watching Erica closely, so when the next night approaches and Erica is trying to draw him, his eyes peer through the wall. When Erica asks what it is, Thomas replies that it is actually the Mandrake since his den is on the other side of the wall. Thomas then offers to show Erica the spell she needs in the back of Bella's spellbook. It's a spell to protect the body from other magical effects. With Thomas' help and instruction, Erica prepares the spell together. When finished, Erica coats Thomas and herself in the concoction.
Morning, Bella and Erica get into a dispute while Mandrake reads the paper. The paper is slandering his efforts to become a writer. Erica is growing tired of being treated poorly, leading to another dispute between her and Bella in the shop. Bella goes cross-eyed with rage and lightly smacks Erica as a warning. Later the Mandrake surprises Erica with the shepherd's pie from the orphanage, saying it is one of his favorites. Bella heads out with her spells in colorful packages, demanding that Erica finishes her chores before she returns home. Erica settles for trying a spell where she gives Bella a literal set of extra hands. While she is working on this, the Mandrake gives Erica a tray of cookies and tea. They have a pleasant exchange, much to Thomas' surprise. She asks to read his work and he simply replies with a yes before leaving. Erica is forced to hide the doll of Bella when she returns home. All Erica needs to finish it is a lock of Bella's hair. Bella punishes Erica by saying she will only be getting bread and cheese for dinner.
The Mandrake has another display of kindness and has his demons give Erica a full plate for dinner along with a book of his writing. She finds his writing to be boring and calls it a waste. She then pokes a hole through the wall with a flathead screwdriver, where she spies on Mandrake playing the organ briefly. When she enters the bathroom the next day, she finds half the screw driver she drove through her wall to be poking in the bathroom. She is frustrated with not understanding magic and is determined to get back at Bella for this. So, to get Bella's hair, Erica pulls a few strands from the red hat she usually wears. Erica hides it in her medicine cabinet when she is ready to attach it to the doll. When breakfast comes and she is tasked with making fried bread, she deliberately ruins it. Bella nearly gets in trouble with Mandrake and Erica quips that if she was actually taught things, this wouldn't have happened.
While working, Erica asks for a bathroom break, taking the bit of Bella's hair and wrapping it around the doll she made. When she returns to the shop, she finds two small arms to be sprouting from Bella. Bella then threatens her with worms and casts her back to her room. The spell Erica casted to protect her and Thomas worked, so the worms merely pile on the floor. When Erica figures that if Bella sees the worms on the floor, she will learn that Erica has resisted punishment. So, she begins feeding them through the hole in the wall to what she forgets is actually the Mandrake's room. The wall is then pooling in lava, the Mandrake, covered in scales and smoke emerges from it. He is followed by an army of small demons, declaring that if it's worms Bella wants, it is worms she will get.
Bella confronts Erica about this and they are backed into the dresser by the Mandrake, triggering the stereo to begin playing Earwig. Erica shoves the stereo to Bella's chest and jumps into the lava wall, porting her to the old Earwig recording room. In there, Erica sees a photo of all the members of Earwig. She then realizes who the members are, seeing Bella and Mandrake. She is then placed into a flashback crowd, at an Earwig concert, she is focused on the one woman she doesn't recognize, a woman singing with red curly hair... the woman that escaped with her as a baby.
When Mandrake enters the room, he asks Erica about the worms and explains to her that they only wriggle into magical places and that music is the same. He assures Erica that it will never happen to her again and that she will be taught magic properly to prevent this from happening again. Erica then asks about Earwig and the red haired woman, even asking if she was his girlfriend. Mandrake starts by explaining the person Bella used to be, always talented at spells and extremely talented at drums. The red-haired woman left Earwig because she opposes witch's law, standing up against the 12 crones. Mandrake explains that when a witch leaves, there is a hole remaining in their place. Erica promises to not leave like that and to become a proper witch. Mandrake then ushers Erica to leave. Erica tries to beg Mandrake to let her go to school to be with her friend Custard. He states he will consider it. Erica notices in her room that the window is open for the first time. Erica returns to Bella in the shop, she hugs Bella and tells her how much she hopes to be a great witch like her one day. She then even asks if they could all go on a picnic someday.
Six months pass and Erica now has control over Bella and Mandrake. Her room has drastically changed to be filled with extravagant furniture. Her hair ties are now even bows. She is able to freely request food from Mandrake and helps him with his manuscripts. Even the demons obey her now. Only thing she can't seem to get her way with is getting Custard to visit her, as he is too scared of the Mandrake. When Custard does finally visit, the woman with red hair arrives and greets Erica by her original name, Earwig.
Earwig/ Aya/ Erica The Main character of Earwig and the Witch. She is an orphan dropped off at St Morwald's Home for Children by the lead singer of Earwig in flee of 12 witches. She grows up to be extremely clever to get whatever she wants. She is taken in by Two former members of Earwig, Bella and Mandrake.
Unnamed Woman with Red Hair/ Earwig's Mother Her name is never mentioned and her motives for leaving Earwig were never explained, but she is the one who dropped Erica off at the orphanage, leaving a note promising to eventually return for Erica.
Matron Head of St Morwald's Home for Children, the first to find Earwig and rename her as Erica. She adores Erica and gives her special treatment in comparison to the other children.
Custard Erica's best friend at the orphanage, he is extremely timid and loyal to her.
Thelma Works at the orphanage, presumably lives there and cares for the children.
Mandrake Ex pianist/ organ player of Earwig. It is eluded that he may not be human. He dislikes being disturbed, but is reserved and kind. After Earwig broke up, he focused on a career as a writer.
Bella Yaga Ex drummer of Earwig. She is stern and cold, very little love in her to give. She is an extremely talented witch and is tasked by Mandrake to teach Erica the ways of magic.
Thomas Bella Yaga's Familiar, he is a talking black cat.
Behind the Scenes
Directed by Goro Miyazaki and written by Keiko Niwa, the film was announced as the first full 3D CG animated Ghibli film and is scheduled for a television premiere on NHK in late 2020. On June 19, 2020, images from the film were revealed by Miyazaki. 
Producer Toshio Suzuki gave a statement regarding its release, "What will happen to the world after the Coronavirus? That is currently the greatest concern of many people. Even movies and television cannot avoid it. Is "Aya" a work that can be endured after the virus? Watching the rush, I thought about it many times. And I realized that the big feature of this work is the wisdom of Aya. With wisdom, you can survive any era. When I thought so, I was relieved. If "Pippi Longstocking" is the strongest girl in the world, "Aya" is the story of the smartest girl in the world. I hope it will be loved by many people. By the way, when I thought that Aya looked like someone, it was Goro, the director of this work. When I pointed out that, Goro was shy and angry." 
During the Ghibli "Not Big" exhibition held at the Aichi Arts Center in Nagoya, Goro Miyazaki gave a press conference on July 27, 2020 announcing his new film and why it was going to be in 3D CG, “I was the only one among the people of Ghibli who knew this method of creation, so I was able to move the project forward without consulting anyone. Hayao Miyazaki told me to go ahead, and producer Toshio Suzuki encouraged me by telling me that it seemed like a good idea. But after that, I was on my own. I was basically the only master on board. So I created the film with a young team and I didn't consult the old guard at all. It's a job that I want everyone to see now."
“Aya is a heroine profile that has not yet been portrayed in Ghibli. She is a strong little girl who does everything to live as she wishes. She is under overwhelming pressure and goes through many hardships while remaining positive."
During the press event, Gorô also unveiled new models and conceptual drawings of Ghibli Park, whose construction has recently started at the Aichi Expo Memorial Park, as well as a puppet installation inspired by his upcoming film.
It was aired by NHK on 30 December 2020. The film was originally scheduled set to premiere at the 2020 Cannes International Film Festival and during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan before the event was cancelled due to COVID-19. On June 3, 2020, Goro Miyazaki gave a statement regarding the nomination,
"Now, in our country, there are many adults and few children. Children nowadays will have a hard time because they have to deal with many adults with that small number. When I was thinking about that, I came across Aya. And I thought, "Well, should I do that!" What to do with Aya's troublesome adults? Please see "Aya and the Witch" for that. I hate it, I sincerely hope that our Aya will encourage children and encourage adults."
GKIDS acquired the North American distribution on July 7, 2020  On January 7, 2021, GKIDS announced that the movie would receive a limited theatrical release beginning on February 3, while the it would be added to HBO Max on February 5.
- "Studio Ghibli's latest work "Earwig and the Witch" will be broadcast on Wednesday, December 30th.", Ghibli
- "First look at Goro Miyazaki's Earwig and the Witch", Screen Daily.
- NHK Announcement for "Earwig and the Witch".
- "Earwig and the Witch" press conference covered by Buta Connection.
- "GKids acquires Earwig and the Witch", Deadline.
- Earwig and the Witch on Wikipedia