!!! I HIGHLY recommend that you DO NOT watch this OVA before reading the manga or watching the anime (after it's completed). Doing so will probably leave you confused and discouraged to get into the series. !!!
One fairly common complaint I've seen is that this OVA doesn't explain much of what's even going on. It's not meant to. It's a prequel meant for those already familiar with the characters and the world to enjoy. Of course, there are many people who would enjoy the OVA without needing any background knowledge, but others, like myself, would have trouble appreciating many aspects of the story without some prior knowledge.
I watched the anime (14 episodes have been aired so far at the time of writing this) and read the manga before watching this, and I totally enjoyed it. I think people who were put off by this OVA should read through some chapters of the manga and watch through some episodes of the anime, hopefully getting more into the story, then revisit this OVA. It should become more apparent that this OVA wasn't meant for people unfamiliar with the story.
It's pretty amazing how magical this series actually feels. This OVA in particular gives of some strong Spirited Away vibes. Seriously, just watch it and see for yourself.
The OVA elaborates on some of the events in Chise's past that isn't in the manga. From my understanding, Kore Yamazaki still had a large role in the conception of this story. A very satisfying side story for fans of the series, though it can be just as captivating for first time viewers. I would understand if a first time viewer would find the premise of the OVA a bit cliche, so I'm still very much in favor of getting familiar the with source material first.
There were some parts of the story that did seem a bit confusing and silly even for me, but I won't go much into those because it might invite some spoilers.
The art style is distinct and definitely my type. The animation is fluid. Just like this anime, it gives off a wonderful Ghibli vibe.
The soundtrack aids the visuals in giving off a sense of wonder.
Chise is such a complicated yet still very likable character. (I absolutely love her but that just me). Her complexity is more apparent with familiarity of the source material of course. This OVA serves as thorough explanation for her behavior and beliefs in the series. Her development can be seen as too slow or stagnant by others, but seeing what she went through in this OVA can provide a deeper understanding of her motives and such.
I love this series! I only got into it less than two weeks ago, and I love it to the point where I'm willing to write a review on it.
If you're a fan of the manga, watch this OVA.
If you've never delved into the manga or anime but love fantasy and magical worlds, you might really enjoy this OVA anyway.