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In Episode 2 of Flying Witch, this rather strange looking fellow appears and terrorizes poor Chinatsu at the door.

harbinger of spring

Makoto explains that he's the Harbinger of Spring, some kind of nature spirit who ushers out the winter and ushers in the spring, like a fairy.

he's the harbinger of spring he bids farewell to winter and brings about spring] he's like a fairy

He's the Harbinger of Spring. He's a splendid person who bids farewell to winter and brings about spring. He's like the fairy of spring.

The series takes place in the modern day and the witches and magic are very Western in style. However, the Harbinger's clothing looks like traditional Japanese clothing (almost ninja-like).

the harbinger at the door the harbinger's sandals

His mask sort of reminds me of a cross between the kodama from Princess Mononoke and the style of Jomon pottery:

kodama jomon pottery

So, at least within the series, it seems like the Harbinger is supposed to be a traditional Japanese spirit. Is it based on any similar real-life legend or is it completely a creation of the series?

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    I haven't gotten around to this show yet, but I'm like 99% sure that the spooky-looking fellow in the pictures is supposed to resemble a barn owl (a.k.a. the creepiest goddamn birds I've ever seen). In Japanese, the barn owl is named メンフクロウ men-fukurō, lit. "masked owl". Hence the mask. – senshin May 10 '16 at 6:16
  • @senshin Interesting, I definitely see the resemblance--he does look like what would happen if the person who made that Jomon sculpture made a barn owl mask. (Incidentally, I'm really enjoying the show. Definitely has an Aria/Studio Ghibli iyashikei sort of feel.) – Torisuda May 10 '16 at 6:41
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In the anime, the Harbinger of Spring is called 春の運び屋 haru no hakobiya (spoken around 07:50~07:55 on Crunchyroll).

While I don’t remember having heard this name or seen this appearance before, similar “spirits” exist in Japanese folklore. And animes like this usually portray one or two, e.g. Mushishi or Natsume’s Book of Friends.

I would consider the Harbinger of Spring a force or spirit of nature, and not necessarily a specific legendary being, even if it may appear as one, like in this anime.

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