The Ancient Magus’ Bride – Mid Series Anime Review
Synopsis: Chise Hatori, 15 years old. Lost, without hope, and without family, she is bought for money – not by another person, but by a non-human sorcerer named Elias. Though she hesitates, she begins life anew as his apprentice and future wife. She moves on with her new and peaceful life, slowly but surely, until one day, when she finds a Japanese picture book among the many sent to her from London by Angelica. It is a fateful book that discovered her in her younger years, when she was still troubled and lonely. This piece is a prequel to Chise’s encounter with the Thorn Sorcerer. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Series (12 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
The Ancient Magus’ Bride holds the distinction as one of the few Fall anime not to see a significant dip in its art quality. While the series can’t maintain a near perfect standard like Land of the Lustrous (granted that’s a CGI based show) it holds up quite well otherwise. Magus’ Bride rarely sees significant dips in character art, features incredible background work, and a general atmosphere that makes its fantastical world always a pleasure to look at.
But the series suffers other issues. The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a slow build introduction not only to the world of the series, but also to its two main characters: Chise and Elias. Chise is a tormented girl, struggling with a depressing past that’s made her numb to the world around her. It largely involves childhood trauma with an unloving mother, seemingly caused by her ability to see magical creatures that other humans can’t. While the recovery of a character from their early trauma can be interesting, Magus’ Bride doesn’t always know how best to handle it. Rather than see gradual change in Chise over the course of these first twelve episodes, it only truly comes about at that twelve episode mark, with an episode more so dedicated to the evolution of her character. And that’s really a problem across the board, the show has a lot of trouble handling progression in a truly satisfying manner.
Another example is the questionable relationship between Elias and Chise. In the first episode Elias buys Chise, quite literally, off a black market auction. He tells her she is to become his Bride, although later we learn that maybe that isn’t quite what he means. But for a relationship that’s immediately a tad uncomfortable upon introduction, Magus’ Bride skirts the issue quite frequently. It’s something characters only sparingly address, that is, until the show itself decides it would like to talk about it. It makes for this weird sense of progression, where the show spins its wheels on certain, very clearly, important aspects to character dynamics, until it actually wants to do anything with them.
Elias, the othermain character, is a fun and interesting beast. The show does a good sense of conveying his awkward, doesn’t quite fit in with human social norms nature. And things really get interesting once we learn that not only is there a mystery for us as to who, or what, Elias is, but that even he doesn’t know. It takes a bit, but once we get to it it’s one of the few elements that pulls me in and entices me to keep watching week to week.
Because that’s another issue with The Ancient Magus’ Bride: the drive to watch. It’s a more laid back show, hence the slice of life tag. Magus’ Bride spends a lot of its screen time gradually dolling out information on the world, offering fantastical sights, and introducing more and more magical beings to pepper its landscape. All of that is fine, if done properly. The trouble is this laid back, introductory nature to the anime’s fantasy world butts heads with the more dramatic elements.
Peppered throughout the series are a couple more serious, darker narratives. One involving a village of cats and a tormented evil locked away. Another sees Chise and Elias meet a familiar spirit dogged by the series reoccurring villainous psychopath. At these times Ancient Magus’ Bride often continues with its introductory, magical beings randomly pop up, nature to the detriment of its story telling. Things can happen, without set up, that feel entirely convenient to our heroes, damaging the tension the series is building otherwise. Or characters who have a history with Elias show up and become central figures to the plot. It can feel so random, so sudden, and almost expects a level of familiarity with these new characters that its jarring and disruptive to the anime’s atmosphere.
Outside of those flaws however, The Ancient Magus’ Bride still has a lot to love. Chise is an engaging individual, one you actively root for her to come out of her shell. Elias is a great mystery, and his voice actor lends to the mysterious and intriguing presence. The dramatic tales are largely effective, even with the detractors I talk about above, as they’re so jarring, so sinister compared to the series more calming nature. The one final area that, maybe, makes those darker narratives not quite as powerful as they could be, would be their fleeting nature. They often center on characters of the week, but we never spend quite enough time with them to feel the true heartache the series is trying to present. It gets you to feel sad, but rarely makes you cry.
Still, Magus’ Bride soft slice of life nature is fun and calming in itself. It offers a beautiful, magical world to briefly suck you in and capture your attention. The series will continue to flirt with its dramatic side, as evidenced by a pretty heavy tease for shocking developments in Bride’s second half. That said, I don’t know that I find the series all that compelling to watch. While watching I’m generally captivated, enthralled and engaged, but rarely does that desire last past the credits. It’s a good series, but one whose detractors prevent it from being something I find myself actively seeking out.
Overall The Ancient Magus’ Bride has a lot to offer, and outside of its flaws is a generally well put together and presented series. It’s often times perfect for that crowd of anime fans that wants something laid back, calming and introduces them to an unfamiliar world. It’s dramatic stories are fewer and far between, but remain major highlights in these first twelve episodes. Despite my issues, I’d still say The Ancient Magus’ Bride is well worth a look in, and perhaps its stumblings won’t hold nearly as true for you as they did for me.