I’m going to place a disclaimer here stating that I’m a massive softie and there is no shame in that...
So! The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a wonderful journey through the nature of humanity, love, and magic. Beautifully animated, with excellent scenery porn to salivate over in nearly every scene. You can tell this is an anime that has been made with love and truly nurtured into a work of animated art. I would even go so far as to compare this favourably to Studio Ghibli’s best offerings. Details are carefully placed, and there is a sense of realism to locations. As a frequent visitor to London it was my delight to recognise several pieces of scenery, which brought this entire series closer to my heart. My only quibble is the use of “Chibi Style” which feels unnecessary in a show that is quite happy to demonstrate just how good their animating skills are, particularly in the midst of heart warming scenes.
Not only has care been taken with the artistry of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, but the writing is serene in the handling of what are in fact very difficult subjects. This is a show featuring themes of suicide, self-hate, slave auctions, and violent death, and yet you never find yourself coming away feeling disturbed by an episode. It embraces these themes in such a way as to show you that whilst they are serious, such things need not destroy your life, and can mould you into a stronger person as a result. Much of this is demonstrated through Chise’s experiences of relationships and what it means to be accepted as a whole individual and not the identity associated with you. There is a gentleness expressed by all the characters that warms the heart of the viewer, and you can’t help but bond with the cast.
Very rarely do I make note of the quality of voice acting in an anime; my current point of pride is that I have come recognise perennial voice actors and their distinct tonal ranges, however I must give fulsome praise in particular to the voice of Elias. Ryouta Takeuchi does a brilliant job of filling a character that has little to no facial expression with an emotional range equal to that of the extremely expressive characters around him. Again the quality of this anime shines through in the attention to detail, and how this has been handled. Chise’s initial lack of emotional fortitude could render her a flat character, but she is given life through not only scripting but delivery. The rare glimmers of real emotion are highlighted and brought through by Tanezaki Atsumi doing sterling work, as expected from a seasoned voice actress.
All of the above contribute to a delightful anime, that draws you in and pulls you tenderly through its story, but what truly makes The Ancient Magus’ Bride a masterpiece is the music. There are times where you feel drawn so utterly into a scene by the gentle lilting notes echoing through. I may have cried at least once during the course of watching this series, and the music has played no small part in that. It is both uplifting and saddening all at once, which works well with the inherent core of the show, and it is totally magical in the encapsulation of complex emotions associated with the darker elements of the show. I will simply place a section of the OST here for you to listen through, and let you judge for yourself…
At the end of the day this is a supernatural show with a very human core. The relationship at the heart of the show between Elias and Chise is written in such a way that it doesn’t feel forced, despite Elias’ slightly odd enthusiasm for marrying a very young woman. This is lampshaded within the writing of the show, and yet at no point does it feel unnatural that these two souls hove found each other. Like any relationship there is fumbling, and awkwardness, and that slow realization that this might very well be what you were truly waiting for your whole life. There is magic in the power of not only loving, but allowing yourself to be loved, and it is something that so often is taken for granted. The Ancient Magus’ Bride seeks to bring back some of that wonder, and thoroughly achieves it. As Chise starts to see that not only is she accepted by Elias, but by more people she meets in this strange world she has been drawn into, we experience it with her and relearn the importance of what it means to have friends and family.
There is a confusion as to what order to watch the series in, at least on my part, as there are two animated releases from The Ancient Magus collection: “The Ancient Magus’ Bride”, and “The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star”. Those Awaiting a Star is both prequel and sequel in nature, introducing the whole Magus household straight away without pre-requisite or exposition, yet serves to explain why Chise has ended up in the state she is when we meet her in the very first episode of Ancient Magus’ Bride. Whether you choose to watch it before or after Ancient Magus Bride, I wholeheartedly recommend giving Those Awaiting a Star a watch as it is another demonstration of the care taken by the production team at Wit Studio, with spectacular visuals and outstanding music.
All in all I love this anime, and am hooked on the Crunchyroll release. It pulls at my heart strings in ways I hadn’t anticipated from a show I initially heard about simply because of the animation quality, and I am very glad to have watched it thus far. I will inevitably be very sad when it comes to an end, and find myself searching for something to fill the gap this will leave once it comes to a conclusion. One for those who may have forgotten the beauty of life, and that, yes, we can make it through our harder times to become stronger people with the help of those who care about and nurture us.