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New Anime Review – The Ancient Magus’ Bride

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 1

Image: The cover of the first volume of the manga that inspired the anime. 

Anime by Mag Garden, Written by Kore Yamazuki and Aya Takaha, directed by Norihiro Naganuma.

Being big fans of anime, Arlys and I are always looking for new shows to watch. Though there are dozens of new series every season, very few are serious shows aimed at adults. Last summer we were surprised to hear that a new anime called The Ancient Magus’ Bride was premiering at theaters around the country, so of course we went.

The theatrical release consisted of the first three episodes of the series, plus a couple of other short works. We were favorably impressed, though the show was difficult to categorize. It had elements of romance, horror, comedy, and fantasy. Its closest western analog might be Beauty and the Beast, though certainly not the Disney version.

The leading characters are Chise (chee-say), a teenage Japanese girl (the Bride) and Elias, a mysterious manlike creature with a head like the skull of a long-horned antelope (the Magus.) Chise, abandoned and despairing after her mother’s suicide, sells herself into slavery and is bought by Elias, a centuries-old being who is seeking a protégé and bride. He brings her to his home in a small country town in present-day England. She is not a typical girl but a “sleigh beggy” imbued with magical powers she cannot control. This term actually refers to a leprechaun-like creature from the Isle of Man. Though the show takes its inspiration from European folklore, it warps these concepts in a typically Japanese way.

Elias is an interesting character. Human-like in every aspect but his face, he is a fae and a stranger to human emotion. He acquires Chise as an apprentice but soon finds that her presence fills a previously unknown need for companionship. Chise, too, begins with an emotional void left by her father’s disappearance and her mother’s death. Because her magic takes a severe toll on her health, she is fragile and doomed to die young. Elias hopes to extend her lifespan by teaching her to channel her powers and giving her charms to aid in their suppression.

Over the course of two seasons, Elias and Chise encounter mysterious phenomena and magical creatures including fairies, ghosts, dragons, and a cursed immortal sorcerer. These adventures keep the show interesting, but the pacing is rather slow for a modern anime. Much of the plot involves the couple’s awakening feelings for each other. The episodes differ greatly in tone. Some are lyrical and romantic, others grisly and suspenseful. Two episodes set in the Land of Dragons feature singing and dancing. Of course, the show employs anime tropes such as the characters appearing chibi (childishly cutesy) during angry or embarrassing moments. There’s also “fan service” in the form of scantily clad female fairies. The series even includes modern themes such as crime and drug abuse.

Although Arlys and I enjoyed the show, it’s difficult to classify and therefore difficult to rate. It bounces between schmaltz and horror though it’s not as graphically violent as some anime are. American audiences might be scandalized by the Chise being only fifteen years old, but there’s no hint of any physical relationship between the two. In addition to the monumental age gap, Elias is downright creepy at times. He’s existed so long he doesn’t remember his origin, and admits that in the past he “may have eaten people.” In other words, this is a very quirky show. Still, if you’re looking for something unique and interesting, and don’t mind a bit of romance in the mix, Magus’ Bride may fit the bill.

Image copyright Kore Yamazuki, source Seven Seas Adds The Ancient Magus’ Bride Supernatural MangaAnime News Network. Fair use for review.

 

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