Mahou Tsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus Bride)

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Last night I saw a one-night showing of the first three episodes of Mahou Tsukai no Yome. After watching the first OVA on Crunchyroll a while back I fell in love with it and anxiously awaited the other OVAs (there’s 3 – 2 are released so far). I also realized this was based on a manga and so looked that up and started reading it. I’ll go over what I saw last night.

Hatori Chise is a Slay Vega (“Sleigh Beggy” in the movie, which could be an odd translation of Sleih Beggey, which is from the original Manx – Isle of Man – for “little people”), a rare being who has magical powers and those in the faerie realm are attracted to that power. Not all Slay Vegas can see (meaning visibly discern faeries and similar folk) but Chise can, which makes her even more rare. This ability makes her life even more miserable than it already was and she sells herself off to find some meaning in her life. An oddball powerful magus named Elias Ainsworth buys her at a magician’s auction and makes her his apprentice (and future bride). Chise learns about the magic world around her and how she may be the last generation to survive using magic now that contemporary society has pretty much ignored it ever existed.

Aside from the audio being terrible for the movie (too tinny and loud) I really enjoyed these first few episodes. They follow the manga really well so for those hoping for a good adaptation won’t be disappointed. The humor is dry at times so some moments not explicitly injected with chibis might be missed. That being said, chibi versions of Elias showing his blunders and embarrassments as he learns how to teach his new apprentice and understand her as a person are some of the best moments so far. Even though he’s chosen her for his bride, it’s clear he’s not even sure what it means to be married, which makes for much needed humor in a rather melancholic production.

The weight of Chise’s sad little life up to date is always present in her expressions so when any kindness is shown to her, it’s heart breaking because of her honest reactions. She’s cautious and always ready to be thrown out with the bathwater, but at the same time she loyally holds on to the tiny hope that she’ll be useful to someone and cared for like a regular person.  She does loosen up a little and even calls out Elias on his awkwardness, realizing she’s getting used to him just as much as he is to her.

Their dynamic is strange and even though the two are betrothed (sort of?) it feels more like a fatherly affection Elias has for her than romantic so far. He watches over her and even laughs as she stumbles along learning in the magical world, calling her a child. He is apparently older than time itself whereas she is around high school age (15? 16?), which might be awkward for some, but I’m interested in how their relationship may eventually turn romantic.

The rest of the cast are pretty one-note so far. There’s the hard-nosed sorcerer, Angelica, who is an old friend of Elias’s and uses her craft to produce magic. Angelica reminds me immensely of Izumi Curtis from FMA, who is harsh when necessary, a stern teacher, but very compassionate. There’s also Lindel, the caretakers of the dragons in Iceland. He is also ridiculously old but keeps a young appearance. He is more mischievous than Elias, but he seems to do so more for his entertainment than from any meanness. He is whimsical, but seems to take his job very seriously. Lastly, there’s Simon, a priest in the nearby village from where Elias lives. His job is to sort of “supervise” Elias’s actions and Elias taking on an apprentice apparently stirred a hornet’s nest with the church. Simon doesn’t seem too bothered by it, but he does diligently do his job.

No real antagonists show up, but Chise does does realize that not all the faeries are “good” either. In a way, this very much reminds me of shows like Natsume Yuujinchou and Mushishi where the yokai or magical beings aren’t inherently bad or good, they merely adhere to their own nature, which may or may not be good for humans.

Chise’s alienation to the world and people around her is also very much like Natsume Takashi, who was always trying to solve his own problems and not realizing he can ask for help. Chise doesn’t entirely try to solve her own problems yet because she’s not found the stable atmosphere to feel confident enough to even do that alone. She’s not found her Fugiwara’s yet or is uncertain if Elias and his magical household will accept her, but she does hold on to the tiny hope that maybe she can find a place to call home.

For those who like magical shows, especially those with a slightly dark, melancholic note running through them – this will be right up that alley. The show makes a distinct differentiation between magic, sorcery and witchcraft, with all three using different methods and means. In a way, it reminded me a lot of Fullmetal Alchemist in how alchemy has it’s own rules and laws, with the exception of the sorcerer’s stone. I personally love this show and the source material. It’s got just enough humor to keep the darkness vignetting around the edges of it and letting the serene moments of reflection about mortality and laws of nature grip the viewer. The full anime series for this will air in October.

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