One of the fall’s most anticipated new shows was this adaptation of Kore Yamazaki’s manga. It had seen some OVA releases in 2016 and made its world premiere at Anime Expo, with fans getting to see the first 3 episodes of the new series. It also had a brief theatrical run in the summer. Needless to say the marketing arms of various companies have been all-in on Wit Studio’s latest anime adaptation, and who can blame them after the most recent season of Attack on Titan. A worst case scenario of The Ancient Magus’ Bride is we get a visual feast every week. Fortunately, this anime brings much more to the table.
At a slaver’s auction the lonely and isolated Chise Hatori is purchased by mage Elias Ainsworth. However, Ainsworth makes Chise his apprentice instead. The first episode of the anime sets the stage very well for what’s to come, introducing Chise and the viewer to this mysterious world of magic. She is a Sleigh Beggy, a term given to those who magnetically attract magical creatures. As the world’s number of magi is in decline, Chise’s importance to Ainsworth is established almost immediately. However, this first episode ends with a brief conflict as Chise discovers the duality of magic, how it can be good or bad but inherently is neither. At its conclusion, Ainsworth informs Chise he wishes to also make her his bride.
From here the early episodes have followed Chise and Ainsworth as she develops a further understanding of magic. A powerful message pushed throughout has been the simple nature of the magical world. It is a realm of waning prominence, as humans overtake magi in the world. But for many, such as Ainsworth, they have just been quietly living their own independent existence. Chise starts off as the viewer’s eyes, as she begins to discover Ainsworth’s world. However, soon enough we have the chance to start seeing and understanding events through Ainsworth’s eyes as well as a growing cast of supporting characters.
The question of slavery in this series can be difficult. From the very start it is about a young girl being purchased by an older mage. And one of the early scenes features him yanking her chain. However, in many ways The Ancient Magus’ Bride has gone out of its way to subtly show us these are just two people playing a hand they have been dealt. Chise has been isolated from the human world for as long as she can remember. Ainsworth is accustomed to living in a silo, detached from everything around him. What can be described as his social ineptitude leads him to at times be dominant over Chise, and then immediately after function as the stable support she has been lacking throughout her life. It is an interesting dynamic that fortunately has been handled with dignity.
The biggest strength of The Ancient Magus’ Bride has been its writing. Each episode has given us glimpses at our main characters as well as turning more pages over regarding the diminishing role of magic in this world. We slowly start to see Chise’s own ability with magic, making us question if it is something that can be fully contained once it reaches maturity. We also see Ainsworth’s emotional stiltedness, and question if he is fully capable of being a powerful column of support for Chise.
The early episodes have built us up. They are not overbearing on music or bombastic scenes, instead giving us a chance to see the characters before we reach our first genuine conflict. Even the first few moments of suspense are hastily resolved. It’s a beautiful show that is not afraid to let us just sit there and take in everything in the background and foreground. I have high hopes The Ancient Magus’ Bride will live up to the anticipation set by its acclaimed manga.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is currently being simulcast on Crunchyroll.