The Ancient Magus’ Bride – Ep. 1 (First Impressions)

I’d have to live under one massive rock to not recognize the hype surrounding The Ancient Magus’ Bride. There are certainly a handful of anime to look forward to in Fall 2017 (especially in regards to sequels) but there were some telling signs that The Ancient Magus’ Bride was going to be a big one. The manga is extremely popular, the Those Awaiting a Star prequel OVA got a lot of people’s attention (including mine), and reception to Crunchyroll’s advance screening of the first three episodes was very positive. The hype for The Ancient Magus’ Bride was simply unreal and right now, I’m inclined to agree that it was warranted.

I should probably clarify that I have yet to read the manga (though I do plan on checking it out in the near future) and my first exposure to this property was with Those Awaiting a Star. I personally really love that OVA, a visual and emotional delight from beginning to end and a somewhat rare example of anime-original content that actually works. Something that I really appreciate about the OVA (perhaps more so now that I’m watching the main story), is that it both invites you into this magical world and yet also does not give a whole lot away. We are given a look into Chise (Atsumi Tanezaki)’s troubled childhood, but it’s evident from the TV show, that we only witnessed a glimpse of it. Quite a lot of time has clearly passed since Chise’s visit to that library and despite the hope that was instilled in her at the time, her childhood didn’t seem to have improved all that much. I was quite shocked to see the girl ultimately offer herself up to slavery but considering the rejection she appears to have faced in life, I get her reasoning.

Strangely, the moment Chise is put up for auction is where she meets her future mentor (and fiancee?), Elias Ainsworth (Ryouta Takeuchi). Judging from the OVA, I was under the impression that Elias was a very gentle man who’s willing to listen to Chise’s past and troubles and I don’t think I was too far off. Though he does purchase Chise (for a lot of money might I add), Elias really doesn’t act like a slave owner, only playing the part in front of the people running the auction before destroying Chise’s shackles when he takes her to his house. He also refers to Chise as his “puppy” which does admittedly signify ownership but in a far more affectionate tone than, say, “servant” or “property”.

Elias does appear to have an agenda planned for Chise as he plans on making her his apprentice and eventually his bride.  And yet, the man also wants to earn Chise’s trust and cooperation first. He admits Chise is technically under contract to be his apprentice but lets her decide if that’s the path she wants to opt for. And when he lets Chise get whisked away by dangerous fairies to warn her about them and prove that he can track her down, he still apologizes to her and recognizes her safety as part of his duty. No doubt, Elias is a man far stranger in personality than appearance and I’m curious to learn more about him.

Naturally all of this is a huge adjustment for Chise. Even putting her apprenticeship and possible marriage aside, she simply was not expecting to receive proper clothes, full course meals, a bath, or even an actual bedroom. She probably expected her life to remain miserable and yet being bought by Elias is currently the most fortunate thing that’s happened to her. She’s understandably wary of her new master; it does seem a little too good to be true to be bought then immediately freed, apprenticed, and potentially engaged. Still, I like how she’s already growing to trust Elias; the part where Elias considers Chise “family” clearly got to her and isn’t like she has a compelling reason to run away. There’s bound to be some ups and downs but no doubt, the relationship between these two characters is a focal point in this story. And I’m looking forward to see how it’ll play out over the course of the next twenty-three episodes.

Other Thoughts:

  • I really was not expecting to see Elias’s head in chibi form but I found it to work well in the more humorous moments. It reminds me of Fullmetal Alchemist and how Hiromu Arakawa and studio Bones did a lot of chibi drawings for Alphonse Elric to better visually articulate how he’s feeling at the moment (since Alphonse is a walking set of armor). I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a similar effect intended with how Elias is occasionally drawn.
  • I didn’t realize there was a special term to classify Chise (a “Sleigh Beggy” according to Elias). I just thought Chise was simply a magus but apparently her ability to even see the magical creatures surrounding her is rare even among magi. I have the admire the OVA for keeping that detail hidden, especially since it’s largely told from the perspective of Chise as a child.
  • The visuals might have taken a slight downgrade from the OVA but good grief, it doesn’t seem like WIT plans on slouching at any point. I have to wonder if Attack on Titan Season 2 looked so cheap at times because a lot of WIT’s staff was busy working on this show instead (either that or Kabaneri).

OP: “Here” by JUNNA

This is simply terrific; a nice execution of still images and limited use of animation before unveiling a barrage of stunning glimpses into the show’s story. I also really love the fantasy vibes I’m getting from the instrumentals and JUNNA’s singing is great.

ED: “Wa -cycle-” by Hana Itoki

Thanks for reading!

The Ancient Magus’ Bride is officially available on Crunchyroll.

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