15-year-old Chise Hatori who has always been able to see much more of the world than a normal person, has settled into her life as the apprentice and possible “bride” to Elias Ainsworth, an English sorcerer with an animal skull for ahead (which I don’t think is ever explained in this OVA). In a shipment of study materials from one of Elias’ associates, Chise finds an old book called The Lonely Little Star, which evokes memories of her trouble youth from before she met Elias.
Back then, after her mother committed suicide, she didn’t know how to deal with the strange creatures she saw everywhere, making it difficult for her to interact with the mundane world. After fleeing into the forest from flying apparitions, she discovers a library maintained by the “magician of the forest”, where she finds solace for a time, along with the fateful storybook. The magician has his own circumstances to worry about however, which will change Chise’s perceptions of The Lonely Little Star.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star, is a three episode OVA and is essentially a side story that precedes the full-length anime produced by Kore Yamazaki. There’s no explanation as to why things are the way they are, which may confuse viewers that know nothing of Chise and Elias’ situation and are expected something along the lines of an introduction to the franchise. Luckily, there’s not a lot of reference to the main story, which only serves as a springboard to a short story centring on Chise’s childhood.
What stands out in this anime is the real sense of magic in the air. There are some scenes, particularly some of the ones in the library, that are truly breathtaking. The way they are portrayed is rather Ghibli-esque in their presentation with beautiful bright colours and stunning skies, lush greenery and detailed backgrounds. Even some of the scenes appear familiar to something out of Spirited Away, such as the fairies and pixies in Elias’ house, the furry creatures in the library and even the scary book-eating rats. There’s magical fantasy aspect but there’s something dark and sinister underlying everything. The animation is beautifully fluid and the character designs are strong and sharp – Wit Studio has really done a fantastic job here.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star is a story that shows Chise as a lost, despondent young girl struggling to understand who she is without anyone to guide her. Then she find a ray of light in all the terrifying things around her and begins to discover that her strange gift might not be as horrible as she has been made to think it is. This short prequel substantially fleshes out Chise’s backstory and is a strong complement to the anime series.