Chise Hatori, 15 years old. Lost, without hope, and without family, she is bought for money – not by another person, but by a non-human sorcerer named Elias. Though she hesitates, she begins life anew as his apprentice and future wife.
Having just blasted through The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star, I thought I owed it to myself to jump straight into the full length anime and see where Chise’s story takes off as she spends her time living with the Ancient Magus Elias Ainsworth.
This anime is based on the source material of Kore Yamazaki’s highly-regarded manga of the same name that began publication back in Spring 2014.
The first thing you notice whilst watching The Ancient Magus’ Bride is the stunning visuals. Wit Studio’s efforts in these areas in the past, with projects such as Attack on Titan in their detailed characters, background art and animation quality has been top notice. And what they’ve done here is keep the fairy tale style as close to the source content as possible, focusing on the small details of character design – Elias’ skull, the hollowness of Chise’s eyes and the fey characters – and capitalised on this by delivering gloriously vivid full colour production. I was so impressed with the results. It’s something that’s not often captured by fantasy anime – an aesthetic that really pulls you in with an almost magical ability that’s akin to Ghibli. And on the occasion that Elias actually uses magic are just beautiful. These scenes are meant to look wondrous and sometimes, even sinister. When Elias hides from a human child for fear that she might ‘see’ him, the speed in which he turns into a shadow with glowing red eyes is unnerving.
Though the art is colourful and indulgent, the story is a rather melancholic one. Chise is a young girl that has lived her life as a victim of her circumstances, made an outcast by her friends and family to the point where she feels she has no value. She thinks so little of herself that she agrees to be sold at an auction just so she has a place that she can call home. Elias swoops in and offers salvation and is her guide in the otherworldly magical realm that he himself is a part of. To Chise, he is an odd mix of mentor, paternal figure, saviour and future husband (although at this point its unclear just how he intends to act on his designs of making Chise his bride), and he has an odd way of treating her, like an owner would an indulgent puppy, and with his decidedly inhuman appearance it all works together to create fantastical mystique rather than unnerving awkwardness. Together they are learning about one another’s lives and outlooks and building an interesting relationship – one that hopefully will benefit both parties.
Each episode so far has had its own rather fantastical focus. We see that fairies are not just beautiful but have their own game plans and machinations; we meet magical artificer Angelica and her familiar as they straddle the boundary of the human and magical worlds and a special encounter for Chise with an ancient dragon who is close to death evoke a range of emotions for the viewer whilst painting a big picture of how magical and the supernatural are still at the mercy of the circle of life. We also see the pair visit Ulthar, the city of cats, who are struck by a strange and great tragedy and Chise must purify the spirits that remain.
I was truly blown away by the first couple of episodes of The Ancient Magus’ Bride and before I knew it I was binge watching one episode after another. The pace is slightly on the slow side, but there’s so much to marvel at aesthetically that you need that extra time to absorb and appreciate it all. The storyline is powerful and different to the usual fare. I can see why this was one of the most anticipated anime of the Fall 2017 line-up.