Over the past year I’ve seen announcements for The Ancient Magus’ Bride on several outlets, and on subscribing to Crunchyroll—which I highly recommend as it’s cheap and you get almost every series now airing—I kept noticing them mention The Ancient Magus’ Bride and limited screenings, which confused me as to whether this was a show or a film.
But then one weekend, a week ahead of the release of the first episode of the series, I saw The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star, the 3-episode OVA. I affected me in a way very few stories do, in both the tragic sense, as the character is but a child and the mistreatment of children, even in fiction, is one of the things that truly upsets me. But there is also so much wonder and hope and joy in the story to offset the sadness that in the end it left me smiling and wanting more of the story.
I wanted to know if Chise, the main character, found happiness or if at least things got better. From her point of view, and throughout the The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star, you get the feeling that things can’t get worse for her.
And then the series started, and I had my answer and so much more.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is simply gorgeous, not only in the beautiful animation, but the story and its characters and the accompanying music. Visually, it’s full of the vibrant colours of nature and since most of the story happens in the countryside, it helps draw you in. The animator’s clever use of shadows and light helps accentuate everything from Chise’s first calm morning in her new master’s house, the darkness hidden behind the fairies’ expression and words, and even the pure wonder of magic, represented by fireflies and other small motes of light.
The music is just as good with an arrangement of gentle melodies that perfectly match the casual walks through the English countryside the characters do over the course of these early episodes, with a few darker and more intense arrangements when the action picks up.
I adore the opening song and its acoustic guitar. It’s perfect.
As for the story, I don’t want to give much away, as the wonder of discovery and learning is key for this series. But here’s an overview:
Chise is a teenager whose mother killed herself in front of her. All her life, she’s felt worthless and she finally reaches a point where the sells herself. It’s not prostitution, she signs her life away and is put up for auction. This auction is, let’s say, special, with magical beings involved, because Chise is what’s known as a Sleigh Beggy, a term I’ll let you discover as it’s key.
As the auction takes place, the Ancient Magus in the title, Elias, the Thorn Mage, who’s not even remotely human, buys Chise and takes her to his home, to make her his new apprentice and eventually also his bride, as he wishes her to teach him how to become more human, how to empathise.
Though their meeting is but a business transaction, it change’s Chise’s life for the better, as Elias makes it certain for her that she’s not a mere product, but now part of his family, important to her.
The story then takes you through Chise’s training and new life, with Elias taking her on his errands, showing her the beauty and darkness of the world, the wonder of magic and sadness that many ancient things are vanishing, dying out. Their adventure in the Land of Dragons is particularly poignant, the sense of loss found there reflecting some of what she’s felt, but she also gets a clear sense of how wide the world is and how many wonderful things it hides.
And that’s what truly makes this series special. Every episode and story has a balance of light and dark, sadness, joy and wonder that not only keeps you hooked but also makes the experience emotionally intense every time. The story in the “Kingdom of Cats,” (you’ll know which one I mean) is especially intense.
It’s not often I experience a story that makes me laugh, makes me cry and sparks my imagination with potential stories and things to experience in a setting, but The Magus’ Bride has managed to do that with a short 3-episode OVA and what few episodes we have of the main series.
It is simply wonderful.