At Anime Expo this year I had the opportunity to see the first 3 episodes of one of the most highly anticipated series of the year: The Ancient Magus Bride.
The series tells the story of a neglected slave named Hatori Chise who is bought at auction by a mysterious mage named Elias Ainsworth. Chise is a rare creature known as a “Sleigh Beggy”, who can manipulate and attract various spirits for good or for ill.
While Elias claims to have made her his apprentice and free her from slavery, the early scenes can definitely still ring of master and slave in a… different sense. Elias feels the need to strip and bathe her, as though she couldn’t figure out how to use a tub. Furthermore, when she’s invited out by the fairies to explore the forest Elias chastises her as a “helpless child”. Furthermore, he calls her a “puppy” and refers to the house as a “den”. Providing her with a “collar” etc. Yeah, you see where I’m going with this. By the time he reveals that he bought her to hopefully make her his bride, you kind of shrug and say “Yeah, figures.”
Still, if you can get over the pseudo-creepy dynamic at the start, the introduction of additional characters, particularly the no-nonsense Magus Craftswoman Angelica Burley, helps to temper a lot of the creep-factor that permeates the early scenes.
Angelica helps to expand more on the world that the Ancient Magus Bride occupies, distinguishing between the uses of science and magic. After presenting Chise with a stone to help draw out some of her skill, Chise reveals a tremendous and troubling power.
Following her outburst of magical energy, Chise awakens 2 days later back at Elias’ cabin. This is where we are introduced to the pastor/priest Simon, who will likely be tasked with officiating their wedding in the not too distant future.
After his introduction and some banter with Elias, Simon presents three tasks for the Mage to complete, while simultaneously letting him know he would have to “report to the brass” about his recent return to society. Having been silent for decades, Elias Ainsworth’s sudden interest in Chise, a Sleigh Beggy no less, has many influential individuals on edge.
It will be interesting to see how the church and the Magus’ future interactions play out, as England is a “land of ancient magic”, while also having to embrace science and the church simultaneously.
Shortly after departing on his first task with Chise, Elias watches as she’s snatched up by a dragon and flown away to The Last Land of the Dragons. There, she meets Lindel, a blonde-haired mage who heard of her unique powers from the fairies. Elias appears, having a banter-fillled chat with Lindel, while also trying to get to the bottom of a recent report regarding dragons being spotted outside of their restricted land.
Chise is placed in charge of the dragon hatchlings, essentially having one heck of a time babysitting the cast of Land Before Time. While she cares for them she meets an elder dragon known as “Uncle Nevin”.
During an extended discussion with Uncle Nevin, Chise reflects on the dinosaur’s impending death. Despite imploring her not to grieve for him, her sadness leads her memories back to her childhood. Glimpses of her mother seemingly flying out of a window, with her wishing for her own death. Nevin chastises her not to envy the dead. Feeling bad for having gone through her memories, Nevin makes it up to her by allowing her to go on a flight in his mind’s eye along with him. His last flight. Put into a dreamlike slumber, the ensuing scenes are breathtaking and emotional as it deftly balances a unique philosophy on death and rebirth.
First Impressions – Overall
I have to say that while I had my doubts in the opening 15 minutes or so of the episodes, by the end of episode 3 I was completely entranced with the world of The Ancient Magus Bride. I can see why there’s so much hype for the series, particularly with the emotive and visually entrancing finale of episode 3. In the Q&A that followed, the director promised that there would be even more fantastical scenes to come.
I, for one, am excited to see the wonder and magic of this world be revealed in all of its glory! In case you weren’t able to catch it, these episodes will be showing in theaters for a special one-day event on July 26th, nationwide. You can get those tickets here!