Reviewed by: Joe
Released by: Manga Entertainment UK
Age Rating: 15
Region: 2 - UK
Volume 1 of 2
Length: 309 minutes
English 2.0 Stereo
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Magic and lore weave a breathtaking world in this tale based on the highly acclaimed manga. Suffering a tragic childhood, Chise Hatori has lost all hope for happiness until a mysterious mage named Elias takes interest in her aptitude for magic. To survive, she must learn to wield her powers while Elias must learn what it means to be human. Unaware of what lies ahead, he decides to make her his apprentice and his bride.
The Ancient Magus' Bride is the latest offering from Production I.G., released via Funimation and Manga Entertainment in the UK. When it first started streaming on Crunchyroll it immediately gained a lot of fans.
The show follows the adventures of Chise, a Japanese school girl who thinks she's seeing things and slowly going mad. It turns out that she has magical abilities that enable her to see spirits that are invisible to normal people.
Abandoned and down on her luck, she decides to sell herself at a secret magical auction. She's bought by Elias, a tall strange mage with an animal skull for a face and goat horns. Elias proclaims that he's buying Chise to be his apprentice. At the start it's not exactly clear what Elias is, but we know he's not human. They then move to Elias' house in the English countryside. Chise slowly learns about the world of magic, fairies, mages and alchemists, has small adventures and helps people out.
Production I.G have a reputation for high quality productions and The Ancient Magus' Bride is no exception. The show is very well animated with lots of detail thrown in to add to the atmosphere. They've clearly scouted real world locations in the London and the English countryside. If you're familiar with London you might recognise a few of the locations used, particularly around Spitalfields.
The original manga (and in turn the anime) draws a lot from European folk law, making it feel both inventive and unusual to see it with a Japanese interpretation. Elias seems to be modelled a goulish celtic spirit called Mari Lwyd.
The characters, including the supporting cast, are all fleshed out with interesting back stories that we slowly learn throughout the course of the show.
The dub is good. I'm not concerned that Elias and Chise sound American as they're not from the UK. However it is a bit jarring for fans in the UK when some of the other characters who you'd expect to sound English speak with formal American accents. It would have been nice if they could have found some English voice talent for the supporting cast, but wisely the dub has avoided the trap of Americans putting on fake English accents. If you're used to the sub, Elias sounds a bit too warm and friendly to start with, but you slowly adjust to the dub's interpretation of the character.
My only real criticism of the series it that sometimes it is quite casual about some dark themes. Chise is a victim of neglect, domestic abuse and she assumed she was suffering from mental illness when she was seeing yokai in Japan. Being sold into slavery means the power dynamic between Chise and Elias isn't exactly balanced. Throughout her life it's clear she's been mistreated and now that someone starts to be nice to her it feels as if it has an element of Stockholm Syndrome to it. We also know that Elias has the ability to remove memories meaning that he can easily manipulate Chise. The show does dance around it at times, while other times Elias is called out for this. Occasionally it flips into a comedic mode while it's getting dark and this can be a bit jarring. The characters go all Chibi and surprised.
With so much anime out there if you can overlook the really dark elements The Ancient Magus' Bride is a superb show. It's got an interesting settings, is well animated and the characters revealed in a way that makes them interesting. The show is well paced too, with some filler, but it's really used for character development. It creates a detailed fantasy world you can get sucked into. It's rare to find an anime show like this, it's not surprising it was a fan favourite when it started streaming.
Season 1 Part 1 also includes the excellent Those Awaiting a Star OVA, which forms a three episode story arch. This is hidden away under the extras menu on the blu-ray, while it should really have pride of place on the main menu. These episodes are just as good as the main story and I worry that they'll be overlooked as not everyone goes exploring the extras section on discs. The Those Awaiting a Star OVA episodes can be watched in any order accompany the TV episodes. It greatly expands on Chise's past and has a great standalone story arch too!
With so much anime available now, it's easy for shows to get hyped, while The Ancient Magus' Bride is a bit different, it's worth your time, watch it chances are you'll enjoy it.