Beauty In Tragedy: The Ancient Magus' Bride
Tragedy by its very definition, is an “event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.” In layman’s terms, it’s a something that happens to someone that haunts them, changes the way they view life and the way they live their life. Now, I’m a fan of tragic stories. Wait, no need to back away slowly, it’s not like that, I promise. I don’t like tragedies because I’m some sort of psychopath or sadist, and its not even that I like the tragedy itself. I like finding the positives, the silver linings that can be found from them. That is the case with today’s review of the first three episodes of The Ancient Magus Bride that I saw in theaters last week. You’ll have to forgive this review for being all over the place; nursing a migraine and writing isn’t fun.
The Ancient Magus Bride is a story about 15 year old Chise Hatori, haunted by the sight of her mother committing suicide (right in front of her), as well as the ability to draw magical creatures to her just by existing. However, her existence is something that she has grown tired of. Weighted down by the trauma of watching her mother die, and having various family members and peers treat her as nothing but a nuisance, a weird child who sees things that “aren’t there,” she sells herself into slavery. She’s then whisked away to England by a creeper who helps sell children, and is bought at an auction by a hermit named Ainsworth, who just happens to be one of the few remaining mages in the world.
He takes her on as his apprentice, and just to add a layer of weirdness, his fiancé. Why is this weird? Well, this is Chise:
And this is Ainsworth:
Physical appearances aside, Ainsworth is a bit odd when it comes to social interaction, oftentimes acting younger than he really is (which is centuries old I believe). This allows for some nice comedy, especially in regard to Chise’s reactions to his actions. The thing I like about their interactions is that they are very easy-going. With Chise’s dark past and troubled upbringing, it’s a wonder that she’s able to smile after everything that’s happened to her.
And even though it's tentatively and sparingly at first, Chise does smile again. Ainsworth makes it clear to her that he wants her to view his home as her own, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little emotional watching Chise try to come to terms with actually having a decent meal, or a bath or a room of her own. These small, simple pleasures most take for granted are things Chise thought she wouldn’t have the pleasure of experiencing again. Before Ainsworth bought her, and she’d resigned herself to being sold, there was a moment where she told the slaver that she wanted to be mentally prepared if some of the potential buyer were abusive. Just think about that, a fifteen year old not only resigning herself to a life of slavery, but was trying to prepare herself to suffer abuse! So, I think her skepticisms of Ainsworth’s intentions were warranted, even if Ainsworth wasn’t the monster he appeared to be.
Watching Chise learn more about the magical world she’s always seen but never truly understood was quite a treat, made better still by the breathtaking art and sound design. You would think the three episodes screened were a feature film rather than episodes of an upcoming anime adaptation with the visuals that were presented. Whether it was the city landscape, the home Ainsworth has invited Chise to live in, or the magic being performed, there are very few moments where what you’re seeing isn’t entrancing. It was quite an experience to see it on the big screen.
Apart from the stunning visuals and captivating sound design, the character design was interesting as well. Seeing Chise’s haggard appearance early on slowly but steadily change for the better was something that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I mean, she goes from being a hollow and resigned kid with little will to live to opening up bit by bit, allowing you to see flashes of the person she might have been if she hadn’t had experienced the trauma she had in her childhood.
Staying in line with the character designs, the magical creatures that are drawn to Chise included fantasy mainstays such as dragons and mischievous pixies (seriously the pixies in this brought a smile to my face only to turn around make my skin crawl a few moments later). But, there are some that I’ve never seen before, and I enjoyed witnessing all these new creatures fly, crawl and slither their way around Chise. There’s even a cute one that had the audience “awwwing” every time it showed up.
All in all, The Ancient Magus Bride was a great adaption and it has me looking forward to the continuation this fall. A tragic heroine who is slowly working her way through the murky, oppressive darkness of her past, trying to find a way to the light that can be found in life? That’s this show in a nutshell. Chise’s journey to finding a way to want to live again after giving up on life. You can’t help but want her to succeed, and when this is coupled with lighthearted and endearing moments between the characters, you get a show that has you smiling, tearing up and smiling all over again. October can’t come quickly enough.