Review for The Ancient Magus Bride - Part Two
You wouldn’t think it, but certain anime have an optimal viewing time. It’s something that I noticed when I watched the first part of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, a show with an engaging story, a fair bit of action, drama, and no little offbeat romance, but also a show that despite its twists and turns, its ups and downs, has an overall calm inducing effect, presenting a magical world that very much embraces the viewer. It’s something I had to be reminded of when I watched the first episode in this collection last thing at night. It’s a great episode, typical of the series, but I had to watch it again the following day, and thereafter it was first on my review pile, not last.
Someone signing a contract isn’t a rarity, but Chise Hatori is actually signing her life away. Once her name is on the dotted line, she’s fitted with an iron collar and a chain, and led to the auction block. She has reason enough to think her life is worthless, having been shunned all her life, but there’s a lot of interest in her during the auction. She’s worth something to someone, and more to the mysterious masked figure of Elias Ainsworth, who makes a grand entrance to make his new purchase.
It seems that Chise has lucked out and been bought by a considerate owner. Elias is a mage, an ancient practitioner of magic who has an animal skull where his head should be. Chise is a Sleigh Beggy, a rare and much coveted item in the magic world, but it also means that rather than being property, Chise has the innate power that will make her Elias’ ideal apprentice. But becoming a mage in a world where the mages are an endangered species might not be a good idea. And on top of that, Elias has plans to make Chise his bride.
The concluding twelve episodes of The Ancient Magus’ Bride are presented across 2 Blu-rays from Manga Entertainment as follows.
13. East, west, home’s best.
14. Looks breed love.
15. There is no place like home.
16. God’s mill grinds slow but sure.
17. Look before you leap.
18. Forgive and forget.
19. Any port in a storm.
20. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
21. Necessity has no law.
22. As you sow, so shall you reap.
23. Nothing seek, nothing find.
24. Live and let die.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc, of a Production IG animation. The image is clear and sharp, colours are strong and consistent, and the presentation is solid. Signs of compression and aliasing are absent, and digital banding is rare. This release certainly feels more consistent in this regard than the first part. Production IG deliver the goods when it comes to this fantasy animation, wonderfully detailed, rich with imagination, and taking a page from Studio Ghibli when it comes to realising these magical characters and creatures .It’s a fine animation almost done justice by this Blu-ray release.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Stereo Japanese with subtitles and signs locked during playback. When the discs are inserted, you’ll get a disclaimer mentioning that the songs remain in Japanese in both versions, as Funimation respects the creator’s original intent. The Japanese audio was fine for my purposes, the characters cast well, and the moments of action coming across robustly in the stereo format. The dialogue is clear throughout, and the subtitles are timed accurately and free of typos.
The discs present their content with animated menus. Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Funimation Now. Each episode in this half is followed by a translated English credit reel.
Episode 21 has a commentary from ADR Director Kyle Phillips, Skyler McIntosh (Stella), Tyler Carson (Simon Callum), and Josh Grelle (Joseph/Cartaphilus)
Disc 2 has The Ancient Magus’ Bride at Anime Expo 2018: Interview with George Wada and Norihiro Naganuma which lasts 10:24, and sees the show’s director and president of Studio Wit chatting.
Part 1 of The Ancient Magus’ Bride offered a hint as to what was yet to come. That hint turns out to be something of a red herring, as Part 2 goes in a different direction. But having said all that, Part 2 is good enough to make you want more Ancient Magus Bride to be made. In fact, in terms of delivering a complete experience for the series, giving you closure by the end of episode 24, Part 2 might actually be better than what I had been hoping for. It turns out that there is unfinished business with Joseph/Cartaphilus, the ‘villain’ of Part 1, and by bringing strife and conflict into Elias and Chise’s relationship, it makes the story far more immediate and emotionally effective. There are also some opportunities here to fill in some rather delightful back story, all of which makes The Ancient Magus’ Bride Part 2 even more satisfying than Part 1.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is still the delightful blend of fantasy and mythology, and the creators’ love for Britain really shows in every frame. Whether it’s the fairies or the various mythical creatures of folklore that are adapted to the story, or the research and thought gone into bringing across this vision of contemporary Britain with mystical overtones, there’s always something that holds the attention. You have battles between mages, sorcerers and dragons taking place against modern London’s skyline, but then again it’s the small things, things like the pattern on the upholstery of a train seat that causes a warm glow with its accuracy.
While there are storylines lingering from the first half that don’t get explored in this collection, there are also storylines that do get developed, and some get closure as well. But this half of the series also finds the time to introduce some new characters and set some new arcs in motion. Most notable is an even more ancient mage named Ashen Eye, who appears in the first episode on these discs. It’s clear he’s got an interest in the Sleigh Beggy, just like everyone else, and that he isn’t exactly enamoured of Elias. At first he appears like a trickster, certainly with the ordeal that he puts Chise through; dangerous and taxing, but one that ultimately gifts Chise with a new power. But as this collection unfolds, it becomes apparent that there is nothing at all benevolent about Ashen Eye.
There is closure here for the Joel/Leanne Sidhe story arc, and once again, Chise’s penchant to help the people that she cares about leads her into danger. The first half of the series was prone to indulging in flashbacks to explore some of its characters, and that aspect doesn’t change here. Elias’ maid Silky gets a look at her past, as does the antagonist, Joseph/Cartaphilus, but most emotionally satisfying is the look into Chise’s childhood, when her family was still together, and you get to see something of what her mother went through from her perspective, which proffers her character with a greater degree of sympathy.
Chise makes her first friend in this collection, a little girl named Stella who fell afoul of Ashen Eye’s trickery, when he granted her frustrated wish that her annoying little brother disappear. Chise helps her get her brother back, and gets a friend into the bargain, but this does mean that Elias encounters an unexpected emotion; jealousy, something which has unintended consequences towards the end of the series.
The concluding arc of the story commences when a couple of Lindel’s young dragons are abducted. Chise and Elias are asked to help recover them, and it all turns out to be part of Joseph/Cartaphilus’ scheme to undo his curse. This means ensuring that Chise falls under another curse on top of the one that she has already, and seeing Chise’s plight, Elias enlists Chise’s familiar Ruth to help her in any way possible, even if it means defying Chise’s wishes. Elias’ jealousy comes into play here, creating what seems to be an irreparable rift between the two. The narrative stakes are high when it comes to dealing with Joseph/Cartaphilus, and the emotional stakes are high when it comes to Elias and Chise.
You can’t really think of a better conclusion for this series, yet there is more than enough left to be told of this world, these stories to leave you hankering for more from The Ancient Magus’ Bride. If I do have a nit to pick, it’s a peevish one, a flaw that many would consider the show’s strength. The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a magical, ethereal piece, and it has a narrative which is more off-beat than other shows, it can be contemplative and subdued when you might expect brash and loudness, it can be subtle when other shows will be obvious, and it can be thought-provoking and ambiguous instead of dishing its story out on a plate. You need to work at the show a bit to get the most out of it. With a show this good, it’s not a chore, but it does mean that you can’t watch The Ancient Magus’ Bride on a whim, it’s not bubblegum, and it’s not background music. I had a two month gap between reviewing Parts 1 and 2, and I felt that gap. You really want to watch these episodes in relatively short order to appreciate this show at its best.