Anime Expo 2017
World Premiere of Ancient Magus Bride TV
by Lynzee Loveridge,
Anime News Network's coverage of Anime Expo 2017 is sponsored by Aniplex and Yen Press.
Studio Wit brought out the red carpet for the three episode premiere of its enchanting adaptation of Kore Yamazaki's The Ancient Magus' Bride. It isn't the studio's first foray into the hidden corners of Pagan England; the studio first created the three-part OAD, two episodes which have been released thus far, that focus on the unfortunate orphan Chise and the burden of her gift of sight. The two available episodes are available to watch on Crunchyroll, but aren't necessary viewing to appreciate the TV series proper.
Much like reading the manga series, watching The Ancient Magus' Bride is an experience. Its world of fae, grave-guarding Black Dogs, and magic-twisting alchemists are truly fantastical, but always feel grounded in a sense of reality. If you look at a tree just right, could it be the remains of ancient dragon? Is that circle of mushrooms at your feet a portal into a world unseen? Are the Winter winds whistling or is it the procession of Titania and her Unseelie Court? Like Chise, the world of The Ancient Magus' Bride imparts a sense of wonder on its audience that is too often lost in a permanently connected, technological world.
The Ancient Magus' Bride takes place in modern day, but its residents seemed unfazed by Elias, a creature that is not human nor fae who walks at an imposing height wearing a dark cloak. His most intimidating feature though is his exposed, animal-like skull that bares no expression. Two red eyes gleam out from its depths as he declares Chise, a magical well of unlimited energy, will become his magus apprentice when he purchases her for five million pounds from a black market auction house.
Chise immediately establishes herself as a 15-year-old girl who has seen beyond her years. Her gifts have meant perpetual isolation since she was a small child but Elias offers her freedom and, perhaps more importantly to her, a welcome home even if he resembles a demon.
The first three episodes bring out plenty of magical wonders to entice viewers, from the slightly ominous ariels that attempt to trick Chise into crossing over to the affectionate, cat-sized lizard that follows her home. Underneath that though, is series' core emotional themes and it's that which will resonate with viewers come October. Anyone that has ever grappled with deep-seated depression or suicidal thoughts will find Chise's disposition all too familiar. She's a girl who may not actively wish for death any longer, but isn't opposed to letting fate take its course at the expensive of her own life, be it sinking into an endlessly deep pool in Iceland or envying a departed dragon for finally meeting his peaceful end. Her resignation is the foil to what Elias hopes to teach her, and the audience can look forward to watching Chise grow in magical power an in turn, personal strength until she no longer thinks of herself as an unfortunate person.
Wit Studio brought out its very best talent to create the series' immersive world and its no small feat that the Attack on Titan crew were able to push out the first three episodes of a series slated for October by early July. Producer George Wada and director Norihiro Naganuma emphasized the extremes the animation staff went to pull off in the earlier panel, detailing how they worked day and night, surviving only energy bars and fans' smiles.
George Wada: Most of the members of Wit Studio just finished Attack on Titan and they're passed out right now. Now that it's over, they are going to be working very hard on the next title, Ancient Magus Bride so you all can enjoy it. We're going to relay your passion to Wit Studio, so all the employees remember all of you.
Norihiro Naganuma: Thank you for coming. I thank you all for the invitation and I'm very excited to tag along with Wada to see everyone enjoy the series' footage for the first time. I hope you all enjoy it. I'm going to whip all the staff that worked on Attack on Titan back to work!
How did Studio Wit end up working on Ancient Magus Bride?
Wada: The first reason is that Mag Garden is part of Production I.G group, so it's within the same production group. Personally, I wanted to get my hands on a fantasy series like Fullmetal Alchemist or Harry Potter. Also, Naganuma and I wanted to work together.
What have you worked on together before?
Wada: We may look like we don't like each other but we really do get along. We've even slept together in the same bed. Oh, not in that way! There's another title that I've worked on called Psycho-Pass. Naganuma was one of the partners that worked with the director of Psycho-Pass. He was working at the desk right night to him.
Naganuma: As a side note: the director of Psycho-Pass also worked on a yoga ball and I was too but I stopped, since I couldn't gain my balance to draw while sitting on it.
Wada: Seeing Naganuma's skill on the movie Blood-C: The Last Dark, I thought I really wanted to use that guy.
What's been your experience at Studio Wit so far, Naganuma?
Naganuma: It's a battlefield. Basically what you see on screen in Attack on Titan is what I see at Studio Wit. One comrade falls after another.
Wada: The default lunch of Studio Wit members is energy bars.
Naganuma: And they all magically revive after eating one and then go back to work. That's kinda the work environment so far.
Wada: The first thing we decided while creating the series is that we wanted the overseas fans to see it first. The concept of beauty is something that was stressed in the production of the show's world. We've decided to have the world premiere in the U.S. We wanted to make sure this concept of beauty would be appreciated worldwide. After the world premiere here is France and then it goes back to Japan. I'm looking forward to all your tweets to Japan bragging about seeing it first!
Anime is hugely popular outside of Japan. Why do you think it's so important for international fans to see shows first?
Wada: Studio Wit cherishes all our American fans. That's why we wanted you guys to see it first. The original manga the series is based on is already hugely popular in Japan. We want to see how many hearts we could move just with the ending without prior knowledge of the manga. I've memorized all of your faces, so I expect you all to be at the premiere tonight!
Having three episodes done ahead of October is impressive when episodes are sometimes done days or even hours before broadcast. How did Studio Wit pull this off?
Wada: One of the first promises we made to one another is that even though the anime is slated for October we wanted to premiere it here. That was one of the first things we decided, is that the first few episodes would be done by July. Naganuma accepted that after hearing it. But it was really a long,arduous process so, I'm happy we were able to complete it. The last minute finishing projects rumor is just a dream, really.
What kind of emotions or feelings are you trying to convey in this anime?
Naganuma: I feel that anyone watching the show should feel themselves what we wanted to do. The only thing I want you to do is spread the word about how enchanting the show is.
Wada: I believe this story is focused around the growth of Chise. I want all of you to think "I have to look after her and watch over her as she grows." And how beautiful the show's world is. We took a lot of effort to create beautiful backgrounds and music, so please look for that.
Naganuma: The backgrounds are by Yūsuke Takeda who worked on Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C.
Wada: I hope you all feel like Elias as you watch over Chise, and I expect to see 100 Elias cosplayers at the next AX. I hope to see all you guys next year at AX!
Will there be any anime original arcs in the adaptation?
Naganuma: There will be some concepts that are original to the anime.
How did you take Elias' design and keep it faithful while adapting it to animation?
Naganuma: You just gotta draw it, man. Yes, it's very difficult. Everyone made 3D clay models of Elias' head at their desk for reference. Takeda had the most clay models at his desk compared to everyone else.
Attack on Titan and Ancient Magus Bride are very different series. What differences are there between the production between the two series?
Naganuma: The production was basically the same. This series was more focused on beauty, so getting all the art in is much more time consuming.
Which characters do you relate with the most?
Naganuma: But, I like all of them...I personally feel in this series I have different favorite character with each episode That's part of what creates such a beautiful world view.
Wada: My favorite is Ruth in human form.
How does it feel for the studio to work on the OVA vs the anime series?
Naganuma: One big difference, in the OVAs I the world view as the strongest aspect. In the TV series, the stronger focus is building on the characters. You get a deeper understanding of the characters in the TV series.
How many episodes are done at this point and how many would you like to have done before the premiere?
Naganuma: Personally, I'd like to have the entire series done before the premiere but I'd kill everyone. I'm aiming for 12 episodes done if I don't kill my staff first.
How do you maintain such high quality control in Ancient Magus Bride?
Naganuma: You have to just keep drawing. I have to keep the motivation of the staff up so they maintain that caliber.
Wada: Good food and good sleep. They have to sleep, because they'll die otherwise. The best thing is the smiles of all the fans. So all the animators are sitting at their desk all day and all night, just imagine that. What saves them from depression is one positive comment from a fan. That's why are going to take all your positive aura and energy bars back to the studio.
How closely to you work the author of the manga and how much say does she have in the production?
Naganuma: We work pretty closely with the original of the manga.
What is your favorite creature in Ancient Magus Bride?
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