The Ancient Magus' Bride
by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Ancient Magus' Bride ?
The Ancient Magus' Bride's second cour kicks off with an ominous cold open, where Jouji Nakata's voice conjures up the disturbing images the last episode's preview left us with. As the camera slowly creeps up on Elias and Chise's house, we know bad things are coming their way thanks to deliberate spoilers making it clear that all that adorable woolly bug shearing is merely temporary. When a mysterious and distinctly non-human creature called Ashen Eye (speaking in Mr. Nakata's voice) shows up on their doorstep after sundown despite business being closed, evil might already be on the horizon. Though given this week's preview, it doesn't look like Chise's going to be a fox for long, and Ashen Eye may not be the ultimate bad guy.
Visually, the new OP is another clip show constructed from the events of the first cour. But where that teased events to come, creating some curiosity about the context in which these scenes would play out in (something I even grew fond of over time, after initial visual disappointment), it's now a mere recap. It doesn't help that You by May'n is far less musically interesting than JUNNA's Here. After the one-week break over New Year, hopes that the animation simply wasn't done on time are probably in vain.
Between the new OP and ED (Tsuki no Mō Hanbun, a pleasant duet by AIKI & AKINO from bless4), the episode can be divided into three parts. The first is about Chise wanting to talk to Elias but being unable to find the right moment, which arrives when she's attacked yet again, only to be rescued by Elias right before collapsing in his arms. This time it's not from overusing her magical circuits, but from the coldness of a snow bug. What a twist.
Apparently, the snow bug's coldness was the only way to get both of them to be honest with one another about such important things as Elias' own coldness in Chise's absence. It's less progress than getting there without such external interference would have been, but at least we do reach the episode's second and emotionally most important part. Elias' attempt to take away one potentially painful memory prompts Chise to share others with him, as well as her fears of abandonment. Apart from a very unmotivated cut away on cue with Chise's emphatic “I do need it” exclamation (where we see little of her beyond her butt, which doesn't contribute anything to the emotion), it's a great scene and the stuff I've been hoping to see more of.
Elias claims not to have human emotions, but his first instinct upon learning of a memory Chise holds that's not particularly flattering to him is to wipe it away. It's not an inhuman desire—he doesn't want her to be scared of him like other humans were, fearing she might turn her back on him. But robbing her of such a memory also robs her of the choice to stay with him nonetheless, weakening their bond instead of strengthening it. It's what an owner would do in disregard for his slave's feelings, not a teacher, companion, or a family member, and Chise's quick to make it clear she wants their relationship to be the latter.
The scene's aftermath offered a lot more to love. Elias being sad (even though he wouldn't know to call it that) that Lindel was the one to finish Chise's wand, rubbing his skull against Chise's face to show intimacy and affection like a cat (though some would say this behavior also means staking a claim), and most significantly, appearing happy and relieved that he now has a name for the weird coldness he felt when Chise was gone.
The everyday life of a mage in training that follows brings us past the events depicted in the OVAs, in case anyone was holding back on checking those out for fear of spoilers. Soonafter, the ancient magus and his bride are reminded that life's not all about lovely bonding. Thankfully, Chise isn't abandoned again, only turned into a fox. I still feel we have now reached a point in time where having these things happen to her (mostly followed by a rescue from Elias) should give way to her putting her considerable amount of magical prowess to more conscious use. After what's happened to her so far, Elias is acting far too surprised to see ancient creepy non-humans take an interest in using or harming her. But naivete comes with being a child, I guess.
Some technical questions remain. Chise's necklace seems to be able to show a different (true?) form of Elias' magical visitors. Has it always been able to do that? And where does she keep her wand? Is her bag just bigger on the inside? But if that's all we have left unanswered, we're off to a good start in Magus Bride's second cour.
The Ancient Magus' Bride is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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