The Ancient Magus' Bride
Episodes 17-18

by Anne Lauenroth,

How would you rate episode 17 of
Ancient Magus' Bride ?

How would you rate episode 18 of
Ancient Magus' Bride ?

The Ancient Magus' Bride is good at using its side characters to reflect on and develop the central Chise-Elias relationship. With Alice and Renfred, we had the student-master aspect, Stella and Ethan's introduction provides Elias with a lesson on family bonds, and the following episode allows both our leads to struggle with feelings of jealousy in a relationship that's on the verge of sliding from mutual encouragement to dangerously codependent.

On the plus side, Ethan's abduction also provides Chise with the opportunity to save Elias (funnily enough from being trapped underwater, Chise's most dangerous element) instead of being saved herself, while inspiring a desperate little girl who now looks up to her. Good job, Chise! The relationship between the ancient magus and his bride has always been complex – part master and student, father and daughter, owner and slave, and possible future lovers. By the end of episode 18, we'll have added mother and son to that mix. But before Chise can sing her lullabies, things get a little creepy. When Elias casually possesses her to establish the contract with Stella and Chise didn't even blink, I was irritated. When he almost strangles her out of jealousy, things got more uncomfortable.

Stella and Ethan's reunion with her parents might be the happy ending Chise was hoping for. Nonetheless, watching a happiness she can never reclaim for herself stings. Contrary to Elias, Chise is able to recognize her feelings as envy and embrace the friendship she got out of being the girl's hero. Elias, on the other hand, is left behind in more than one way. It's fine and natural for kids like Angelica's daughter to be possessive, not wanting to share parents and friends. When they throw temper tantrums, they rarely end up choking the people who they think abandoned them. It doesn't help that Elias's fear of abandonment require less thorns and more tentacles.

Learning how to depend on others has made Chise stronger. Her attachment to Elias has already undergone a change from desperate dependency out of lack of options to enthusiastic conscious choice. But prolonged interaction with his human student/daughter/bride has made Elias dependent on Chise in ways he cannot understand, leading to a fit of destructive jealousy. His response to Chise gently rubbing her head against his skull as a sign of affection is to bite her shoulder so she can't go away.

The fact that Chise has to threaten her own life for Elias to let go after a failed attempt to reason with him isn't so much a missed opportunity for character development on Elias' side, but proof of how far Chise's left him behind. It's pure calculation on her part, of course – she has no intent to harm herself this time. Still, it's unfortunate to see a character who fought hard through depression and gained a sense of self-worth resort to such drastic measures. While uncomfortable, this is far from a sign of thoughtless writing. Their relationship, equal parts beautiful and disturbing, has always had the necessary nuance to stay relatable and honest in ways that these kinds of relationships rarely do. But if Elias doesn't hear the alarm bells ringing with urgency now, he might be truly left behind.

Chise, however, can now access and appreciate her happier childhood memories without immediately leading her back to the terrible moment when everything changed. Seeing her discover a new maternal side is a wonderful indication of the love her mother must have felt for her at some point. Still, someone taking advice from a 10-year old isn't exactly equipped to teach Elias Human Relationships 101 either.

Episode 17 suffered from some animation shortcomings affecting Ruth in particular, who looked and moved less impressively than usual. But Silky being so happy about his return that she patted him on the head more than made up for some clunky movement. Elias turning into a white-haired Chise to ward off Ethan's curiosity was another highlight, as is the teddy bear enabling Chise to capitalize on her unconscious magic spills, especially since compensation and remuneration are such key concepts in the world of magi and fae. Those crystal flowers will definitely come in handy, just as showing respect for the winter goddess already did.

After almost getting away with his status as a powerful troll who just wants to have some fun while enabling some character growth on the side, Ashen Eye crosses the line by apparently leading Joseph to Stella. Joseph, who tricked Matthew into madness, cut off Renfred's arm, turned Ruth's beloved Isabelle into a chimera, and has now kidnapped two of Lindel's dragon pups. The preview suggests a big magus-sorcerer-team-up to deal with the new and ancient threat. I just hope we'll be spared the sight of a Stella-dragon chimera.

Rating: B

The Ancient Magus' Bride is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Anne is a translator and fiction addict who writes about anime at Floating Words and on Twitter.


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