The world of The Ancient Magus' Bride is magical in ways we usually don't get from TV anime. This week, Nicholas and Steve explore what makes this series so uniquely captivating.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.
You can read our weekly coverage of The Ancient Magus' Bride here!
Steve, let me ask you a very important question. It's something that's been weighing on me for a while now.
It means a lot to me that you would trust me to answer this, so please go ahead.
So I need you to help me figure out. Why. The fuck. Everyone is so horny for this fucking bone man.
Look, all I know is that this scene, in which we see this big bone daddy's big fleshy tongue, gave me some new and exciting feelings that I'm all too willing to explore.
I mean I get it to a point. Some people in my generation got awoken by The Nightmare Before Christmas. But this dude's just a fursuit past its expiration date yet everyone's calling him daddy.
Hey, a few years back if you had asked me what i thought about being held by a tall strong man with an animal skull face, I would have not known how to respond. But we all grow and change, and this is where we find ourselves in 2017.
Furry is passe, boney is in.
Also it helps that The Ancient Magus' Bride is one of the best manga of the past few years.
I'm not familiar with the manga - though I've heard it talked up for ages. I've read some of the mangaka's other works but AMB was one I kind of just slept on until the anime started. And as an anime-only viewer, I can say one thing with certainty: Kore Yamazaki
is the biggest fucking nerd creator I've ever seen.
The buzz is deserved! And I'm glad the anime is turning more people on to Yamazaki's story and turning more people on to Bone Daddy. But totally agreed, she crafts the world of The Ancient Magus' Bride extraordinarily well, integrating all varieties of mythologies and creatures into a cohesive and enticingly magical realm. It's hands down one of the finest examples of low fantasy in recent fiction.
It definitely stands out among its peers. Anime's no stranger to magic and fantasy settings, but usually they take inspiration from contemporary fantasy settings, JRPGs, or occasionally western fantasy tales. Magus Bride, on the other hand, is based in a ton of old mythology, folklore, and even modern neo-paganism practices.
Yeah, save us from the surfeit of generic fantasy MMOs these bland teens keep getting trapped in. The last time I was this impressed with the depth from which an author pulled their sources, it was John Crowley's fantastic novel Little, Big (which also happens to deal with fairies being mischeivous little buggers).
It's really impressive world-building done with a really subtle hand. It crafts a world that feels as rich with history as it does with wonder. This isn't a world created just to give the main character or audience an adventure. It's one that's been around for ages beyond human comprehension, with facets nobody may ever really understand.
That's an astounding feat for 5 episodes of content so far.
And speaking as someone who's caught up with the manga, that will only continue to astound. I mean, Chise being called a Sleigh Beggy is one of the first things the story throws at you, and it's SUCH an obscure reference to old Celtic lore that most people thought it was a mistranslation.
Gotta say, my little nerd heart went doki doki when they dropped that term. It's ridiculous how many little tidbits of real-life folklore gets dropped with nary an explanation or discussion. The show even uses it for sly little character moments! Like in episode 2 when Angelica is giving Chise her magic starter kit. It includes an athame, and my inner edgy 12-year-old was thrilled at this.
But she also gives Chise a few extra trinkets after seeing her lose control of her powers earlier:
So fluorite, at least in most modern incarnations of stone magic lore, is assigned qualities meant to calm excess mental and emotional energy and ground a magic worker's focus to their given task.
and here i thought it was just a pretty stone
It's essentially Angelica winkingly giving Chise a hint that she needs to learn to rein herself in when training as a Magus. But it's something that passes over her head and the audience's, unless they know that particular bit of trivia.
Yeah, I had no idea it meant that! Now I'm somehow even more impressed by how big a nerd Kore Yamazaki is.
I busted out laughing when it happened because there's such a thing as being too subtle. But it's also impressive for how dedicated AMB is to making its world feel real and lived-in. People refer to events or concepts Chise has no clue about, that we never see expanded on, but it all serves as a gorgeous backdrop to her story.
Yes, because while the world-building is cause enough to praise The Ancient Magus' Bride, that's all done in service of its story and central relationship, which are nothing to sneeze at either.
I'll admit I was pretty iffy about the show starting out - beginning your story with human trafficking is, to put it politely, a bold first impression that's pretty rife with pitfalls and red flags.
Chise and Elias' relationship begins in one of the most problematic ways possible, and while I'm definitely all for that potential trashiness, it's the way their relationship develops that really makes the story stand out.
yanks slave chain
"Believe in yourself."
getting some mixed signals Mr. Skellington
As we learn more about Elias and Chise, it's striking how much they have in common. They're both outcasts who don't really know how they fit in with the rest of humanity, so it makes sense that they'd gravitate toward each other, even if it's not in the healthiest sense. (And for anybody concerned, this will continue to be addressed.)
Also Chise's just really into bone snouts, and honestly, who can blame her?
So you're saying Chise is a goth furry.
I'm saying, deep down, we ALL should accept the goth furry lurking inside ourselves.
ANYWAY. Despite the iffy start, the show has done wonders to assuage my fears so far. Especially given how far Chise has come in just 5 episodes. From dead-eyed and taciturn to actively fighting to help a stranger find peace in the afterlife. All without any big speeches or dramatic revelations. Her growth's a result of finding companionship and support from someone, opening up to the experiences of others and gaining a sense of belonging, however tenuous.
And some cute as hell talking cat friends, the cats are very important.
I'd feel better about myself too if I received counsel from the most glamorous cat in the world.
another important lesson: don't fuck with cats
Looks like somebody tried to rub the belly.
If I weren't already a cat person, I would become one after this week's episode purely out of self-preservation.
Anime has a lot of cats, but these are some Primo Grade A Wholewheat Organic No Filler Good Anime Cats
Props to those animators, because we've seen some jank-ass anime cats over the years.
Overall, I'm content with the anime's production. I do kinda wish it embellished the manga more and took more creative liberties with the direction. Like, the manga is beautifully drawn and exquisitely structured, so you can't really go wrong adhering to it. But I'm greedy, so a merely competent anime adaption just makes me want to see something a bit more inspired. I can't really complain tho! It's doing a fine job, and I'm glad it's introducing more people to the story.
And seeing these scenes in full color is a treat in itself.
I've seen that sentiment a fair bit, and to a point I get it - the show is polished and consistently competent, but it doesn't have the ostentatious or attention-grabbing visual direction we usually get with big, anticipated anime adaptations of beloved works. But at the same time, I find a lot of interesting details and choices in the show's more subdued style. In fact, a LOT of the direction seems to be motivated by focusing as much on Chise as possible - getting the audience into her headspace, introducing us to the world as she experiences it not just by sticking to her POV, but by framing the world by how she chooses to (not) interact with it.
That's a good point! And it's totally the kind of the thing where, if I hadn't read the manga first, I'd have no problem with the anime's style. Kore Yamazaki is just that good, lol.
Like one of my favorite moments is this inconsequential sequence in Episode 2, when Simon first shows up and starts grilling Elias for not being home when he said he would be.
We stay on that shot for the whole conversation. The two guys talking are cut off by the frame and while we hear them, what we see is Chise, hunched and avoiding eye contact and just not engaging at all until she's addressed. It's a tiny choice, but one that feels really well chosen for keeping us with her and presenting a tiny, mundane part of how she deals with people.
Absolutely! And Atsumi Tanezaki
's performance as Chise is also wonderfully subdued and evocative. Getting her character right was essential to making the anime work, and they nailed that.
And on the world-building front, the background art is consistently fantastic. Just a few shots can bring the greens of Iceland or the sleepy villages of the English countryside to life.
Pictured: Elias' brother probably
Actually sidenote: Elias' skull is apparently a DOG skull he glued ram horns onto. So not only is he a Hot Topic t-shirt waiting to happen, he's a tryhard one at that.
look, i'm not one to judge a man who can summon an entire briar patch with a swish of his robe
That does bring up the topic of Elias though - so far I've had a hard time getting a read on him.
Well, him not being human certainly doesn't help!
He's certainly a bit off-kilter - his idea of a honeymoon is running errands - but otherwise he's a lot of mystery wrapped up in a suit.
We'll learn more about him as the story progresses. For as much as he might balk at the accusation, he is trying to learn how to be human. He's just...really bad at it.
Here's a tip: don't dress like a Harry Potter OC my man.
NOT HOW THAT WORKS BRO, BUT NICE TRY
Chise, meanwhile, is still recovering from her self-loathing and isn't yet in the right place to stand up for herself and push back against Elias' strangeness. But I'm rooting for these dorks to continue to grow together and make each other better people/bone wizards.
I'm definitely interested in seeing more from these two. Chise's been well-established in these first episodes, and I buy her attachment to Elias so far, but if we're going to be building a romance out of this, (if we are...?) I need a little more meat to chew on with Mr. Bones.
Not gonna say anything, but BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. Bone Daddy licking is only the tip of the iceberg.
Well you horny skullfuckers out there can look forward to that I guess.
Whether you're into intricate fantasy worlds that hide just beyond the shadows of our own or romances involving horny talking dog skulls, The Ancient Magus' Bride is a delight for all audiences.
Meanwhile I, a man of taste, will be watching for more superb character writing, enthralling fantasy craft, and superb sound design.
and Nothing. Else.
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