This Week in Anime
Who's the Best Boy in The Ancient Magus' Bride?
by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,
The Ancient Magus' Bride has introduced a new best friend or two to Chise's life. This week in anime, Nick and Steve discuss how her relationships with these magical boys (and girls) around her have developed.
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.
Steve, I need you to tell me.
Steve, I need you to tell me.
Who's a good boy?
Seriously, Ruth is a wonderful addition to the cast.
YES. He even carries Chise's shopping bags for her!
Also, Chise just needs more friends who aren't Elias. And who better than man's best friend? (who also happens to moonlight as a small mop-headed boy)
I didn't know I needed Anime Sirius Black in my life until he arrived, but here he is and he's beautiful. For real though, a lot's happened since we last talked Magus Bride and it's all eclipsed by the arrival of this adorable loyal overgrown puppy who loved his owner so much he became a fairy just to watch over her grave.
It's a big arc for a big dog, but it ends with Chise finally gaining a magic familiar, taking her one step further along in her journey to become a full-fledged mage.
On top of being heartwarming/heartbreaking, it's also the biggest turning point of the show so far. The first few magical adventures were our introduction to the cast and world, but with the arrival of Ruth we've also seen a pretty dramatic shift within Chise's character.
I can't even imagine the Chise from episode 1 standing like she's the heroine of her own Tamora Pierce book with her badass familiar ready to straight up murder a man.
Right? this girl who WILLINGLY sold herself into slavery now bristles with the determination to cut up a dude who's wandered the earth for millennia. She's still in way over her head, but she's filled with a vigor that would have been completely foreign to her in her pre-Elias life.
This scene is also important because Chise finally realizes she has the hots for a monster and she is into it.
Yeah, turns out she has more in common with a Tamora Pierce heroine than I thought given her affinity for uh...I believe the term is "problematic" taste in love interests.
Honestly, Elias being a grotesque thorny bone monster is the least problematic part of their relationship, but it's still a deliciously deviant component of the whole package.
Look Chise I like you a lot. All in all, you're a great leading lady. But I'm gonna have to stop to kinkshame you for a bit.
CHISE DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS MAN.
YOU'RE DOING GREAT.
YOU'RE DOING GREAT.
I mean, after all the hell I raised over Monster Girls, it'd be a pretty lame double standard not to stand firm against Monster Boys too.
Excuse me Elias is no Monster Boy, he is clearly a Monster Dad.
That said, basically every other aspect of how Chise and Elias' relationship has progressed has been fascinating to me, and outside of just devouring Kore Yamazaki's meticulously researched magical lore, their chemistry is easily my favorite part of AMB.
The last few episodes have been almost singularly concerned with interrogating their relationship and how both of them need to confront the unhealthy feelings that they've been hiding from each other and from themselves. It's a surprisingly emotionally intelligent turn for what might seem like a harlequin romance at first glance. Ancient Magus' Bride still has those trashy elements of course, and it leans into them when it's appropriate. But Kore Yamazaki is also clearly concerned with telling the story of a more complex relationship, and it's been wonderful to see that develop.
I especially like that it's been a gradual process. Part of why Chise takes a stand during her arc with Ruth is that her confidence has been building up through her interactions with other characters in the preceding stories. And the same is true of her confrontation with Elias in episode 9. Initially, Chise accepted the distance he kept between them because she saw herself as belonging to him. But now with the unconditional support of Ruth, the thoughtful attention of Amanda, and a warning against blind devotion from Mina's tragedy, she's starting to want a more equal relationship with him.
It's a subtly told character arc that manages to tiptoe around the romantic savior elements of the premise nicely. Elias opened the door for Chise to grow, but her journey has been about others helping her and—more importantly—Chise choosing to help others on her own.
Exactly! I think a lot of people bristle at the problematic nature of their relationship from the get-go, and that's fine because it's intentional. Their rapport really starts to shine when the cracks in their armor start to show, and Chise begins to love herself enough to confront the person closest to her. Elias' behavior isn't malicious, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt Chise.
And Elias is so dense that only Chise's newfound stalwartness can get through that thick skull.
Lindel sums up their relationship best
On that note, it's been pretty interesting seeing more of Elias' backstory in these latest episodes. There's still a lot of missing pieces to the bone man puzzle, but we do at least have new context for why Elias seems both sentimental toward and detached from humanity.
and also why he's looking at Chise like she's a snack
He's a weird outlier even in Magus Bride's world of magic—and that seems to keep him at a distance from even those closest to him. He adopts a name and customs, but he still doesn't really get humans on an intrinsic level. And it's implied that he's at least trying to change that by becoming Chise's mentor.
Despite his centuries of observing human nature, he's still just a big boney kid. But whatever he is and wherever he came from, something inside of him is melting, and Chise's the cause.
also MY heart is melting just thinking about that scene again because AHHHHHHHHH
Okay if I can take a moment to gush about the show's production. It's hard to really talk about music too much because, y'know, music is hard to describe in text. But I absolutely adore the soundtrack and the way it constantly crafts these gorgeous moments of fantasy that I rarely see in anime.
I know I gently ragged on the production in our previous AMB column, but I have to say that I've been very impressed with the show since then, and Lindel's song was the best scene so far imo. Beautiful, magical, and touching, it took the already-great source material and crafted a spectacular tableau of color and music.
There's also been some less audacious moments that still grabbed my attention. Like in episode 9 when Chise and Ruth set out to track down Elias after he leaves the house without saying a word.
It's a simple sequence, but one that both draws the eye and communicates Chise's anxious tension without ever showing her face.
the backgrounds are consistently lovely as well
not to mention some other places that have had, uhhh, added production values
Turns out Titania is roman for "water balloons".
Look, props to the animators for getting giant anime tiddy physics more right than usual (which is a low bar but still).
Overall I'm just really, really pleased with AMB as a whole. I was already enjoying it to begin with, but the latest episodes have pushed that into full-blown love to where I must purposefully contain myself so I don't drive our entire audience away from an 18-page dissertation on wand lore.
It's nice to hear that they've done their research! I'm far from an expert on magic or paganism, but even I can tell that a lot of thought has gone into AMB's worldbuilding. In a sense it's all just dressing for the core emotional story, but it's all so important for instilling that sense of wonderment that whisks me away every time I watch an episode. It scratches the same itch that Harry Potter and similar books did for me when I was younger. Except now there's a sexy scary bone daddy for me to thirst after, which is good.
I do have one minor complaint about the show though. Like look, usually I'm okay with characters making bad or questionable decisions. Fiction thrives on drama and it can be cathartic to see even our heroes do the wrong thing or make a mistake. But Chise. You have this big puppy right next to you and you don't ride on his back like he's your loyal steed?
COME ON, THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES.
Meanwhile, Elias seems wary of any kind of non-magical transportation methods, and I can only imagine why.
It is a shame Lindel doesn't have any pictures of teeny weeny Elias to show Chise like embarrassing baby photos. "And this was Eli when he was just a chihuahua skull! Wasn't he adorable?"
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