After building us up for this moment over twenty-one emotional episodes, The Ancient Magus' Bride has finally delivered a breathtaking climax to Chise's long and difficult journey. This week in anime, Nick and Steve discuss their reactions to this game-changing turn of events.
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Y'know Steve, I was just thinking it's been a good long while since we checked in on The Ancient Magus' Bride. Seems like it's about time to see how Chise and Elias and Ruth are doi--
NO IT'S NOT OKAY
So uh, shit's gone down since last time huh.
a Bit, yes
Seems like just yesterday Chise was crafting her wand and dancing with naiads, and Elias was covertly killing a messenger bird trying to take Chise away from him...
...in hindsight maybe this shouldn't have been such a surprise.
Everything feels like it's been building up to this confrontation between Chise and Elias. I mean, I suppose when your relationship starts out by one party purchasing the other, there are bound to be some snags along the way. But I really applaud The Ancient Magus' Bride for taking the time to set up all its pieces so that the situation we find ourselves in now feels like a natural conclusion and not overwrought drama.
Well I mean, I hope it's not
a conclusion, but these kids have some shit to work through for sure.
I suppose we should rewind a bit. It has
been a good dozen episodes since last time
, and a lot of good things did happen before everything went to hell.
For instance, that time Chise went all Wild Magic
for a bit and was a bear.
Right, and Chise finally taught Elias what feelings are.
The first feeling he learned was Petty Brooding.
This is part of what sells their relationship for me, fraught as it may be. They both have a lot to learn from each other, and that they must learn from each other lest their situation completely disintegrate.
It's a complicated situation to be sure. The end of the first cour
saw Chise achieving a (tragically destructive) modicum of self-worth just in time for Elias to realize he's grown to care about her and doesn't want her to leave him. So when Chise starts developing friendships outside their little Faerie Home Companion arrangement, he discovers the joy of possessiveness!
As the show often points out, Elias is just a little kid in a big bony (and sometimes goopy) body. He's a person, so he obviously HAS feelings. He just never learned how to name them or process them, and we've finally started seeing what happens when these emotions run out of control. Turns out it's pretty bad! I mean, emotions mess with us even we know what they are and what's causing them. So naturally it's even worse for this bonehead.
some examples of this are more amusing than others
It's interesting how that starts to affect their relationship dynamic. Initially Chise was the dour, quiet child where Elias was the guiding parent, but as Chise gains more power and becomes more self-assured, she has to start coddling him like a big emotional baby. Ruth even says they're like mother and son by the end of Elias' little tentacle monster hissy fit.
Right! And while Chise has certainly been improving, she's still not what you'd call a bastion of emotional intelligence, so much of their budding relationship has been the blind leading the blind. They've both been filling a codependent emotional powder keg since day one.
It doesn't help that while Chise's no longer filled with self-loathing before all else, her new sense of proactivity mostly comes from a desire to be useful to others, regardless of her own well-being. In many ways, she's just transferred her desire to be helpful to Elias to being helpful to the world at large, which leads to some real (excuse the pun) boneheaded impulsive decisions.
And this is where the show's been the strongest for me. Both directly confronting Chise's self-hatred AND the self-destructive tendencies that stem from it. Because while she finally recognizes her issues, that instinct to self-sabotage is still insidious and difficult to part with. Even as she becomes more accepting of her right to exist, her tendency to put the needs of others before her own is only noble to a point, but unhealthy in the extreme.
And Elias, as frustratingly dense as he can be, nails this observation.
It also leads to one of my favorite lines in the whole show. Right after Chise finds out about her terminal dragon cancer, she tries to play it off as just being par for the course. But it's clear to everyone involved that this is bluster. For the first time in the show, Chise is genuinely frightened by the prospect of death.
It's just fascinating to see how much she's changed from where she started, and it all comes in this messy whirlpool of emotions right before everything fucking explodes.
She's come a long way from selling herself into slavery, for sure. Which at least she got a lot of money for? I'm not quite sure how that works, but good for her?
I guess she did technically sell herself, so it's only fair she gets a cut. Finder's fee and all that. But all this leads up to the show's big turning point. Chise admits to Elias that she doesn't want to die, and they vow to find a way together to save her.
TOGETHER being the operative word that Elias immediately ignores.
Yep. Maybe if Elias had seen that whole flashback about Matthew at the start of the show, things would have been different. But much like the cat murderer, he decides that he needs to take matters into his own hands. Turns out Elias is only averse to self-sacrifice. The regular old kind of sacrifice is totally cool.
Especially if the sacrifice happens to be the new friend who Elias thinks threatened to separate them before.
you said it, Chise
And this is where things really hit a point of no return. Before now, while Chise and Elias' relationship was plainly unhealthy, you could still argue that both meant well in their own way. But here we see Elias' disregard for human life on display at its most petty.
He sounds monstrous (because he totally is in this situation), but it makes sense given his juvenile understanding of how emotions work. That still doesn't excuse his actions, and Chise doesn't.
Turns out she has a mean right hook.
Elias is lucky she's not a southpaw.
But even setting aside the attempt at literal human sacrifice, Elias chose to act against Chise's wishes behind her back, which is a huge red flag in any relationship. Neither of them have been particularly great about speaking their minds when they should, but Elias is being legit manipulative at this point, and he deserves to be punished for it.
To the show's credit, Elias isn't given an out this time. There's no excuse or misunderstanding to get him out of being culpable like we might see in a lesser story. His actions are totally understandable from his perspective, but they're still fucked-up enough that Chise rightfully refuses to forgive him.
She's 100% in the right, and this is ideally where she'd run off and find support in her friends. But an awful confluence of circumstances and choices lands her in the care of another awful monster instead.
In any other series, this breakup would be the big show-stopping moment. Yet AMB manages to follow this whole conflict up with - for my money - the most emotionally devastating episode in its whole run.
It just so happens that, for English speakers, the most recently published 8th volume of the manga ends on Chise escaping with Josef. So for the first time watching this show, I had no idea what to expect going into this episode. And to put it bluntly, GEEZ.
DID NOT EXPECT A CLOCKWORK CHISE
This is more 1984-style eye horror, I think. And god damn was that hard to watch, even if it did cut to black. Just the sound was unsettling. But yes, Josef, the ever lovable rapscallion, decides to swap his curse with Chise's. So she gets his immortality and he gets to die of her dragon cancer, I guess.
It remains to be seen how all this will shake out, and I'm sure Josef is gonna regret underestimating Chise, but the meat of this episode takes us inside Chise's psyche as she finally confronts her memories of her mother directly. The result is a powerful, and powerfully nuanced, treatise on accepting trauma and moving forward with life despite it.
It really is a powerhouse of carefully considered and articulated emotions. Chise relives her memories of her father's disappearance and her mother struggling to keep things together and protect her daughter. And it details the spiral of anxiety and fear that led to that indelible image of her choking the life out of her own child.
It's extraordinarily heavy subject material, and I'm still astounded at how smartly it was handled. We see that Chise's mother loved her. She wasn't the cold villain we might have initially thought her to be; she was a victim in her own right. But while the story sufficiently explains how she ended up choking her own daughter, it doesn't excuse her for doing so. No matter how much she regretted it, her mother's actions and refusal to accept their consequences ended up harming Chise in so many ways.
And Chise, bolstered by all the support and love she's gotten from many people throughout the show, is finally able to dismantle the image of a looming monster that's defined her memories of her mom. Now she can see her for the messy and fragile human she was. She admits that even now she can't forgive her, but she can at least have a more nuanced relationship with her own trauma. It's an absolutely gorgeous moment.
Maybe she'll never forgive her mother. And she has the right to make that choice. But what matters is that her mother's choices aren't going to define Chise anymore. She's not going to forget her trauma, but she's going to move on and carve her own path in life. It's beautiful.
And then she follows it up by choking out Josef. THERE'S A NEW CHISE IN TOWN, MOTHERFUCKER.
And that's more or less where we're left right now. There's so much still to resolve, so I honestly don't know if they can cover it all before the end, but I can't wait to find out.
I'm really intrigued to see how Chise is going to help Josef because, beefy dragon arm and evil immortal eyeball aside, Chise still has a heart of gold, so she's going to try and help even her enemies. I just have to trust that she finally recognizes the need to take care of herself too. Also she needs to survive so she can give Elias the chewing-out of a lifetime.
I'm of two minds on where I want the series to go. While I want Chise and Elias both grow from all this, I'm also intrigued by how willing the show has been to confront toxic behavior throughout, and I would honestly be interested in seeing an ending where they're apart, at least temporarily.
I do want to see them together in the end, but there also HAVE to be significant consequences for Elias' behavior that go beyond simple chastisement. And right now, it's really on Elias to realize his need to grow up. He can't keep relying on Chise to tell him what being human is about. He has to start answering some of those questions on his own and dealing with their fallout. Chise was strong enough to confront her demons on her own. He has to summon that kind of strength too. Or he can fall apart and be a big tentacle baby again. But I'm rooting for the two of them.
Regardless of how it all plays out, AMB has cemented itself as a favorite for me, and I'm honestly sad to see it go after spending so much time with it.
So I guess for all his faults, I do have one thing in common with Elias.
I've had my share of issues with this adaptation, and most recently the pacing has been rushed to a fault, but this most recent episode bought back a lot of my good will. I'd still say that Kore Yamazaki
's manga is the way to go if I had to decide the best way to experience this story, but it's worth experiencing regardless of the format. It's magical, it has a big horny bone daddy, and it's full of hard-hitting facts such as...
What more could you ask for?
As an anime-only viewer, I haven't really felt like the show's rushing. It's covering a lot of ground compared to the first half, but I was riveted the whole way through and loved seeing all the wild fantasy imagery. Like god damn, I didn't even talk about the Dragon.
Sure it's appealing to the same part of my brain that likes watching monster truck rallies, but that is a really dope fucking dragon.
I'm mostly salty because they cut out the scene where Marielle explains that she's descended from a line of magical prostitutes, plus a later scene where she kisses Chise. Because Marielle is too good to waste.
I look forward to her spinoff:
Marielle The Very Much Not A Virgin Witch.
Well it all evens out. They kept the most important line in the entire show.