When Chise’s mother dies suddenly leaving her all alone, she is passed from family to family, each one rejecting her because of her ability to see things they can’t lurking in the shadows. She eventually runs away only to fall into the hands of a slaver and is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Her new master just so happens to be a sorcerer straddling the line between human and monster. But when the sorcerer Elias calls her family and vows to make her his student, she decides to devote her life to his teachings even if her life may not last very long at all.
I’m slowly coming to love this series with all its fantastical moments and romance that is far from the typical. Not to mention the three-part, prequel OVA just came out on Crunchyroll and it looks absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend you check that out after you catch up on the series thus far. This is an ongoing series, so I’m writing this review from the perspective of what has been written so far, and so far I do love it. It starts off strong with a few chapters that maybe drag or are a little too forward in their messages, but the series is so full of action, magic, and great characters that I can’t put it down. After reading so many high school romances and conventional takes on the genre, it’s nice to step away for a bit and look at something different, and The Ancient Magus’ Bride offers that in spades. For one, the love interest is a half man, half beast with what looks like a cross between a cow and a wolf scull for a head, and for another the romance is not the central focus of the plot, but something that grows in the background as both characters learn more about themselves and the world they were thrust into.
I would definitely say the thing that drew me to this series the most was the character designs. Right on the cover you see the character of Elias, a giant man with a horned skull for a head standing next to petite red-headed girl. It was strange, but that strangeness is what makes this series. It borrows a lot from both Japanese and European traditions and merges them into one place, creating some very interesting people and creatures that can be both adorable and creepy at times. From very talkative dragon babies to a chimera born of the discarded parts of who-knows-what, I think this series has a bit for almost everyone. Each one gets a good amount of time to explore their background and get fleshed out well enough to see them as individuals and not as background decoration. Over time, I found myself growing attached to many of them like the kind magical technician that makes all of Chise’s tools or the guardian of the dragons who has lived far too long a life. Each has a story to tell that is full of magic and mystery that just draws you deeper into the story.
Th story itself builds off of the general theme of two outcasts trying to build a life together. Chise, who was cast out by her family and friends for her magical abilities, finds a kindred spirit in Elias who is not well regarded by both faerie and human communities. As Chise struggles to learn the ways of magic and the rules of this new fantastical world around her, Elias struggles to understand the ways and emotions of humans through her experiences. Together, they make both an odd and fitting couple. Chise’s story becomes quickly overshadowed by her need to be needed by someone but also being held back by a past of rejection that has made her unsure of herself. Much of her growth as a character centers around her coming to terms with the fact that she is allowed to and should want more for herself. Elias, as something other than human, deals with the fact that he is now experiencing emotions that he has never had before after finally having someone to call true family.
While I don’t think the story will be for everyone as it builds off the fact that she was in fact bought by him, and there are moments where I thought the messages it was trying to convey were a little too overt, but I think I can forgive some of that purely for the art style. Each character is designed with a unique look that plays off of ancient mythology, such as the characters of Oberon and Titania, the faerie king and queen. We get to see dragons, selkies, faeries, and monsters that both awed me in their designs and sent a chill down my spine. The Ancient Magus’ Bride has an art style that comes across as very traditional at times with a lot of cross hatching and sketchy shading that compliments the backdrop of rural England. The manga also makes free use of double page spreads that helps lend to this partial tone of awe surrounding magic. The large panels help showcase the art and monster designs to their fullest, and I often found myself getting inspired to draw again by how great they looked. The first part of the OVA also reflects this as well, complimenting the manga’s original style with stunning visuals.
The manga comes across as a lot of different things. At times, its tone reminds me of a mix between Natsume Yuujin-cho and Full Metal Alchemist. This is mostly from the fact that a lot of the story comes across as a “monster of the week” kind of thing where Chise has a new magical creature to help, but there’s also this darkness and creepy tone in the background of everyone she meets that it makes me think of the darkest parts of FMA. Elias’ monstrous nature combined with being a powerful sorcerer also reminds me of Howl’s Moving Castle at times, especially towards the latter part of the series. Chise’s rejection by her peers because of magical powers that make her both strange and something to be feared also reminded me a lot of the beginning of Kotoura-san, another anime that I hope to get to at some point. If any of these series have interested you in the past, I think you’ll find this manga has something for you.
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