The Ancient Magus’ Bride manga has probably earned a permanent place on my top 5 list of best romance manga. I’ve explored why I love this story so much in the past and have been delving into the lore and myths behind certain ideas and characters. With the last episode of the anime adaptation behind us, I think it’s safe to say I enjoyed the anime as well. I won’t say it’s perfect, and there are a few moments that I feel could have been handled better, but as an anime adaptation I have to say it was fairly faithful to the manga overall. So, in this post, I hope to explore the similarities and differences between the manga and anime. I won’t promise an answer for the question of which one is better, as I don’t think I have an answer for that. But I think it’s interesting to explore how each medium treats and/or improves a story by the nature of their differences in presentation.
The nature of comics as a medium is that they present a story using a combination of art and panel design in the context of serial, long-running chapters. All three of these aspects are highly important to the success of a comic and how the reader comes to understand the story. Art—including style, values, and amount of detail—set the tone and mood of the story as well as provide characterization and world building depending on the amount of detail the artist decides to include. Panel Design is also crucial to comics, as it sets the pace of the story through controlling how your eyes move through the page. Emotional impact is also controlled through page layout, with 1-page splashes and 2-page spreads providing the artist with eye-catching moments to really drive home important parts of their story. The serial nature of manga, where chapters are created weekly or monthly for magazines and then collected in volumes, creates a space where stories can be explored to their full. Number of pages may become a problem, but there is always the option of splitting the story arc between multiple chapters. It’s through these three issues that I’d like to explore how Ancient Magus’ Bride tells its story.
Art style is super important in this manga. Kore Yamazaki’s art was one of the key things that drew me to this manga in the first place. It’s also something that I feel can’t be fully replicated in animation. Her art relies heavily on cross-hatching and ink detailing to give us highly rendered scenes of both cities and nature. The black and white values and the look of her pen-and-ink drawings creates a style that creates a feel of a story steeped in myth and fantasy. The places I see this the most are in the backgrounds and in Yamazaki’s creation of faeries including Ruth. I absolutely love how she draws Ruth especially in dog form. His wispy fur and overall design create this nice melding of Japanese art styles into a very English/European setting. The key difference I see between the anime’s style and the manga’s is the added whimsy that sometimes pops up in her style that makes some scenes look like they could be in a dark fairy tale. Take chapter 29 page 27, it’s a scene where Chise is running through the forest as a bear, but there is one panel where Yamazaki’s whimsical style shines through as she adds deep values within a snowy wilderness to create an almost fairy tale look. I don’t think this could have been recreated in the anime purely because it comes from feel of black and white, pen-and-ink medium.
Panel design also comes into play when we consider the difference between the pacing of the anime versus the pacing of the manga. Each chapter is around 30 to 36 pages in length, with about 44 chapters that I have seen so far. As a medium that is made to be read quickly and easily, panel design becomes integral to how the artist both controls the eye of the reader and paces the story. Pages that are too crowded with text and panels can slow down your reader as well as the story. Yamazaki has done a great job creating pages that let the story flow, creating a comic that is easy and enjoyable to read. Her panel design both helps set the pace, but also helps showcase her art, create suspense, and instill emotions in readers through impact. She seems to love to use large panels, especially splashes and spreads where her large moments of story are showcased with the most impact. The scene where she flies with Nevin, the scene where she dispels the corruption of the cat killer, and the scene of Chise remembering the poppy field she saw with her mother were all presented in 2-page spreads for optimum impact. However, controlling suspense is also integral to panel design. Panels placed in the bottom left corner right before a page turn are a great place to give teasers for the next page that instill a sense of suspense for your readers. Being able to accurately place these can really help the feel of the story. Yamazaki does a pretty great job of this, setting up moments of both horror and emotion in an interesting fashion.
The final advantage of manga is its space. Generally manga and comics have more space and freedom to explore and develop their ideas. Anime episodes are constrained by the number of episodes in a season and the total time allotted to each episode. With long and expansive anime series becoming few and far between now, manga has the advantage of giving you more detail, more world-building, and more to the story that may have been cut because of time constraints. I felt that the anime created moments where it wanted to remain faithful to the manga, but because of time, it had to create compilation scenes where we get to see people talking without the actual dialogue. It also cuts out some of the exposition and detail, keeping the story arcs to their key points. The fact that the anime was 24 episodes instead of 12 definitely helped. I absolutely don’t think they could have pulled it off with less than 24. However, if you want more, the manga does expand on some lore and backstory especially in Silky’s arc and in the were-pelt arc.
The advantages of anime as a medium is that it can add movement, voice acting, and sound to a story that can really succeed at adding to the overall feel of the show as well as enhancing certain key moments. I think, in these areas is where the anime adaptation of Ancient Magus’ Bride shines. Movement, in the context of animation, is probably by far the most important aspect when it comes to the success of an anime. Having good animation, at least for me, can make or break my enjoyment of a series. Fluidity, great meshing of 3D and 2D animation, and how the animators show animation through the backgrounds and space around them help create scenes that are highly enjoyable to viewers. Voice acting also plays an important role in any adaptation. Finding the right voice for a character, someone who can capture the full range of emotions is key to how viewers see the characters. In a somewhat similar vein, sound design and music can also affect the overall impact of a certain scene, drawing out more emotion from the viewers than the manga could. Ancient Magus’ Bride’s anime adaptation uses all three of these aspects to bring the world of the manga to life.
Wit Studio has done a great job on the animation for this series. The action and directing come together to really bring the characters to life. There are definitely moments in the manga where action scenes didn’t really hit as hard as they did in the anime purely because of the addition of movement. I think one of the biggest examples are probably all of the flight scenes throughout the show, including Chise’s journey home as a phoenix and her multiple rides on dragon-back. These scenes are certainly very impactful in the manga with big two-page spreads, but with the addition of animation and directing we get even better moments of action that really helps put you there in the sky with Chise. Another point where I think animation helps improve a scene is towards the end of the series where Titania is searching for Chise. In the manga, all we get are the characters looks of confusion as they sense something pass by. In the anime, we see Titania’s consciousness flowing across the land like green lightning, passing by each character on her way to Chise. I thought this was a much better way of displaying this scene, making it both much easier to understand and more visually enjoyable.
The voice acting in the anime adaptation also contributed to my enjoyment of this anime. Ryota Takeuchi does a great job of capturing the feel of Elias with his voice, succeeding in both the comedic moments and the serious moments. I think the little laugh he has given Elias became a meme at some point, but I think that’s just a testament to the great work he’s done with this character. If we compare his Japanese voice actor to his English voice actor, Brian Mathis, I think we can see a difference in their performance. It may be a matter of taste, but I do think Takeuchi’s deeper voice captures the nature of Elias’ character better, adding more of a feel of mystery and power through his tone. Atsumi Tanezaki, Chise’s voice actor, has also done a great job bringing out Chise’s personality through her voice. I really couldn’t have been happier with how the voice acting turned out in this series, and it really does add another level to the the story that the manga really cannot provide.
Finally, music, and I think it’s here that the anime adaptation really shines. I believe the music for the series was composed by Junichi Matsumoto and produced by Flying Dog. It’s not just the opening and ending themes that I want to talk about though, but the whole OST throughout the series. While the opening and ending songs were great, I think where the anime really shines is through the other music that accompanies certain scenes. Matsumoto did a great job composing music that captures the feel of the setting, fitting with the more European nature of t characters and background. Take the episode where Lindel calls Chise over to the Land of the Dragons to create her staff. In two instances, we get great music: once when he sings the flowers to bloom and once when he finishes up her staff. Both of these instances feature the same song, but have markedly different feels because of the context of the scene. But the feel of the music is somewhat folksy, blending nicely with the setting of rural Iceland where faeries and dragons are abound. Episode 12 is also a prime example of what adding music to a scene can do for the emotional impact. It’s also an example of how directors will use the opening theme to added additional punch to a scene that holds emotional weight in the series. In the scene where Chise transforms into a phoenix and flies off back to Elias, the use of the opening theme creates a much more powerful feel for this instance than in the manga. Rereading the manga again after watching this episode really helped me realize just how much difference the music—on top of the animation—made for this scene. I literally got chills watching the anime, but the manga was kind of lackluster honestly.
The anime has officially ended, but the manga is still ongoing as far as I know. From the chapters that I have seen so far, it hasn’t caught up to the anime yet, so I’m interested to see how the manga handles the ending versus the anime. I say this because I honestly didn’t really like the ending. I felt it was rushed and was lacking explanation on a lot of things finally ending in a scene that was pretty corny. However, I can’t forget how much the anime contributed to the development of this story and I also can’t forget all the reasons I love the manga. They each have their advantages and disadvantages, but if you forced me to pick, I might have to pick the manga just for the overall feel and expanded world-building. Let me know what you thought of the anime in the comments below and/or which one you thought was better.
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