With Ancient Magus Bride going on a short hiatus due to the mess Coronavirus has caused within the manga productions system, I think it’s only right to take a look at one of the new spin-offs being added onto this ever-growing universe. Wizard’s Blue is a new addition to the Ancient Magus Bride universe that takes a look at a very different culture, magic system, and cast of characters than what we are used to. However, many of the themes from the original can still be found playing an important role in this new story’s overall plot. I keep my eye on all things related to the main series, so I was super excited to learn of the second additional spin-off, joining Jack Flash, in exploring new corners of its world and the kinds of magic you can find in it. While I wasn’t sure what I would expect or if I would like the series at all, I have to say that I found the story and art that the team created to be very engaging and a great addition to the universe at large.
Wizard Blue centers around the young Japanese orphan, Ao, who was taken in by a group of French Alchemists living in The Veiled Catacombs under the streets of Paris. As long as he doesn’t touch the color blue, Ao is allowed to paint the portraits of the mages and alchemists who pass through the catacombs, that is until the mage Giselle makes an appearance. A powerful and inhuman mage, Giselle has been called to the Catacombs to complete a ritual, to wed a groom of her choosing, and she has her eyes set on Ao. He is quickly swept under her wing and taught to control his unique affinity to the colors around him.
The art of this manga was done by Isuo Tsukumo, who to my knowledge has not drawn for another major franchise outside of The Ancient Magus Bride. I love how solid their art is and how much attention they give to the art and world in this series. When you compare this with Jack Flash, I think Tsukumo’s style is less stylized but works well for the kind of story being developed. The two spin-offs have very different stories and thus very different artistic directions. Where Jack Flash has the somewhat crazy, noir, modern tone to it, Wizard Blue has a slightly more sedate tone with a focus on ancient Paris and fine art.
Where I think Tsukumo really shines throughout the manga is with action scenes. I found that I loved seeing what they would come up with when it came to magical battles or the appearance of giant monsters. When you combine the chaotic nature of Ao’s type of magic, we see some really interesting pages full of action and excitement. From a giant dragon getting turned into melting flesh and bone to Ao getting sucked into a universe inside a pot, I think Tsukumo does a good job capturing those moments with art, panel design, and contrasting values. Especially when it comes to manga that centers around art, I love seeing how the artist uses the ideas and concepts within the story to show off its connection to art. Through Ao, we get to see some really unique uses of paint that Tsukumo has a chance to show off through their own art.
In a lot of ways, the story of Wizard Blue is very similar to the original, so I think fans of The Ancient Magus Bride will find something to love within this series. In the most general terms, you could say that this spin-off is an almost gender-swapped version of the original, but it does have some unique differences. Giselle is similar in some ways to Elias in that she is a long-lived, non-human magic user who has both beast and human-like characteristics. The similarities end when you take a look at Giselle’s personality and ability to interact with humans. In a way, she seems much more compassionate and empathetic to what Ao is feeling. Though she may have some hang-ups or misunderstandings about relationships and marriage, I would say that Giselle is more emotionally mature than Elias is when it comes to relating to humanity. We can also compare Ao and Chise. Though both have a Japanese heritage and were both ridiculed for their abilities, I feel like Ao has more self-confidence than Chise. Maybe this comes from the fact that he started out with an understanding of magic compared to Chise’s complete lack of knowledge. However, they both can be said to be very unaware of the outside world, so we get to experience another story of a secluded child exploring what the world has to offer them.
I love the setting that the writer, Makoto Sanda, is bringing us to this time. Paris, France. Ancient Europe. The underground catacombs. I love all of these ideas I’m seeing in here. France has always been a love of mine, probably stemming from my own genetic and familial heritage, but also because there is so much history in France and wider Europe that you just can’t find in the States. The catacombs being one of them; a resting place for millions of Parisians, their bones stacked along the walls, from floor to ceiling. It is definitely a setting that invokes a sense of magic and mystery of the occult nature. France was also home to a lot of interesting legends, some of them Arthurian in origin, and was the home of the Gauls/Celtic tribes for a while. I’m wondering how much of this folklore might make it into the background, or foreground, of the story. I can’t wait to see.
Much like the original story though, Wizard Blue, does bring up some concerns over the relationship that is building in the first volume. Giselle is a powerful, long-lived mage, who has a long-standing agreement to marry an Alchemist every 80 or so years to quell some sort of dark magic that threatens the Veiled Catacombs. This time she picks Ao, still a young boy, but his empathy for her situation sparks something inside of her and she takes a liking to him. It doesn’t look like their relationship is romantic as of yet, with Giselle acting as his mentor for right now, but I can see that Giselle feels something for him even if she doesn’t know what yet. I’m a bit concerned about the age difference here and difference in emotional maturity, but I’m also willing to overlook most of my reservations if the story continues to explore unseen parts of this universe in a new and unique way. So far, it looks like that’s where we’re going.
The next volume in the spin-off series comes out on the 23rd of this month, and I will be picking up a copy no matter my reservations. I am hooked on Kore Yamazaki’s world, so pretty much any way for me to get more of it, the better. I’m really interested in seeing where Sanda takes the story and where our new cast of characters will lead us. Let me know in the comments what you’re thoughts were or if you’re thinking of picking up a copy yourself!
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