I still have a hard time fully sorting out my thoughts on the Ancient Magus’ Bride. If you’ve read my 3 (yup 3, 3rd one is scheduled for the last week of June) reviews for the series, you can see just how much my feelings jump around. There are some elements which were undeniably fantastic while others fell sadly short.

Image result for The Ancient Magus' Bride
I,m just saying there’s some room for improvement

However, among the clear highs of the series, was the character of Chika Hatori. I understand why Chika isn’t discussed that much. There’s a whole lot to unpack there and we never really get a clear view of the character until the very end of the series. She’s basically impossible to explore without spoiling some pretty important plot points. Also…SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen The Ancient Magus’ Bride but you want to and also want to be surprised…. I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by!

Are they gone?

Alright, let’s talk Ancient Magus spoilers! For most of the series, Chise has some horrific flashbacks and nightmares which lead us to believe that she had an absolutely traumatic childhood with a monstrously abusive mother who tried to kill her. Obviously, the trauma has weighed very heavily on Chise and this one event is hugely formative and important to her. We never even get a clear look at her mother. She remains a nameless, faceless presence, recognizable only in the red hair her daughter inherited from her. She’s a boogeyman and a symbol of supreme treason. How can anyone be expected to even understand trust after being betrayed by their own mother in such a way.

Ancient Magus Bride anime Chika
I probably wouldn’t be able to remember anything else either

Chika is the cause of every bad thing that’s ever happened to Chise. She’s the embodiment of all her pains and fears. She is the worst nightmare a little girl who sees shadow monsters, could ever imagine. And we share Chise’s loathing. There is something deeply instinctual about a parent caring for their children. Something so primordial and ingrained, that violence towards one’s own child seems just a touch worse than anything else. Maybe that’s just me. However, the tone is clear from the get go. Chise’s mom is abhorrent and we are meant to hate her.

And because Chise is so clearly traumatized, so deeply broken, it’s easy to hate her mom. It didn’t even occur to me to question the events or try to understand Chika in any way. My impulsive reaction was to blindly label any mother that would do such a thing as an aberration and unquestioningly stand with the child. And I’m not even particularly fond of children…

It’s not until 3 quarters into the series that I got my first inkling that something was off. Chise somehow managed to recall a long-buried memory. Strolling happily down the street with her parents and brother. This was the first time we had seen either her father or her brother. More importantly, everyone seemed so happy. Smiling and carefree. Her mother was caring, looking out for little Chise, and Chise herself was comfortable and happy around Chika. No matter how we looked at it, this memory simply couldn’t be reconciled with everything we knew about Chise’s childhood.

Ancient Magus Bride anime Chika
I instinctively love anyone who feeds me

I really should have suspected sooner. Realistically, Chise was a very young child that underwent a deeply harrowing event. Even in the very best-case scenario, it was impossible that she recalled everything properly. She was much too young to understand what was happening in the first place.

At the time though, my attention grabbed on to the brother and father. I had assumed that Chise’s dad had never been in the picture, let alone that there was a sibling. This new information brought up so many questions.

The only time Chise’s life before her meeting with Elias is described in any detail is in those breathtaking OVAs. By then she’s already a forlorn and terrified child, far from the cheerful little girl we see in that flashback. By now, I’ve watched enough Natsume to know that a life spent have in the spirit world does not make for a happy childhood and the neighbors of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, are significantly more insidious than Natsume’s Yokai.

Ancient Magus Bride anime
the remind me a little of Norogami as well

Suddenly I was thrown into disarray. Why hadn’t Chise ever mentioned the rest of her family? What could have happened? Did her mom go on a killing spree? Was she possessed by a neighbor? Did Chise unknowingly cause the tragedy somehow? I had already devoted roughly 20 episodes to reflexively hating this woman, how was it fair to make me doubt myself now? And more importantly, could I really trust Chise?

I would have to remain on this unsteady ground until the last three episodes when the show finally decided to tell us the story of Chika the woman, behind the myth of Chika the monster.

It seemed that Chise got more than her hair color from her mother. Both her parents also had the sight and her mother was particularly gifted in that regard. This meant notmonly the her parents beloved and understood her completely, but also that they could protect her. Her mother, being physically frail like Chise would stay home taking care of the chores and the children while their father worked. It wasn’t the most glamorous life and Chika regularly worried about not contributing enough to the household, but nevertheless they were a happy family.

Ancient Magus Bride anime Mother
the best things…

Her father seemed like an optimistic smiling man, who would confort little Chise and keep her safe. He dismissed Chika’s misgivings, stating that he preferred that she stay home. The times we see them all together are pleasant and relaxing. These two clearly loved each other. Which is why Chise’s dad suddenly leaving in the middle of the night and taking her little brother was so inexplicably cruel. He even smiled and lied straight to his daughter’s face in the process.

Already, this was showing me the mother in a different light. She wasn’t completely crazy. Being an extremely rare sleigh beggy, Chise had been attracting unwelcomed attention from few creatures of all sorts since birth. It was easy to imagine that this constant threat had finally been too much for her father. I would understand if that’s the conclusion Chika came to and snapped. Except that wasn’t quite it either.

Abandoned by the love of her life and finding herself without a knight in shining armor to protect her from the shadows, Chika immediately set off to take care of her daughter by herself. With no work experience, poor health and being haunted by good neighbors at every turn, I honestly think Chika did her best. At least at first.

Ancient Magus Bride anime Mother
I would not survive

With money lower than it had ever been and stress rising higher every day, Chika held on for dear life as she got fired from one job after the other due to fea interference. Coupled with her increasingly weak body, lack of sleep and food, in the end she did finally go off the deep end but it took longer than I would have expected.

And when that absolutely horrific event did come to pass, the reality was both less horrible and more tragic than the nightmare. A frayed and broken Chika had a momentary lapse, a delayed postpartum reaction, lashing out at her daughter but it wasn’t the drawn out painfully unending scene a terrified little girl’s mind created. It was a few seconds of pure frenzy and madness followed by terrorizing realization and a complete inability to cope.

Chika realized right away that her actions where completely inexcusable. She herself believed that her daughter would now be better off without her. That she had committed such a sin as to forfeit her right to life. The just as dubious choice to kill herself in front of her daughter probably just compounded the damage but I’m letting she was thinking straight at the time.

Ancient Magus Bride anime Mother
this scene was rather pretty

It’s not often that a show can pull off something like this. Take the main antagonist and humanize them in the last episodes while turning the lead character’s motivation on it’s head without ruining the pilot’s internal integrity. Even though reality was quite different from what she remembered, Chise’s action remain completely rational in hindsight and her personality, justified. We are not forced to reconsider the character completely at the last minute. And her mother remains completely unforgivable, in fact Chise’s active decision to deny her forgiveness even after learning of all the events that pushed Chika too far, was a great move on the part of the narrative.

Like Chise I won’t forgive Chika for what she did. It’s not something you can forgive in my opinion. But she wasn’t a monster, she was just weak. And I wish things had gone better for all of them.

Ancient Magus Bride anime Mother

36 thoughts

  1. I think that Chise’s dad really meant to come home but something happened. It would be a cool story arc if she find’s out what happens to her dad and why and, if there was someone responsible for him leaving chise and her mother that she would try and take revenge for harming her childhood and destroying her family. It would be cool.

  2. I cannot say enough good things about AMB. I love how they sho the weakness of the Magus. He is an incomplete hero at best, with a long arc ahead before he gains humanity. And Chika is not the only villain who turns out to be more weak and damaged than pure evil.

    You have reviewed this so well that I cannot do so myself without feeling hopelessly inferior. I’ll have to try something less well known. Maybe Kuzu no Honkai or Yosuga no Soro?

    1. No no..that’s no the point. You should review it – please! Just from the comment I can tell you have some really interesting points to make

  3. I think the great and scary thing is sometimes seeing a villain or some one we’ve come to hate turn out to be human characters weighed down and losing to all the grief each of us feels.

    Magus Bride mastered that.

  4. I never actually hated Chise’s mother. During the entire show up until about that point, she was more a background variable to me than a character. Also, since it’s perfectly possible to even love people who have done horrible things without excusing them, or – worse – indulging their bad habits. Sometimes, I do get a visceral feeling of dislike against a person from a single scene, but I have to actually see them long enough for them to make an impression.

    That was a great post about Chise’s mum (I’d forgotten her name, as I often do). It’s also really an object lesson in how people come to focus on the mum that stays over the dad that leaves. It’s because they’re actually there to make an impact. (I’m vaguely guessing that for some reason Dad considered it necessary to separate them? Also, he could have sent mum away with the boy, so I tend to think the little brother actually is a more immediate target? I’ll likely never know.)

    1. My impression is that both Chise and her mom were sleight beggies and attracted a lot of unwanted attention making dangerous for anyone around them but as we are told this story from the memories of a scared little girl – I’m ok with a very partial image. The imperfection of the information fits in with the rest of the narrative.

    1. I have a tough time putting myself in her position. I’m not sure what I would do to be honest. It was a very powerful scene to be sure

      1. If Chise’s father and brother didn’t leave then things might have turned out differently. But then Elias wouldn’t come into her life.

  5. Chise did talk about her family before this flashback. She mentioned a couple times that she used to have a little brother. I also think theres some backstory we’re missing when it comes to the Dad. He seems like he could have been a mage or something, then he gets spooked by a weird looking cat, and takes her brother and leaves. But he doea, in that second before he leaves, considers taking Chise with him. Im hoping the manga will clear this up a bit in the future. Her dads past stands as one of the biggest mysteries in this series for me.

    1. Her dad definetly also had some connection to the fae, whether sorcerer or mage and like everyone else, I doubt he was either good or evil. Maybe I should pick up the manga.

    2. YES. It’s a bit frustrating that we’re so far into the manga and absolutely nothing more about the dad, though I’m a bit behind. Though would also definitely recommend the manga.

  6. YLIA prepared me to not judge an abusive mother too quickly. Chika was not all that different from Saki, and I think she was even the more well developed one.

    I liked how you described your journey with this character over the course of the series. Yes, Chika was meant to be despised and I remember how a lot of people complained about Chika getting a “redemption” arc but both these sentiments are knee-jerk reactions. Somewhat justified, as you pointed out about the primal feelings we have regarding child abuse, but knee-jerk nonetheless.

    I don’t know if you followed my and Karandi’s coverage of this during the season, but my focus was always on Chise’s feelings since that always seemed like the point of the series for me. Her abillity to trust and love someone, or to feel safe, was severely challenged by everything that happened to her and Chika was just one facet of that. A ghost that was nothing but another reminder for Chise that she was never safe.

    Where you ended up with Chika is pretty much how I feel. Her feelings toward Chise were never so simple as hatred or regret. Chika loved her more than anything, and did her best, but she was weak. Understanding where she came from isn’t a redemption for her at all, but a tragedy.

    It’s much easier to just hate something though. Slap on a label and your opinions are formed for you – no thought required. I honestly can’t stand people who are like that, so I’m glad you aren’t one of them.

    1. I did follow your reviews, it’s one of the reasons I kept up with the series. I wanted to see that same emotional core you guys picked up on.
      There is something simultaneously comforting and truly terrifying in the fact that we have yet to create a greater than ourselves.

  7. Great writeup on her mom… I haven’t had the chance to watch the anime but when this moment came in the manga, it was just heartwrenching. At that point, I was pissed at the dad… How could he seriously just up and leave, knowing what was going on and leaving his weak wife to take care of his daughter? Why didn’t he take her, instead?

    Not letting off her mom that easily, but still…

    1. I am also very pissed at her dad but again – we are only seeingpart of the story. I bet he wanted to save the brother…
      It was just so sad for all of them really

  8. Didn’t watch the show to finish, but seeing you did a post on a character I don’t know about, now I want to finish it ~~~~~~~
    Dammit Irina, enticing me to come back to the scene again so soon…

  9. You can sympathize and understand why she did it, but it is unforgivable at the same time. That doesn’t make her a bad person or a monster, which Chise realized in the end, but it does make her human. A flawed weak human like all of us.

  10. You are right. I love the fact that she is unforgiven. It is more realistic to expect that somethings can’t be forgiven, but we still have to cope with the outcome.

    1. There are some things that no level of Freudian excuses can mend. Sometimes we just have to hope for acceptance

  11. Honestly, I like it when a show shows how weak and pathetic humans can be. It’s realistic, and I cannot 100% judge someone for any actions they take, bad as they are, if I am under the impression I wouldn’t do just as bad in a different way.

    Some people are shitty without even knowing it. That’s better to me than just writing in an evil stepmother type, or an absentee. Some people just can’t handle the stress and responsibility of being a parent.

Leave me a comment and make my day!