Ancient Magus' Bride anime review

  • Genre : Drama, supernatural, adventure, magical girl, fantasy
  • Episodes: 24
  • Studio: Wit Studio

Chise is a blessed child, beloved by the fairies and protected by her very own loyal grim, she spends sunny days learning magic at the foot of the ancient magus Elias. But it wasn’t always so. For you see, chise was born a cursed child, haunted by terrifying vision and burdened with a fragile body. For a long time her life was filled with fear, suffering and loneliness. How did Chise overcome such insurmountable obstacles? Nothing short of magic.

This is now the third time I’ve written a synopsis for this show. If you’ve read the others, you may have noticed that the wording is similar. I quite liked it when I first wrote it. The Ancient Magus’ Bride OVAs were one of my very first reviews and part of the motivation for this blog. I was enamoured with them. Completely enthralled and fascinated. When I finally saw the series arrive on my Crunchyroll queue, I was honestly thrilled, like a kid on Christmas day. I had decided to wait for the show to finish airing so I could binge it at my own pace but couldn’t resist and ended up watching the first half around Christmas.

Ancient Magus' Bride anime review
coincidentally – christmas plays a pretty big role in the story

I had largely avoided reading reviews for terror of spoilers, however I couldn’t escape the growing murmurs of disenchantment throughout the aniblogging community. I myself wasn’t quite as taken by the first half as I had been by the OVAs but I still enjoyed the show a lot. I went into this second half nervous but hopeful. I have yet to read all your posts so I’m not sure exactly what the complaints are. It does seem to me like a show that would fare much better being binged though.

It takes a certain time to properly seep into all that wonderfully magical atmosphere and truly enjoy the series. I consistently preferred second, third episodes of the sitting, over the first one. Hey guys…do you think this review is kinda dull? I just did a full on yawn. I reread my past reviews before starting this one and they were pretty decent but I feel like I’m faltering here. I’m going to put this away for a bit and come back to it later…

And I’m back! It’s been about 4 hours – I’ve had 3 cups of coffee, I’m pretty wired. I’m not sure if this review is about to get any better but it’s likely to be more Energetic!

Ancient Magus' Bride anime review
oh tha caffein crash

So, like I’ve said twice before, yadda yadda, art beautiful and distinctive, blah blah blah, backgrounds rich and sumptuous, mumble mumble, great sound design.  Voice acting is a little stiff but it’s clearly a directorial choice. This thing had a budget folks, and it’s on display. One thing I did notice however is that the second half of the season is a little more action filled and as such some animation shortcuts are finally visible. Occasional stills, some slightly jagged movements in combats scenes. Nothing too prevalent but it’s a small chink in an otherwise stunning production so I figured I would mention it. You know, to prove I’ve been paying attention…

The latter half of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, much like the first in fact, consisted of a series of mini arcs and character defining episodes that come together to create the tale of Chise and her friends. Some of these were more interesting than other but I generally enjoyed them all. I found Marielle and the witches presence rather unnecessary, Joseph/Cartaphilius was better developed and more interesting than before but fell a little flat as an ultimate villain. Mostly everyone was just a tad short. Supporting characters showed good potential and are instanty interesting, but the series never properly explores any of them. 

For insytance, the inherent otherness of the fairy folk, mostly personified in Titania and Oberon, and the potential casual threat they constantly represent, was one of my favourite elements. Unfortunately it never really went beyound being mentioned in passing. Lindel, the sorcerers and the college were all properly established but then only used as fairly disposable props for the plot, I imagine because having only Chise, Ruth and Elias solve everything would have been a little too monotonous. In the end it made a lot of the characters feel tacked on and unecessary.

Ancient Magus' Bride anime review
shouldn’t we know more about Simon?

To me, this show was best at world building. It is in fact exceptional at it. I adored the old school fairy tale universe in which I was plunged and could while away my afternoons there. Where the Ancient Magus’ Bride falls a little short is in establishing its supporting characters so, although I quite liked them all, I never truly cared for them and could see how writing them out could make the plot tighter and better sustain the tension.

 This said, although the actual narrative framing was clumsy at times, I did appreciate a lot of the themes explored. At the end of the first half, I thought I saw some presage of things to come. Some potential conflict between Elias and Chise on the horizon. More precisely, I thought that Chise’s almost blind devotion to the one she considered her dubious savior, would be tested and questioned. Possibly even exposing rushed loyalty as less than noble. It was an interesting concept to me and one we don’t see much in anime.

 That never quite materialized as Chise instead took on independence and ownership of her actions at a surprising rate during this latter half. Instead, I discovered an unexpectedly immature and unfair Elias. Playing on the difficulty and occasionally painful reality that those we love are separate from ourselves and need to have their own freedom. That we can never truly and entirely understand someone else or constantly be by their side no matter how much we may want to.

 I must say this was also a nice and not so common in shows that often highlight a naïve love solves everything narrative. I can see how the message might be unpleasant for certain hopeless romantic types, but I find imperfections and hardships in relationships to be comforting in an odd way. Of course, you can stand by someone when everything is simple and goes your way. It’s the compromises and sacrifices that show you actually care. Elias goes too far. Don’t let people treat you that way…

Ancient Magus' Bride anime review
jealousy can turn you into a monster…subtle

 To me, above all else, this latter half was about forgiveness. Of those who have hurt you, left you behind, failed to help and most of all, of yourself. The actual climax of the season was probably not the final confrontation with big bad Cartaphilious/Joseph but rather Chise’s final goodbye to her mother. I remembered being torn apart at those happy scenes of Chise’s childhood with her parents and brother. For the longest time, we had been lead to believe that her life before Elias was nothing more than one long nightmare but there had been a lot of warmth and joy in those early days and seeing them for the first time was possibly the most painful thing in this surprisingly gory show. To never know happiness stings, to lose it in such a traumatic way that you entirely forget what happiness is, is devastating.

I couldn’t help but admire how the show flipped the script and provided us with a context and if not an excuse, at least a relatable explanation to the events that lead up to Chise’s trauma. It was a bold move, completely throwing out the basis for Chise’s entire persona and changing the character at her core. Moreover, Chise’s refusal to let things go, choosing the accept her memories and her mother, rather than forgive her, was just perfect. I understand how someone can do what Chika did under those circumstances. It’s still just wrong. I rarely speak in black and whites but this time no nuance, no excuses, just wrong. Kudos to the series for agreeing with me.

This is the most obvious example, but the theme was obviously repeated throughout. Alice had to forgive her parents and learn to trust again, then forgive herself for Renfred’s injury sustained as he was protecting her. Elias had to reconcile his own existence in an attempt to accept another. Ruth had to deal with his inability to save his previous master while confronting with deep rooted issues of abandonment. Little Stella and her brother had to make up after a silly fight. Elias and Chise were constantly lying to each other, pushing each other away and hurting one another but ultimately, that’s what love is right? It’s forgiving someone without giving up on them. It’s accepting forgiveness while trying to de better.

Ancient Magus' Bride anime review
my personal idea of love

So I loved it!!! – well no… I didn’t hate it. Not at all. I quite liked it. I still adore the OVAs and if you haven’t seen them go do that right now! But something was lacking. Aside from the aforementioned misuse of secondary characters, it seemed to be lacking a certain sense of…fun. There are some funny moments, some actual gags even. But overall, the Ancient Magus’s Wife tells an *important* story and takes itself quite seriously. Please understand that there’s nothing objectively wrong with that but it does make for a rather monotonous story.

Fairies are fanciful creatures and I have come to expect some sarcasm, a touch of biting irony, a smirk and a knife in the back. There was none of that here. The tone went from earnest to slightly dour to uncomfortable. Touching for sure but maybe a touch too sincere for me.

As for that last scene…As far as I remember, Chise is celebrating her 16th or 17th birthday in that pseudo wedding scene. I get that in past times she would have been considered an old maid by then but I still dislike seeing kids in these types of settings. I guess it didn’t bother me much but I found it well… nothing. Chise facing her past was dramatic and cathartic, the confrontation with Cartaphilious/Joseph was a little flawed but still exciting, to cop-out everyone is OK, happily ever after, Joseph gets a comfy bed resolution, was saccharine but exactly the stuff I fall for, Chise’s surprise party at Stella’s was truly uplifting and I sniffled. That wedding scene was just meh. I bet it’s going to skeeve out some viewers. For me it just did nothing at all othen than make the title now seem stupidly literal. They should have left it out.

Ancient Magus' Bride anime review
awwww- no wait I mean boo!

TLDR: The Ancient Magus Bride didn’t live up to the promise of it’s OVAs and early episodes but still has a lot to offer. Had it not been a victim of it’s own hype, I beleive it would have been met with much more enthusiam.

Favorite character: Silky (I really loved her backstory and the idea of a banshee who refuses to talk is deeply endearing to me)

What this anime taught me: Love in all forms is frightening and dangerous.

You can’t buy happiness but you can buy booze and that’s almost the same thing

Suggested drink: Black Magic 

  • Every time Lindel complains about Elias – take a sip
  • Every time we see Simon-san – take a sip
  • Every time a character mentions temperature – take a sip
  • Every time we see mysterious shadows – look around
  • Every time Ruth is in human form – take a sip
  • Every time Chise blushes – take a sip
  • Every time we see “neighbors”– take a sip
  • Every time anyone shapeshifts – take a sip
  • Every time throws a tantrum – sigh
  • Every time someone gets thrown/falls in water – get a glass of water
  • Every time we see Chise’s mom – raise your glass

Ancient Magus' Bride anime review

28 thoughts

  1. I see where you’re coming from in regards to the characters feeling a bit tacked on like Simon or the College and how minimal their role in things were. While they are fleshed out in the source material more beyond this point, as that content didn’t exist during the time of airing and they couldn’t put it in, it just feels unneeded. If they ever produce a Season 2 I would love to see if it changed your perspective.

    1. I should probably delve into the manga. There is a lot to this story that I love but the adaptation just had some rough edges here and there

      1. Yes, you left the “L” out of “believe” in the next line too! 😛
        But it’s your blog and I’m a pedantic Aspie so I’ll just try to grin and bear it! 🙂

        1. I appreciate it. I write my posts on the bus and sometimes I’m not entirely sure what language their in when I’m done. My autocorrect is in French which is also super helpful

  2. That’s pretty much how I feel about the show. I’m not sure whether or not Silky is my favourite character, but she’s not it’s pretty close (I’m very bad at picking favourites). And yes the ending was… bad – probably one of the least controversial anime impressions I have.

    I do really love the faeries: they’re charming but have this dangerous feel: you want to trust them but don’t dare. (Yeah, fairly little ever happened to validate the distrust, but I’m fine with this. The trap can still spring – and we have yet to go into details about Elias’ backstory.)

    1. There is room for another season that could potentially fix some of my complaints about the series. I’m not sure if there’s any plans though

  3. I totally get the themes and such, and agree that they are great in the second half. The point about Magus’ Bride being great at world building too, but the show really did let me down. The ending was rushed and, as you mention, not really all that satisfying. This probably had a lot to do with the anime getting ahead of the manga but still, really too bad because I wanted to enjoy this more than I did.

  4. I certainly enjoyed its manga, but it did get messy at times (layout-wise as well). Overall, stellar world-building was definitely the most memorable thing to me!

  5. Well…I just took that some cup of coffee that you mentioned, and read the entire post (not that I need it, as your reviews a never “yawn inducing” but the flu bug still thinks it needs to rear up it’s ugly head so I had to show it who’s boss.
    This series is one I dropped for a reason, and honestly still don’t know why, because I really enjoyed it immensely. It’s simply another case of too much to do, and too little time. But I know I will get back to it eventually. It reminds me a lot of the recent Netflix series Violet Evergarden. Another show that a lot of people hated, but at the same time loved as well. But…whatever I eventually end up thinking about this series: your review was as entertaining as ever 😊

      1. It’s a very beautiful show. I have almost completed it, and it’s something that I think is very special. It’s slow at times, but still the stories, characters and the animation more than make up for the pacing issues at times. I’m pretty sure you would love it unless I am really mistaking 😊

  6. This definitely sounds like a show that works better as a short series of OVA’s (Oh wait, there is one already! Might as well just watch that instead of watching the actual show /shrug)

    1. I guess it was a faithful adaptation.

      I wrote this about a month ago and as I reread it this morning, I realize that I really did enjoy the show…

  7. The more I read about this show the less interested I am in it (and no that isn’t a slight against you’re writing ability, this was a good review!)–makes me think I should have put this in the 10 Shows I Will Never Watch List rather than SAO…

        1. It’s a wonderful and very popular show but it’s very similar to Kenshin. If you ever update your llist with like *super popular shows I will never see*

          1. I read the synopsis and I actually kinda liked the sound of it lol, won’t be adding it to my watch list anytime soon but I’ll keep it in mind 😉

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