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The Ancient Magus Bride Part One UK Blu-Ray Anime Review

12 min read
One of the more popular series of the last few years with an early look.

Britain’s sorcery weaves its magic around this one…

What They Say:
Magic and lore weave a breathtaking world in this tale based on the highly acclaimed manga. Suffering a tragic childhood, Chise Hatori has lost all hope for happiness until a mysterious mage named Elias takes interest in her aptitude for magic. To survive, she must learn to wield her powers while Elias must learn what it means to be human. Unaware of what lies ahead, he decides to make her his apprentice and his bride.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio has an English 5.1 Dolby Surround track and a Japanese 2.0 one which is the standard in most non-movie releases – with a pretty good dub and sub track, the sound is genuinely of a high quality with no problems synching with the subtitles as watched disc 1 in English and disc 2 in Japanese. Having one of my favourite opening songs in the most recent years helps as the music is excellent with cementing with the atmosphere of this mystery and folklore atmosphere, putting it quite high in quality with no problems with it synching with the subtitles.

Video:
Similar with the audio, the video is set in widescreen format with the show combining animation with a bit of CGI (magic you would say…) – with the combination of viewing good old Blighty (even has the plastic money!) combined with the fantasy of dragons and faeries, it comes out incredibly well defined and in your face with the animation with no real problems with the subtitles, the sound synching in either language, no pause lag or in general, it is a quality release, definitely in the top tier of Blu-Ray releases (being a recent series helps too)…

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:
The menu is very standard – each disc is the same with clips from the show playing in the background and your choices of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras (which are on all 4 discs which seems a bit redundant) – easily select your popup menu from the show and no delays in selection so a standard Blu-Ray menu.

Extras:

The Ancient Magus Bride doesn’t scrimp with the extras – we have what are technically the OVAS of the series on the first disc which are almost as long as the episodes. Known as Those Waiting upon a Star, named after a book Chise gets from Angelica, it has significance as Chise remembers this book from when she was a child. Here, we get flashbacks to her past before she sold herself into slavery, which gives you a more in depth look at her mindset as she was growing up and why she became what she became before Elias took her under his skull. We see the aftermath of her mother’s suicide, been passed and rejected by other relatives whilst still suffering from being a Sleigh Beggy and being chased by creatures. She escapes one day to a cottage which has a library, with the owner saying he is a ‘magician of the forest.’ It becomes her sanctuary as she goes there to read a lot whilst her home situation becomes worse. However, the ‘magician’ named Miura is disturbed when Chise asks him about a particular book. It leads to him tearing her library card to stop her coming, but Chise visits in secret and accidentally allows a plague of rat spirits to enter and destroy every book, whilst one of the creatures who chased her Miura is killed but in his dying breath, asks her to deliver that book that Chise was wondering about…

The book had relevance to a woman Miura loved named Mayumi, and whilst they never were together, she gave him the book in question “Spring Will Be Missed” asking him to meet in the future. Miura was a spirit and he couldn’t leave the library – following into the present, Chise finds Mayumi, now old and in hospital but still smiling when the book is passed, as Chise looks to read the book that first jogged her memory again, The Lonely Little Star but from a more positive outlook.

Disc 2 gives us two dub looks, first a commentary on episode 8 with Kyle Phillips (Director) Dani Chambers (Chise), Jamie Marchi (Script Adaptor) and Brian Mathis (Elias) – the episode and the cast focus on the growth of Chise’s character as well as how surprised they were when they picked the series up and it’s fanbase (reminded me of the commentary for Snow White & The Red Hair) as the show follows the manga quite closely – adapting the challenges into making it into an anime and the dub itself, the artwork and Dani’s voice going into the first, but hopefully not the last, of Chise’ badass moments. It’s informative but also fun.

Lastly, we get Kyle, Dani and Brian answering questions from a Twitter Q&A – they range from finding the voices, what draws people into the show, favourite monster/fairy/creature (Woolybug for the win ^^), biggest expectations of the show, the story of Elias & Chise, the romance aspect, the voice direction, being Dani’s first lead role, showing their work and of course…what would they do if they saw 10000 woolybugs outside their front door. Deep questions then.

Lastly, we get the clean opening (one of the best opening songs of anime I’ve heard in years) and ending to round it off.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Ancient Magus Bride (Mahō Tsukai no Yome) is an ongoing manga which spawned this series quite recently (airing between October 2017 and November 2018 though the first OVA came in September 2016) – I actually did watch this via Crunchyroll as I had been told by friends that this has a vibe similar to a show like Yona of the Dawn but with a more fantasy edge, plus with a lot of the show set in England, it was one of those felt I had to have a flick through.

To say it surprised me was an understatement.

Coming back to the series a year later, there are definitely some issues but it also solidifies for me one of the stronger newer animes in recent time. So how does it get such praise from me?

The initial concept is actually a bit strange. Our main heroine, Chise, is a Japanese girl who has sold herself into slavery (a concept people forget – she isn’t sold into slavery; she sold HERSELF into slavery for reasons we’ll get into). She seems a normal human girl yet she is seemingly special as she gets several high bids before a mysterious masked being (the mask more like a skeletal goat’s head) wins the bid and sets her ‘free.’ He basically tells her she is going to be his apprentice, and she is revealed by some fairies that she can see…

…yes, this is a thing…

….that she is called a Sleigh Beggy, a.k.a. a mage who can see and attract magical creatures when regular humans cannot…for better or worse. For example, in the first episode the fairies nearly kidnap her until she is saved by Elias, who is pretty much her savior as for whatever reasons he may actually want her for he is her family.

And then Elias reveals he is a super powerful mage, and oh yeah, wants to eventually marry Chise…who is 15 at the time.

….yeah, OK I will admit this was a bit weird to say the least especially as we are assuming a) Elias is far older and b) obviously is a magical creature of his own. To the show’s credit, Chise reacts with shock and also this part doesn’t really come up throughout the rest of the arc so almost feels like a cliff note but will see how this digresses…

Set in England, Chise is getting used to life as she is taken to a store owned by a woman named Angelica (and the show even has some good comedy elements when Angelica pretty much kicks Elias out when he learns he purchased her and intends to marry her ^^) It seems Chise has potential magic in her, but doing it can cause a great strain to her body (we later learn she may not have long to live…) with Angelica giving her tools, but Chise is kidnapped again this time by someone taking her to Iceland to go see some dragons. This kidnapping is more for her benefit surprisingly as Elias seems to be fine with her learning more from the wise old dragon Nevin, playing with the younger dragons and learning of Chises’ thought process as we learn she nearly committed suicide but Nevin tells her she has the choice of living strong now just as he dies, and with his blessing, he turns into a tree after dying and allows her to use some of his wood to make a magic wand. Learning to be happy is just as much as a focus for Chise (helps that her master’s maid Silvie, a beautiful but mute woman, is still very expressional with her faces and kind, the hidden favourite character of mine).

The show basically is partly episodic before you hit the first mini plot, but it gives the show an excuse to showcase all the mythology, monsters and wonderful animation it goes through. They visit an island of cats where Chise is again a trouble magnet as she nearly drowns by yet another kidnapping (it sounds like she is an annoying damsel in distress character, she isn’t but I can see how you may think that way ^^) but is saved by the soul of a woman named Mina who tries to ask Chise to free her and her husband Matthew’s soul as he went mad. Not helping with people against Elias who thinks he took her as a curiosity. Chise doesn’t see it that way and Chise learns of Mina’s death which may be the real antagonist of the show, whilst Elias sees that one of the reasons he purchased Chise was to find a way to prolong her own life…

Other characters and myths appear, like Titania and Oberon, the queen and king of the fairies who help with Chise’s magic (and wonder about their relationship) whilst the sorcerer who killed Mina in the flashback is revealed, hence you wonder if he’s going to be the main antagonist, named Cartaphilius – who looks set to rid Elias…in the meantime, we get our last main character, a human/dog chimera transformer named Ruth who saves Chise from one of the creatures attracted to her magic, but when Cartaphilius comes to confront them, he tries to kill one of his subordinates Alice, but instead strikes Chise…which royally makes Elias angry and see his true form…and whoa….yeah, it’s nightmare fuel.

Ruth also has some interesting back-story with his relationship with a woman named Isabelle, who has died and is now part of a chimera that is attacking them. With Cartaphilius apparently immortal and Elias berserk, Chise manages to read the memories of Isabelle and proves she is unafraid of him or Elias who reverts him, and eventually they get away with Ruth now Chise’s familiar. With Elias afraid of his true form and locking himself in his room, Chise and Ruth (with Silvie giving them spending money – plastic British pounds in anime people!) meet Angelica as Chise realizes her damsel in distress nature of over relying on Elias, but when she tries to stay with him he leaves, so they go find him. An interesting side story of Chise meeting a succubus type monster known as a Leanan sidhe with an older man seems to be setting up for something but for now let’s get to the finale…

Chise returns to the land of the dragons and we meet Elias’ master named Lindel in more depth as she now wants to make the wand from Nevin’s tree and we learn of Lindel and Elias’ past together, which is parts comic and parts tragic as it does strength the bond of Chise and Elias, though there are some dark parts (Elias may have once ate humans and him killing a bird familiar after was warned that their future isn’t good). Chise begins to gain mage abilities and is appreciating her new lease of life because of her kind and helping nature, as she finally thinks about what to do with her future, even making her first powerful spell transforming into a phoenix to fly back to Elias, as the first half ends with Chise truly happy.

Of course, the whole future thing is a worry considering Chise may only have a few years to live…so in retrospect, it also is a bit of a cliffhanger…

The series actually does well with the development of characters (Elias, Chise, Ruth), some interesting sub characters (Lindel, Angelica) and some sub plots kept open (the one with the succubus and Joel even says to come see them again) and the mythology and fantasy elements really draw you in. Chise in particular seems to slowly develop and become more and more competent and more happy. She does seem like initially a damsel in distress with everyone tells her she is special even though she doesn’t know why and why she’s deserves this – indeed, I felt initially she was going to be the dreaded Mary Sue character. Fortunately, with good development (she has quite a lot of bravery and badass moments) and her relationship with Elias going stronger, it gives her quite a lot of character. Heck, she even has some comic moments and a bit of snark to her. Of course, you can argue about if the relationship between her and Elias is a bit creepy (especially as it seems Elias has lived for over 100 years) however aside from a fair bit of princess carrying and nuzzling, it doesn’t go beyond that, and in fact seems more like a friendship relationship between the two as Chise is clearly grateful to Elias despite whatever his plans are, and yet she gets to a) be happy and b) learns not to rely on him. Hence the phoenix spell moment almost as a metaphor of her breaking free from her restraints and fleeing into the world.

Elias as well is really interesting, as his methods are strange – purchase a Japanese girl for 5 million pounds, then take care of her, make her an apprentice of his magic and intend to marry her. Yet you see that there are reasons, both for her benefit and wanting to prolong her life, and also his own regrets and searching for his past. His powers are a bit of everything combined with the fact his strange looks seem normal (partly explained that people without powers can’t see him – though amusingly children can which really annoys him ^^) but despite his look, it does feel very Beauty & The Beast like – the beautiful young girl and the hideous monster, with her in a way being captive yet of her own will and isn’t treated like a slave and his kindness is throughout…despite being the butt of many a joke for the ways he does things…

The only major weakness bar whether you find the Chise/Elias relationship strange is that there is no defined final story. The show goes through episodically, Elias and Chise having to sort out something strange in where they go or Chise goes to a place and learns more about something magical or mythical. The introduction of Cartaphilius as a potential villain may hold water for the future especially with Chise getting more powerful but there is no set pattern to him yet, and with Ruth now as another bodyguard character to help her out, there is time to develop their relationship as well, but for the moment, they are just rustling in the breeze.

That said, the fantastic art, the mythology, the development of our two main leads, and a nice combination of action, development, characterization and even some fun comic moments means this is definitely one of those series that could be one that anyone can grab. And hey, it sets up nicely for the 2nd half when more story comes through (the idea Chise has a short life span is definitely alluded many times) – it’s definitely one that I would give a watch and recommendation to anyone.

Summary:
Ancient Magus Bride is one of those series that has a bit of everything and something for everyone. Whilst it has its flaws (weird relationship, no arching plot as of yet, lead character could put you off initially if you don’t like damsel/Mary Sue types), it is one of the stronger series of recent times due to the combination of style (animation and music), acting (both dub and sub are great), development (Chise and Elias do get strong chemistry together) and amazing research (having to look up all these monsters – will o the wisp? Leanan sidhe? All legit) makes it one to check out even if you aren’t a fan of the fantasy genre. And hey, another anime set in England and has the plastic money? Progress.

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Manga Enterainment UK
Release Date: April 1st, 2019
MSRP: £34.99
Running Time: 309 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
PlayStation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.


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