What They Say:
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 audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. This series is one that’s very quiet and moody in all the right ways and has a score that accentuates all of that beautifully. It’s rarely loud or working with big moments but when it does it even feels like it’s going for a subtle approach then. The dialogue is well-placed as needed and it handles the highs and lows well when it engages there, but mostly you’re able to really immerse yourself in it through bo languages. Dani Chambers did a great job of capturing Chise in this and Brian Mathis did the same for Elias, both of which are very distinctive in their own ways. The dialogue throughout this is solid with no problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016 for the OVAs and 2017 for the TV series, the transfer for this project is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s split up a bit oddly with the first disc having five episodes and the second seven, but the first disc also has the three OVAs as a single presentation that comes in at 75 minutes. Animated by Wit Studio, the series looks simply gorgeous. There are a lot of strong design elements to this show and it’s just lush in its color presentation and filled with rich detail. Because it is a slower show and more moody, it’s not a high-animation project. But that isn’t to say it’s full of stills as there are some gorgeously fluid sequences that delivers some great material. But it’s animated like the source material is as it’s an introspective and dialogue-based piece which allows an outsized visual presentation to shine and draw you in all the more. The encoding is wonderful here with a very clean look to it, vibrant and varied colors, and lots of detail that comes through wonderfully.
The limited edition release comes in a beautiful heavy chipboard box that on the front panel has one of the best key visuals that focus on Chise with a kind of theatrical touch with the curtains on the side. Framing it all in the green and gold gives it a nice old leather kind of feeling as well. The back panel under the onsert features a different visual with Chise and Elias together that “feels like fall” because of the coloring but it comes together well even with the standard schoolgirl outfit that might feel a little out of place. The package works a good shade of green and I love the script for the logo text across it. Within the box, we get a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case that holds the discs from both formats on hinges. The front cover artwork goes for a nice bridal image for Chise as Elias carries here and the lighter touch because of the soft lighting makes it pretty appealing. The back cover works nicely with a look at the episodes by number and title along with a nice shot of Chise along the left. The set comes with a reversible cover that lets some of the supporting cast stand out in a very detailed look while the back panel is the same as the main cover.
Also within the box, we get a gorgeous square bound booklet that features some lovely full-color character pages, a look at some of the animation in it, and some key visual pieces. The booklet does warn at the start that it spoils into the second set so we only lightly skimmed it but loved the look of it and the paper quality of it. The set also comes with a spacer box that holds a beautiful fabric poster of the back panel artwork in larger/zoomed in form as well as a selection of five art cards. The cardstock quality is fantastic as it really captures the colors and details beautifully, making these all worthy of being framed.
The menu design for this release does keep things simple but it works effectively for this kind of show. It uses a number of clips from the show as the full screen playing through and with lots of really nice pieces to choose from it sets the mood perfectly for the series. The logo is set static in the middle in a larger size so it dominates but you still get a really good look at what plays through. The navigation along the bottom is a bit bigger than I think it needs to be, it could be smaller and more subdued, but it has the basics that let you get everything set up well both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this release are definitely appealing for the dub side of fans as they get a lot. The general extras are the clean opening and closing sequences since I don’t really consider the prequel OVAs to be extras but rather fundamental pieces. On the dub side of extras, we get an audio commentary for the eighth episode as well as a fun Twitter Q&A sequence with the cast and crew answering questions from there. This clocks in at eighteen minutes and provides the two leads and ADR director Kyle Phillips a chance to have a good time.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga Mahō Tsukai no Yome by Kore Yamazki, the Ancient Magus’ Bride is a twenty-two episode TV series that was preceded by a three-part OVA series. This set brings us the first half of the TV series and the OVAs, which are placed in the extras section, as animated by Wit Studio, which definitely was one of the big factors in this show being as anticipated as it was. The original manga began in 2013 and is still ongoing with ten volumes out now, which is also seeing English release through Seven Seas Entertainment. I didn’t watch this during its original run so I got to go into this without really knowing much about it beyond a few clips and some general premise material. What I got was a show that’s very easy to just ease into and enjoy while teasing some larger ideas about what the world is like.
Taking place in a world much like our own, there’s two flavors of magic that exists, one that’s essentially taken the form of technology while the other is more direct actual magic. It’s in this side that the series resides as we follow Chise Hatori, a young woman who is something rare in this world, a Sleigh Beggy. She’s a magus that can draw magic from around her without issue and even rarer is that she’s able to see a lot of the creatures and fairies that exist. Many are just outside of view as they interact with humanity so her being able to see them can cause all sorts of issues when interacted with but it’s also an ability that’s sought after. Chise is a quiet and somewhat withdrawn young woman in her teens because of events in her past when her father left with her brother and she had the tragic piece of seeing her mother commit suicide. Those broke her in a lot of ways and made this kind of inward person take shape.
What we see is that she ended up feeling so alone and isolated that she allowed herself to be sold into slavery in hopes of finding a path there, good or bad, to follow. What happened is that she was purchased by Elias Ainsworth, a rarity himself as he’s known as a “Child of Thorns,” a faerie and human mix. We don’t see how he came to be within this set of episodes but we do see some of him as a child and it’s just fascinating because of his character design with the skull-like face that doesn’t move much and the horns. Seeing that on a child’s body, as the rest of him is human in general structure, is weirdly engaging and off-putting. Elias is between two worlds and is intent on helping Chise with her issues while making her both his future bride and his apprentice. It’s the kind of awkward relationship that works in storytelling but you never really see it happening in the real world in various circumstances. Elias presents with that mature and connected to both worlds aspect while standing apart and has the older male role down pat when placed alongside Chise.
The design of the series proper focuses on Chise’s integration into Elias’ world and home while understanding her own abilities and coming to understand him. It’s a fairly standard design but one that works well under the right hands. Kore Yamazaki did all of this very well in making both characters flawed and somewhat tragic in their own ways but not so tied to it that it’s their only defining feature. Watching as Chise enters his life and starts to understand those that live within it, gaining her own familiar as this half of the season goes on that gives her someone at her side quite often, is fascinating. A lot of it is focused just in introducing us to how magic and the fae operate in all of this. One instance is intriguing with a fae that usually deals with granting the desires and skills to younger men in exchange for sustenance without them knowing but this one is helping an older man that she’s fallen for in her own way. Another focuses on Chise learning her value as a Sleigh Beggy and how others will try to win her over and whisk her away from Elias in order to push their own goals.
But, invariably, things come back to Chise and Elias themselves. His being between two worlds and living for some time so far has him still not understanding humanity. And having Chise there is part of his attempt at getting closer to it and understanding that side of himself with all of its emotions. It’s a lot to place on Chise but as she discovers how much of a home she wants to make here and with those around her, and understanding more of her own gifts and coming to not be afraid of them and actively like what she can do, there is a frame within the two are able to help each other and themselves. It does lean more on Chise for it as we see the world through her eyes, and her education about the history of the magical side, but it’s effective and it lets Elias really have that older wiser figure placement.
Before the TV series started, a three-episode OVA series was produced that essentially had a new 25-minute installment out every six months which came to just before the show itself got underway. These episodes, included in the extras section, are definitely engaging as they’re almost side stories but welcome ones for highlighting different pieces. Under the framework of Chise reading a story, we see Chise’s past from when she was little, the interactions with people in her life, and the uncertainty and wariness over the fae that she was seeing but unable to put to words most of the time. This also brings in Riichi, a mage who helps explain some of this and sets her onto a better path of understanding, but even that has its own tragedy within it that advances the larger storyline. It’s an intriguing way to introduce the anime viewership to the property since it delves into some hard material but it’s also something that worked to really excite the fans as to what the TV series would come to be and it provided a good entry point to deal with the more complicated aspects of the property.
I really enjoyed The Ancient Magus’ Bride with what this first half of the series presents. There is a bigger picture storyline unfolding with our two leads and what it is it intends to tell but I also like that for a lot of it we’re able to get into the weeds a bit with how this world operates. Smaller looks at so many aspects of the world design, shown with a relaxed and engaging approach, makes it really accessible and is the kind of slow burn world design that I love to see. There’s a lot to like here and just seeing how well Wit Studio handled adapting the really great look and design from the manga is impressive. Funimation delivers all that goodness to fans with a great looking show, a solid dub, and a very appealing limited edition release with some great pack-in material beyond a gorgeous box. This is one of those shows that sticks with you in a way a lot of others don’t.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star Part 1-3, Twitter Q&A: The Ancient Magus’ Bride Cast & Crew, Episode 8 Commentary, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Trailers
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 29th, 2019
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.