What They Say:
Chise’s bond with Elias grows stronger by the day, while all around her, things take a turn for the worse. Not only are the fae and beings of lore meddling in her life, but her recovery time is increasing after each use of her power. All caution is thrown to the wind; however, when one of Lindel’s dragons is captured, and the rescue attempt puts Chise’s life in grave danger. Now, the only thing more horrifying than Joseph’s plan to use Chise, is Elias’ plan to save her.
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. The twelve episodes for this set get a standard breakdown with a nine/three split so there’s plenty of room to work with. 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 packaging presentation for this release brings us a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case that holds the discs from both formats on hinges, all of which fits nicely inside the limited edition set that came out previously. The front cover artwork goes for an appealing visual from a distance with Chise along the bottom looking powerful while the magical elements of her life loom behind her amid the white, giving it a powerful look. The back cover works nicely with a look at several shots from the series and a large section for taglines that also has a two-line summary of the premise. The rest is rounded out with the extras included, the digital copy information, and the technical details which are a bit hard to read done in brown and gold against black. The set comes with a reversible cover that use the same artwork as the front cover but the back side features the episode breakdown by number and title dominating it so that it mirrors the limited edition release.
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.
With a front-loaded set previously that had a lot of extras this one keeps things simpler. We get an audio commentary for the 21st episode while also getting a ten-minute Anime Expo interview with two of the Japanese creative, which covers some good behind the scenes material for the project.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I enjoyed the first half of this series a lot when it landed as it took us into the world well and the first set had the OVA series in addition to the TV side, giving it a lot more big picture material overall and some solid character material. The strength of the show is in the mood and atmosphere it creates as Chise navigates this life and I do find it to be pretty interesting, even if a little superficial at times. But the core of is the character material itself and one episode in this set toward the end focusing on Chise’s younger days definitely sells things in a big way for me. It’s a character that you can like a lot and understand through her actions why she does what she does, someone who has survived something terrible and still managed to retain a lot of her humanity.
The growth and evolution of Chise over this and her impact on Elias is definitely interesting to watch unfold. And it is that kind of incremental thing where there’s no “aha!” moment where it all comes together. The two being paired together has brought a lot of change to both of them but not in that way it’s usually presented where it’s just blunt. Honestly, a lot of the smaller moments are what sells me on it more than anything else, such as the opening episode with the shearing of the sheep and just how the two of them talk to each other while Chise does that. With Chise being away recently and having spent time with Uncle Nevin, she’s getting back into the familiar patterns with Elias and he’s realizing how much he’s changed since she became a part of his life like this. There’s an ease and calmness between the two of them that’s very appealing.
With the way events play out early on here where she ends up transformed into a fox, it’s fascinating to watch how others react to that and how Chise in this form operates. But I was more interested when Elias and Oberon take her to the Land of Fairies in order to recover from what was done to her and we see another instance of how Chise is potentially being taken away since Titania wants to keep her there. And with the way time passes so differently there, it sets up for some interesting ideas if he had actually gone through with it. The idea of her turning into a fairy would certainly be an enjoyable what-if kind of side story to tell. It’s a little convoluted in how it all unfolds but bringing them back into the normal world as winter has set in and Christmas has arrived allows for some different stories to be told going into the final half of the set.
The Christmas and winter tales have that nice edge of darkness to them at times with the cold and some of what it involves, especially the initial arc focusing on a young boy who has gone missing. Chise is intent on helping his sister Alice since their parents don’t remember him anymore and it leads to some neat use of the magics that Chise and Elias can use. It’s little things like the flowers and how they communicate and use their magic that entices me a lot. But I also liked the Christmas elements with the yule log that’s burned early on and the later piece where we see Chise giving Elias a new bolo tie while he gives her a teddy bear. Simple kind of first-time gifts that you give someone, though I can see some of the points of the teddy bear revolving around his infantilizing her in some ways. But considering his own nature and just wanting something that she could connect with as a gift, it makes sense.
While there’s a decent enough “big” storyline toward the end, noting that the manga was ongoing past this point, the episode that connected the most for me involved Chise’s past. We get a moment where as part of the deal with Cartaphilius to deal with their situations, we get the two switching eyes and as she sleeps we get dreams of her childhood. Going back to when she was young and seeing the way it all unfolded, her father departing with her brother, the torment that her mother went through, it’s heart-rending in just about every scene. She’s able to see so much and understand more of it as an adult now as well that seeing what her mother struggled with and the madness that would come is fascinating. And you do leave some of it wondering just how much was real and what was the way her mind worked part of the memories, but as it progresses across it there’s so much to like in getting something so tragic revealed in a way that makes it so engaging.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a series that had a whole lot of enthusiasm for it ahead of its debut and it was certainly warranted. There’s a lot to like with this series as it immerses you into this natural world of magic and all that it entails with the creatures and rules of it all. It’s one that you can liken to Mushishi in a lot of ways but approached in a very different way. It’s beautifully animated and has a great cast for both language options that we get here. This set is a bit lighter than the first with its limited edition but it delivers where it counts with a fantastic visual presentation, some good extras to delve into, and a solid package all around. It’s definitely a good way to close out the show and entice people into following the manga.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 21 Commentary, The Ancient Magus’ Bride at Anime Expo 2018: Interview with George Wada and Norihiro Naganuma, Trailers
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 16th, 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.