The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Mahoutsukai no Yome) was one of the more hyped up anime on social media heading into the Fall 2017 season. Despite a few misgivings, it largely lives up to expectations.
First off, you don’t have to watch the prequel Those Awaiting a Star OVAs. They center around heroine Chise’s tragic past, but the premiere actually assumes you didn’t watch it. You don’t get an info dump, but a few flashback scenes hint to why Chise is selling herself into slavery.
As for the main course, The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a Japanese influenced European fairy tale. You’ll be filled with a sense of wonder as supernatural creatures invade the idyllic London countryside, but don’t expect much world-building in the first episode.
Much of our time is spent with Chise and Elias, who is a sorcerer that serves as Chise’s master and fiancé. The power dynamic between the two appears problematic at first, but things will be carefully explained in later episodes!
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is essentially a spin on Beauty and the Beast if Belle was a broken soul and Beast was a socially inept sorcerer. It’s closer to the original Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et le Bête from 1756), which shares the same themes of family rejection and kind beasts. While The Ancient Magus’ Bride does feature more magic, it’s primarily used as window dressing to explore the two protagonists. Chise gets to learn the meaning of family from Elias, while Elias gets learns about human interaction from Chise.
The series intentionally starts with an uneven power dynamic. After all, Elias did buy Chise at an auction. Elias’ plan to marry Chise and him treating her as a puppy is sleazy, but rest assured that Chise will gain agency as the story moves on.
Chise and Elias’ initial meeting is paired with enchanting visuals. You won’t be blown away by any particular scene, but there is warmth to the anime’s world. Fans of European visuals and Celtic mythology will love the environmental touches that Wit Studio uses. While not as evocative as the manga, The Ancient Magus’ Bride is easily the most beautiful work Wit Studio has produced.
Overall, The Ancient Magus’ Bride has a strong premiere. It won’t blow you away with shocking twists or dynamic animation sequences, but it will fill you with warm magic.