Note: Review copy supplied by Manga Entertainment
Title: The Ancient Magus’ Bride Part One
Anime Studio: Wit Studio
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Released: April 1st 2019
Language: Japanese / English
Length: 309 Mins
Magic and lore weave a breathtaking world in this tale based on the award-winning 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. Chise’s incredible power draws dangerous fae creatures, and worse yet, it drains her life. If she wants to survive, she must learn to wield magic, 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 Ancient Magus’ Bride comes with the reputation of being a visually beautiful series, and it truly lives up to that. The background work is really detailed, the general animation is smooth, and the colour work – especially in the opening video – is phenomenal. And the character designs? They’re top notch as well, with a good mix of human, humanoid, beastly and monstrous cast members to get to grips with. In particular, Elias is treated well here: His main appearance in interesting, his true form is an absolute thing of beauty, and his tiny past self is undeniably cute. Really, this shouldn’t be surprising though; Wit Studio are great when it comes to visuals, and are fast becoming a favourite for me in that regard.
The story itself is a nice balance of fantasy and tragedy, with the overall sense of magic being pushed out of the world creating a good backdrop for it all to play out against. This is all helped by the world building being presented in a masterful fashion. There’s a lot of it on show from the start, and rather than being slapped in your face, the lore seeps in at appropriate times during the story.
One thing that intrigued me was that all our leads – Elias, Chise, and later Ruth – have a touch of sadness to their tales, but somehow there remains a sense of hope for them. Even with the darker moments relating to their backstories and current actions, they’re a good natured group, and you really get drawn into their different adventures. The result of that is that when the series starts to thrown in almost horror elements, you start to really fear the characters’ lives. You don’t get concerned like that if a cast is bland and unlikable. And it’s the likability of them that allows you to focus on the sweetness to the slow-burn romance that’s building between Elias and Chise.
The only thing that seemed almost out of place here was perhaps Titania and Oberon. While fine as characters, there was definitely a clear anime edge to them, to the point that it felt a little at odds with the more folklore-ish tones of the general world. It’s not so out of place that it damages your enjoyment, but if you’re a fan of the Shakespeare versions of the characters, you’ll potentially not be a fan.
Both the Japanese and Western VAs do a great job in the series, but the original cast definitely edge it here. The rest of the audio is really great too, with the OST being consistently beautifully atmospheric throughout the entire run.
When the biggest fault you can find with a series is that only covering half of the series leaves you wanting more, you know you’re onto a winner. The Ancient Magus’ Bride is more than deserving of its reputation, and is a visual and storytelling treat for viewers. This is an easy 5 out of 5.