Manga Talk: The Ancient Magus’ Bride

Welcome back to Manga Talk!

Today we are going to be taking a look at a series that I actually followed for a good amount of time when it was adapted as an anime as it was airing.

I have a lot of things to say about this series, and I can’t wait to talk about it.

Today we are talking about the first volume of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and there will be MASSIVE SPOILERS. You have been warned, and as a slight spoiler, I really recommend you take a look at this series if you haven’t yet.

Let’s get started!

Synopsis

The story begins at an auction, where the current item being bid is not in fact an item, but a young woman who is referred to as a Sleigh Beggy.

She is chained and as the bidding starts at a high one million pounds, it is capped off by the final bid of five million pounds, by a horned individual who decides to take the young woman as an apprentice.

After we learn that the young woman is 15 years old and from Japan, we see more of the individual who bought her, and he is indeed monstrous in appearance.

The two walk to leave and the young woman remarks on how she can see the many mystical creatures and is only shocked by the amount of them, not the fact that they exist.

This is noticed by the one who bought her and asks for her name, Hatori Chise. He introduces himself as Elias Ainsworth, who remarks that it is rare for “her kind” to possess the ability to see the magical creatures, for all the luck it may have gave her.

Chise then remembers her past, showing that she was bullied for seeing things and for having no parents, and she bursts out in anger, saying that her ability has brought her only misfortune.

Elias says that he seeks to reverse that course of action, and for her to be less passive and be more interesting. While Chise wonders what he means by that, Elias embraces her and teleports the two to his country home.

In England.

As Chise processes what happened, including asking about the whole apprentice thing, Elias removes the chains that were on Chise and declares her to be an apprentice mage, saying that they are a dying breed.

Elias then has Chise take a bath, and she takes some time to process things. As she does, fairies come through the window and start fawning over Chise.

This is interrupted by Elias calling out to her, and tells Elias about her encounter with the fairies, this particular type of fairy being called ariels.

Chise then asks about magic, what Elias means about apprentice, and what a Sleigh Beggy is.

In order, magic is real, a lot of mages and alchemists died during a war, and a Sleigh Beggy is something akin to a queen bee, attracting magical creatures to them and having the creatures serve the Sleigh Beggy, whether or not they are seen.

While Elias says that Chise will be a fine mage someday, he has no intention of forcing her down that path if she doesn’t want to and will support her in whatever path she takes.

He then gives Chise what he calls an Adder Stone, a round rock with a hole naturally bored through it as a way to protect her and they decide to go to sleep for the night.

Where can I get one of those?

As Chise begins to go to sleep, an ariel comes back and persuades her to go on a walk in the evening. While hesitant, Chise decides to go on the walk, and Elias immediately knows what’s happening and remarks on how it will be a good lesson for Chise.

Chise and the ariel walk for quite a while, the ariel leads her to a portal to her home. The ariel gives Chise the hard pitch to cross the threshold where they can have fun together, but Chise manages to resist the urge to go.

She does so by recognizing Elias as one of the few things to show her any kindness, and that is when Elias shows up, much to the ariel’s chagrin.

Elias states that he knew what was going on because of the Adder Stone, and threatens the ariel to leave and not come back.

When all is said and done, Chise believes that Elias is going to yell at her, but instead he remarks that he should have warned her, but it served as a learning experience.

Elias carries Chise and remarks that he doesn’t want his future wife to be covered in scars, which is when the title finally comes into play. Elias not only bought Chise to be his apprentice, but also to be his bride.

Chise wakes up processing what happened thus far and we see a new face in the house. A woman, who Elias identifies as a spirit called a Silky, making food and Elias also says that Chise has been asleep for two days, possibly from the exhaustion.

The two go out to deal with some errands, with Elias taking on a human disguise, and they meet an acquaintance of Elias named Angelica.

Angelica rips on Elias for having bought and proposed to Chise, and we learn that Angelica is a mage and an artificer who happens to also have a daughter named Althea.

Althea is upset that she can’t practice today, but Angelica sends her off and we learn the differences between alchemy and magic.

Alchemists use the natural laws of the world and tweak them to suit their own needs, while mages borrow power from fae and spirits and dramatically interfere or break those laws to do what they want.

While it may seem easier to borrow the power to do whatever they want, mages can accidentally take things out of hand, which leads to disastrous results. Angelica decides to teach Chise some magic, and lends out her familiar, a water spirit named Hugo, to turn a small crystal into a flower.

As Chise closes her eyes to think of a flower, she has a memory of her mother and her in a field of flowers, and she is shaken awake by Elias.

When she opens her eyes, she sees that the floor is covered in crystal flowers. Chise thinks that this is cool, but Angelica is more concerned with how powerful Chise was with no training. Elias tells Angelica that Chise is a Sleigh Beggy.

In addition to being a magnet for magical creatures, a Sleigh Beggy is a like a sponge for magical energy, absorbing massive amounts of power without even realizing it.

Angelica is not happy that Elias kept it a secret, but understands why. Elias commissions Angelica to make some things and when she is finished, Chise and Elias return home.

Elias asks about Chise’s family, and we learn that Chise’s dad abandoned her a long time ago and her mother died.

At the front of the house, there is a man that is looking for Elias, a priest by the name Simon Cullum.

After exchanging pleasantries, Simon says that there are three matters that need to be taken care of, and Elias is more than capable of dealing with them. Elias and the church get along well enough, but since he has taken in a new apprentice, things have become complicated.

Elias takes on the tasks, and Simon takes some medicine called panacea and heads on his way.

Chise asks why the church isn’t trying to kill Elias, and he says that since Britain is a land of old magic, mages have been respected because of it.

The two head off to Iceland to deal with a potential dragon problem. Since Iceland is remote and sparsely populated, the last dragons have been moved there as a place to stay away from wandering eyes.

Chise then gets snatched by a man riding a dragon and takes her to the land of the dragons. He explains some dragon facts and how he knew who she was because the ariels will not miss out on some gossip.

Elias catches up with them and the man, Lindel, is revealed to be a caretaker of the dragons and is also older than Elias.

While Elias and Lindel talks about the task that was given to Elias was about, Chise meets some dragon chicks and decides to play with them.

After explaining how a human can’t fly, Chise sees the large dragon, Nevin, that she met when she first arrived. We then learn that the old dragon is going to die and become a tree soon.

Chise asks if it’s going to hurt, but Nevin assures her that he is very aware that he is going to die soon, and that he is almost looking forward to it in a way.

Chise is still sad at this, and a flashback of her looking through a fence, it is implied that she was possibly going to attempt suicide.

Nevin says that it was good that she didn’t go through with it, and that if she hadn’t met Elias then he would still be stuck at his home.

It is then revealed that dragons can share memories, and Nevin apologizes for invading on her memories without permission. As a consolidation, he offers to share his memories of true flight.

As the two dream, with it being Nevin’s last, Elias and Lindel wax poetic on how soon all mages will be gone, with it being possible that Chise is part of the final generation of mages.

When Chise wakes up from the dream, a tree has begun to sprout from Nevin’s back, and because Chise is a Sleigh Beggy, her magic made Nevin’s dream incredibly vivid.

As Nevin becomes one with the earth, he asks Chise to take one of his branches for a wand when the time comes.

When the two leave to accomplish the other tasks, Chise remarks on how peacefully Nevin went, and is jealous of that.

Chise then wakes up next to Elias on a train to their next destination, where a cat begins to speak.

It is revealed that cats do in fact have nine lives, and as they go through those lives, they become wiser, and the ability to talk comes with it.

The cat says that the King of Cats requires Elias, and they make their way to meet the King of Cats, a long haired cat named Molly, but not before passing by a shady hooded individual.

While Molly finds Elias odd, it is remarked that cats much prefer working with mages than with alchemists.

Molly then explains why the two are here; many years ago there was a man who killed cats for fun, and as a retaliation the cats banded together and killed the man dead. However, as part of it the king of that day sacrificed his lives to bind the man onto an island in the middle of the lake.

Every previous king had given their lives to maintain the bindings, but the spirit, which is a large blob of tainted souls, has been attempting to escape.

Molly is willing to sacrifice all of her lives to protect the family she has found, but before more is said, Chise is yoinked by the hooded individual, flown up over the lake and then dropped.

Chise then learns that at the center of the blight is a sick woman who’s husband is desperately clinging on for what he did to help her. The woman asks Chise to do something, but she wakes up in the arms of Elias, who was scouting the area to see what was going on.

He learns that the area has a lot of lingering magic, deliberately put in place to obstruct their efforts. Elias then says that binding is no longer an option with how powerful the blight has become, which means that the only thing left to do is to purify it.

Chise is given the task because while Elias is a proficient mage, he is not the best with purification. We then learn that Chise was told by the woman in the lake to kill the blight, which would kill the sick woman and her husband.

While Chise is still hesitant, she agrees to it and in the evening the purification ritual begins. When Chise gets close to the thing however, she is captured by the hooded man and another individual.

This is an individual that Elias knows, a man named Renfred, and we end the volume with Chise at knife point and the man revealing another name for Elias as Pilum Murale.

World of Wonder

If it isn’t evident by how long the summary is, I really enjoyed this manga.

There are so many things that I adore about this that summarizing it can only do it so much justice.

I will begin with the fact that this story uses the traditional representations of fairies and faefolk. They are whimsical and happy, but they operate on a completely different set of morals than humans.

They are mischievous and are prone to trick others, and are most definitely not to be trusted. I love that this story takes this approach with the fae because it is only in recent years that fairies have been represented in this capacity.

The fact that this story is using primarily European folklore as its basis for the world is also fascinating because it has the opportunity to explore a wide swath of Eurocentric folk creatures.

The way that the magic system is being developed is also well done, often tying in modern ideas to better explain what could be complicated magical jargon.

It is sold especially well with how the characters are done, and that is by far my favorite part of this story.

Chise as the focus character is amazing because while the things around her are wonderous and amazing, in a way they seem almost mundane to her. Chise is a complex character who was dealing with having been bullied for a large chunk of her life.

It was due to the unfortunate passing of her mother, who we can guess that she was close to, that she was further ostracized, even to the point where she was considering suicide.

She is a character who is fifteen years old, and yet she feels like she’s much older with what she has experienced. She was seldom given kindness in her life, but that all changed when Elias bought her.

While we can definitely argue about the ethics of Elias buying Chise, I want to focus on how Elias is written. He never gets angry at Chise, and he very much seems like he has her best interests at heart.

However there is also something about him that is off, besides his appearance. He appears knowledgeable about the world, but not of human ethics and customs. He knows about computers, but doesn’t realize how morally wrong it is to buy people is, even if he was doing it for a reason.

Of course I would also be remise to speak about how the series is titled The Ancient Magus’ Bride, so the fact that they are most likely going to be married at some point is a looming thread that can be explored in the future.

I would go on and on about this, but that could potentially spoil what I know about some of the near future because of the anime.

I will mention two last points on what I really loved about this: the art and the chapter with the dragons.

First off the art is stellar, which is great because one of the main characters if the series has a highly detailed animal skull for a head.

The backgrounds are done so well, and all of the prominent characters are uniquely designed, even the different cats in the last chapter.

Finally the best part of the volume, the chapter with the dragons.

This is not only an interesting look in how dragons in this universe function, but also on how dragons interact with the world.

It would be very easy for a story to show dragons as ferocious killers that breathe fire, but the fact that it instead takes dragons and uses them as a metaphor for magic dying and for the main character to gain more development is exquisite.

I was legitimately welling up as I read that chapter because of how well it was done, it was one of the best things I have read recently.

World of Blunder?

Despite all the things that I do love, it wouldn’t be fair of me to only sing the story’s praises. While my complaints are more like nitpicks, it is still best to voice them.

To address the biggest elephant in the room, yes Chise is fifteen and Elias is much much older. Even though I do like the story, that part can still be off putting to a lot of people, especially in the current climate.

While I am vaguely aware of some future plot points, I am also aware that other people aren’t and will not know more about the current circumstances of the characters. No matter how much one can reassure that there may be a reason for it, there is still the major age disparity.

I won’t mention the hot button words, I am aware that it can be seen as an issue by some people.

One thing I do have a minor issue with is that there is a lot of information given to the audience, so much so that it can be hard to keep track of some details.

The types of fae, how magic works, the differences between alchemist and mage, what a Sleigh Beggy is, and a whole bunch of other things can make remembering some of the smaller things.

While the analogies to the modern world help to understand how magic works, whether or not people will remember it can be a potential problem.

In Conclusion

I would highly recommend this manga to everyone, especially if you like modern fantasy stories, a unique look at European folklore, and complex characters.

This is a series that I am definitely going to continue, and I will very much love to follow.

On Wednesday we move on from a couple that will probably be married to one that is kind of sort of married.

We will move from magic to machines as we talk about a relatively new series called My Wife Has No Emotion.

So until then,

Heiwa to sayonara!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.