Manga Review – The Ancient Magus’ Bride

The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume 1

The Ancient Magus’ Bride
魔法使いの嫁 (Mahou Tsukai no Yome)
YAMAZAKI Kore
Shounen – Drama, fantasy, romance
5 Volumes (ongoing)
Seven Seas

Summary:

After years being unwanted and being able to see things others can’t, Chise agrees to be sold at an underground auction. Her new owner turns out to be a skeleton-headed mage named Elias. Chise is surprised when Elias warmly welcomes her as his apprentice, but she is even more taken aback when he announces she’s his bride!

Review:

The Ancient Magus’ Bride hasn’t won any awards yet, but I believe it’s only a matter of time.

Let me first talk about The Ancient Magus’ Bride by discussing what it isn’t. It isn’t a tale about a girl suffering from a cruel master but falls in love with him because of Stockholm syndrome. It isn’t about a princess or other figure sacrificing herself by agreeing to marry a stranger to save her kingdom. It isn’t a human x nonhuman love comedy or a person suddenly reappearing to fulfill a childhood promise to marry. With a title about a mage and a bride, any of these could have been possibilities.

So what is The Ancient Magus’ Bride? Quite simply, the manga is a poignant reflection on life. Chise has, quite understandably, pretty much given up on her life. Her parents are gone, no one wants her, and everyone thinks she’s a freak since she can see strange things. So she feels like she really has nothing to lose — or even complain about — when she’s sold at an auction house. Once at Elias’ house, a central part of the plot is about Chise learning to live, to find out how important the existence of the being known as”Chise” is. With a title like The Ancient Magus’ Bride, the series seems like her romance with Elias would be the catalyst for her growth. But here’s the beauty of this manga: when Chise explains to Elias about how her ability is a curse, he tells her, “I’ll have to ensure you’ll be glad of it one day.” He doesn’t say, “I like your gift!” or even, “I need you!”; he knows Chise has to be the one to accept herself.

The relationship between Chise and Elias is obviously a big part of the story. But even as the two start to feel affection for each other, it is Chise’s encounters with others that really force her out of her emotional cage. It’s the live-in Silky that keeps the lights on for Chise. A dragon forces her to look at the finality of death. A woman tells Chise not to solely cling to others. Of course, Elias also fosters Chise’s development and the yin to Chise’s yang. Chise is young; he’s old. Chise seals off her emotions; Elias wants to unlock his. The setup may seem disturbing for a romance, but Elias tends to act more like a mentor than a lover. While everyone (including the author herself) treats their eventual romantic relationship as a foregone conclusion, the love story is more on the slow side. He is central to Chise’s world; however, the plot spends a lot of time on not only expanding Chise’s world but showcasing The Ancient Magus’ Bride‘s world.

Yes, the author takes great care in interweaving Chise’s lessons with the supernatural world. Yamazaki draws on many Western myths to develop her fantasy world. Readers meet a number of creatures from well-known dragons to much less recognized leanan sídhe. As the story is still ongoing and is the first series of the author’s to go beyond two volumes, the manga could end in a couple more volumes or last for quite a while. There are a lot of ways this story could take shape, and the fantasy setting presents a lot of plot possibilities. The Western influences would seem to make The Ancient Magus’ Bride a good gateway manga, but I imagine a lot of people may initially feel a bit squeamish about an old non-human x young girl romance, especially one where he takes on the role of a guardian to the protagonist.

The initial volumes have Elias (with Chise accompanying him) tackling three tasks. In between, Chise studies magic. (Spells are rather complicated in the manga, and chants take several speech bubbles, slowing down the manga’s pace.) The two encounter quite a few characters on their journeys, and most have already made a second or third appearance. Elias and Chise live in Britain, but they could go almost anywhere in the world thanks to magic (and traditional transportation if needed). Even if they stay in the area, I kind of hope Yamazaki introduces more short-term characters. Sometimes even a so-called “filler” chapter can really make an impact. I don’t want to just see Angelica, Simon, and all of Elias’ and Chise’s acquaintances just rotate in one after another. There are some wonderful characters outside of the titular ones (especially Chise’s familiar who treasures her dearly while adjusting to his true form), and they will likely be key to the manga’s ultimate confrontation with the story’s antagonist. However, I want Yamazaki to take full advantage of the fantasy setting and introduce as many spirits and mythical beasts as possible.

There’s another reason I want this: Yamazaki’s art is downright amazing. For goodness’ sake, the male lead is a dog skull with horns who can shapeshift! That can’t be easy to draw, even with the help of computers! The manga features some beautiful imagery of lakes and forests as well as horror shots of murdered animals. There are so many images where I feel like blowing them up and hanging them on my walls. A color insert is included in each volume, but the most disappointing thing is that one of the sides is always a text-free version of the cover. The title and author’s name are pretty unobtrusive, and I would have loved to see two new images instead of one per volume. Despite my love for Yamazaki’s art, the designs I liked the least were of humans. Elias’ human form and that of his “friend” Simon’s are nearly identical. Yamazaki attributes this to Elias borrowing Simon’s face for inspiration, but this just comes across as lazy. Even a female character has a strikingly similar facial structure. Chise herself is pretty much a typical sad-faced character, but I’m looking forward to see her become more alive. I liked her rounded face and big eyes more than the long faces of the adults, but I imagine this is also to make Chise seem foreign. The people aren’t ugly, but they just are as visually striking as the wide-eyed ariel fae and large dragons. The imagery is quite beautiful with all the English inspirations (the house, Silky’s clothing, etc.). The auction in the first volumes shows a wide variety of creatures, so I’m hoping to see more besides the cats, dogs, ariels, and even dragons that dominate these early volumes. Yamazaki also draws some impressive backgrounds with forest, city, and even sky scenes. It feels like I’m submerged in the world, and I can only see it improving even more as she continues the series.

Translation:

No honorifics are used. This may seem like common sense since most of the story is taking place in England. However, I assumed Chise was speaking Japanese and hearing Japanese due to a spell, so it might may sense to keep honorifics since that’s what Chise is hearing. It isn’t until the author’s notes in volume three that Yamazaki confirms Chise is speaking English. I guess she is a language wiz since she is speaking English very well for her level.

Firstly, I noticed a couple of typos and misspellings, particularly in the third volume. I didn’t care for the faes’ font. Unlike the normal dialogue, their font is a mixture of upper- and lowercase letters. Since some of the words have an accent mark, some letters looked really awkward.

Chise’s existence is, in Japanese, is 夜の愛し仔 (“the night’s beloved offspring”) with the reading of スレイ・べガ. Seven Seas translated this as “sleigh beggy”, which Seven Seas explained is a name of a fairy in the real world. Here and here they discuss their choice. I had never heard of the term before. I just assumed when I was reading it that this was one of those weird Engrish phrases, and then the reading of スレイ・べガ threw me. スレイ・べギ would seem more logical in that case, right? Scanlations evidently used “slay vega”, and Crunchyroll also uses this term. I have no idea if Yamazaki meant sleigh beggy or if this was just a made up word. It makes more sense that she was inspired by a real-world term, but I don’t know. I guess even the Japanese readers don’t know; when I did a Google search in Japanese, Google’s suggested search was for the term’s meaning. I couldn’t find anything outside of this series. “Slay vega” sounds cooler, but it also sounds more like someone meant to destroy the world or something.

Otherwise, I really only have one other thing to add, and it kind of goes back to the first paragraph of this section. Chise really understands English well. I know this kind of goes back to the original Japanese text, but when you read it in English and know they’re speaking English, Chise has to be under a spell. She doesn’t speak in short sentences nor needs explanations (outside of magic).

One quick comment: while the Seven Seas website uses “Hatori Chise”, the manga itself uses Western name order for Chise.

Final Comments:

The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a beautiful blend of fantasy, emotion, and art. It’s good. I mean really good. Like, “Why aren’t you buying this already?” good. Run to your favorite retailer and buy this series!

Crunchyroll has started streaming the anime prequel series.

Reader Rating


3.33/5 (3)

3 Comments

  1. Kapodaco

    Hit all the sweet spots. I’ll read it.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina

      Yay! Hope you do your own review or analysis!

      Reply
  2. The Otaku Judge

    Romance with a dog skull headed chap? The guy from Ore Monogatari no longer holds the title of the most unlikely person to star in a love story.

    Reply

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