Image copyright © 2016 MAG Garden corp. All rights Reserved. No reproduction or republication without written permission.

And it was both beautiful and bittersweet.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a modern Japanese fantasy tale about a Chise, a young girl with innate magic powers that sells herself into slavery. Yet instead of being bought by a cruel master, she is purchased by powerful sorcerer Elias Ainsworth–not to be his slave but to be his apprentice and bride.

However, all this is but the framing device for the true story of The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star trilogy of episodes: the tale of why Chise would sell herself into slavery in the first place.

The first (and quite short) episode introduced us to the horrible life of young Chise, years before her first encounter with Elias. After her father abandoned her–and her mother committed suicide in front of her–Chise moves in with her reluctant aunt, uncle, and cousins. Yet instead of trying to understand the traumatized child, her aunt only gets more frustrated. This is only exacerbated by the fact that Chise sees monsters all around her–monsters that no one else can see. The first episode ends with Chise being chased by one such monster through the woods of her local park, luckily finding refuge in a mysterious library.

Image source SHOCHIKUch on YouTube

The second episode begins directly afterward. While worried about intruding and terrified of the odd monsters she sees reading books, Chise tries to leave. However, before she can, the librarian, Miura, gives her a library card and teaches her the two rules of the library: never forget your library card and never leave the door open.

Soon, the library becomes her refuge even as things worsen at home. Her aunt and uncle argue about throwing her out, her cousins bully her for the disharmony she has brought to the family, and soon her aunt leaves her uncle, taking her cousins along. But for Chise, nothing has changed–home is an empty barren place regardless of whether her aunt is there or not.

Spending her days at the library reading through the countless tomes, Chise is happier than we’ve ever seen her. Miura seems to enjoy her company and treats her kindly. And unlike the monsters she sees in her everyday life, the ones in the library are more cute than scary.

Unfortunately, Miura is not quite the simple librarian he seems. He has haunting problems of his own. While he looks to be on the edge of inviting Chise to live with him in the library–all but adopting the poor girl–we seem him suffer from panic attacks and memory loss that put him in a state between terror and rage. Some tragedy in his past has made him mentally unstable and it puts Chise in danger from the only person in the world she feels close to.

Image source SHOCHIKUch on YouTube

This second episode follows the structure common to many classic Japanese fairy tales, like Tsuru no Ongaeshi or the tale of the Snow Woman. A lowly person encounters something supernatural. Through this supernatural person or item they gain happiness. However, to keep said happiness, they must follow one or two simple rules. Unfortunately, the protagonist always seems to break one of the rules–either overwhelmed by curiosity or by accident. At this point, the dreamlike existence falls apart, never to return, and the protagonist is left worse off than ever before. And unfortunately, young Chise’s tale is no exception.


Image copyright © 2016 MAG Garden corp. All rights Reserved. No reproduction or republication without written permission.

To offset the incredibly depressing main story, several comical shorts in a simplistic art style were shown alongside the episode. Each of these, set during the framing device, showcase the enjoyable, everyday aspects of Chise’s adult life with her companions at Elias’ home. One involves Chise’s familiar (a dog) growing more and more interested in Elias’ skeletal head. Another follows Chise as she spies curiously on Elias’ fairy housemaid.

So, all in all, while not yet the end of the story, this tragic chapter adds yet more reasons why, only a few years later, Chise would sell herself into slavery. Yet, at the same time, the shorts and the framing device let us know that no matter how dark young Chise’s life gets, happiness greater than any she has ever known is just around the corner.

The first episode in The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star series can be seen with English subtitles on Crunchyroll, however, the second episode is currently only available for viewing in Japanese cinemas.

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