The Ancient Magus’ Bride Series Review: Magic Feels, Mundane Plot

The Ancient Magus’ Bride was a highly anticipated anime when it came out in the Autumn 2017 season. Now completed in Winter 2018, what are your final thoughts?

Review:

Having never read the source material for this one, I still managed to read an abundance of spoilers before going in and while watching it there were the inevitable comparisons between events in the anime and the manga. It is always an interesting experience watching an anime that comes from such a well known source and is so widely viewed as it means there are a lot of people covering it and expectations versus reality definitely play a huge role in those discussions.

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For me, I reviewed this anime with Weekend Otaku on his blog week to week as part of our 200 Word Anime collaboration. It was a lot of fun getting to discuss our favourite and least favourite parts of the episodes and because we were reviewing it together I had a chance to consider what I wanted to focus on with each episode and whether I wanted to discuss something similar to Weekend or focus on a different aspect of the show. It means that for me I was a lot more observant and critical while viewing episodes because I needed to make sure I had something to add to Weekend’s thoughts rather than just echoing them.

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Yet sitting back at the end of the season, I have to wonder what I thought of this anime overall. Despite so many of the issues I highlighted during weekly reviews, as a whole, I still think I really enjoyed watching this show.

The plot itself is pretty ordinary. Okay, only ordinary if you accept buying and selling people as ordinary and a land where dragons can live in a sanctuary and so on, but that is more setting and background for the story. The story really is Chise learning who she is and who Elias is and their relationship growing over the course of the season as they both reflect on who they have been and who they want to be. Pretty straight forward girl meets guy, realises she’s been putting herself down for too long and suddenly finds new lease on life; meanwhile, guy realises he’s a bit of a possessive jerk and promises to change. Just add in that the girl is probably going to die if she doesn’t learn to control her magic and the guy isn’t really a human or fairy but seems to be something in between.

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But while the plot is average, and the pacing goes from too slow in the early half to way too rushed in the final arc, this show excels at creating its visual aesthetic and hitting the viewer with its emotions. While sometimes these are cheap ploys to draw out an emotional response, for the most part the emotional aspects of the show play true and really do resonate with the viewer. This is built through that slow pacing early on, through those fantastic visuals, and through a sound track that while it might not be the most memorable, manages to fit almost every scene (there’s one sequence where I found the sound missed its mark but otherwise I usually found the music very fitting to what I was watching and quite affective).

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It also helps that Chise and Elias are such dynamic characters who are both growing throughout the course of the series. While neither one is going to end up on my ‘best character ever’ list, they are a pleasure to watch and their interactions are fairly magical, if you’ll excuse the pun.

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The magic in the show is also a shining highlight for the series. It is truly beautiful and there is some really interesting magical lore being explored over the course of the season. While it isn’t as explained as it could have been, there’s clearly been a lot of love and research behind the magic in this story.

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The support cast are also reasonably decent. Okay, they are fantastic, however the anime ultimately doesn’t have the time to give them all enough to do and some characters feel like they are introduced only for events that will come after this season is already over. While there’s nothing wrong with setting up future events, it kind of needed to feel like they had some purpose in this season other than waving at the audience and being acknowledge for existing.

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Still, I would recommend giving this one a try. Some people found the slow pace early on a bit of a put off and let the series go, and that is fair enough. I certainly found the pacing to be an irritation early in the series, and the anime’s penchant for cliff-hanger endings was definitely not something I appreciated. However, give it a go. See what you think.

And if you’ve already watched it, I’d love to know your thoughts, so leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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8 thoughts on “The Ancient Magus’ Bride Series Review: Magic Feels, Mundane Plot

  1. Great review! I agree the series doesn’t revolutionise anything but something about it just hit the right notes for me. Similar to how yona of the dawn surprised me with actually having a plot and a romance heroine who developed. The ancient magus’ bride pleasantly surprised me with it taking a deeper look at serious issues and not making either Elias or Chise too bad or too good, or making “true love” the solution.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, you know I really enjoyed watching this and enjoyed reviewing it with you even more. I think you’ve done a fair job in pointing out what this anime got right and what it didn’t, with a lot of the problems centered around pacing.

    One thing I’ll add that I particularly liked about this show was the large number of literary and mythical references. I enjoy seeing how the themes of those stories are applied to the situation or characters in this one, and found that to be an ongoing point of curiosity throughout.

    Would definitely recommend it if you like more introspective anime!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s definitely a lot to think about with this series when you look closely at it, and at the same time the overall story is quite simple. There’s just been some careful thought put into how the layers have been constructed that kind of elevates it.
      Thanks again for following this and reviewing it with me. It was great fun.

      Like

    1. I think some of the pacing issues won’t feel as pronounced now that it is finished and you could binge watch it. The cliff-hanger endings won’t even really be a glitch when you can instantly watch the resolution in the next episode.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi! I really liked your review and I totally agree with your words. I haven’t finished the series, yes, but I have to watch a couple of episodes, so I think I won’t be in for a big surprise that would make me change my mind. Also, I really hope to get back to a stable internet connection because I want to finish this series!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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