12 Days of Anime Characters – Elias

12 Days of Anime Title Image

As we enter day 4 of the 12 Days of Anime and today I’m turning my attention to someone far more mysterious and supernatural than the Princess Ani from Dame X Pri. However is being mysterious enough of a character trait?

I guess that’s something to be discussed while we are looking at Elias from The Ancient Magus’ Bride.

The Ancient Magus' Bride Elias

I really wanted to love The Ancient Magus’ Bride when it began. I loved the three episode OVA that came out prior to the series and I think that really elevated my expectations, that and the hype surrounding the title. Ultimately, the anime works and is certainly aesthetically beautiful, you could lose yourself in endless screen caps of it and in the music, but the plot itself and even how the characters are presented at times remains fairly ordinary. Not bad mind you, just not particularly good and certainly not as strong as the other elements.

However, today I want to look at Elias as a character because he was quite the intriguing figure throughout the anime and one who I don’t think was given enough time, or enough scope to really be all that he could be. In the end, the idea is more interesting than the execution. Now, I haven’t read the source though it is on my read list for that eventual someday, so my views here are entirely constructed through how Elias is presented in the anime.

The Ancient Magus' Bride

In the beginning, the air of mystery surrounding him worked in the anime’s favour. He was this mysterious figure steeped in magic who swept in and took Chise under his wing when she was at her lowest.  However, this character type only works with the understanding that as the plot progresses we will come to understand him and see him in a different manner.

While The Ancient Magus’ Bride most definitely gave us some back story on Elias, actual emotional connections with him were few and far between and far too many of them were buried underneath his relationship with Chise. While that was really a fundamental part of the story it meant that Elias as an individual was neglected and only the Elias in relation to Chise really got to progress anywhere. There seems like there’s a lot more to his character but it just never had the time to go anywhere.

The Ancient Magus's Bride Elias and Chise

By the end of the anime series I still feel like I don’t know Elias as a character. He’s still that mysterious figure with one foot half in the world of magic and one foot firmly in the human world and trying to guide/help Chise to navigate her own path, but who he is and what he actually wants remains very much something surrounded in mist. Which is a shame because I would have loved to get to know him more.

It is possible that this is all there is to the character, but it seems more likely that with time constraints and everything else, his character just didn’t get the chance to really go anywhere. I do know that one of my main disappointments as I look back on the show is that I never really felt like I got to know what Elias was all about.

The Ancient Magus' Bride

So here’s to Elias and the hope that if the anime gets a sequel his character gets the fleshing out it deserves or at the very least a little bit more revealed to help the audience to connect with him or understand him more.

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Karandi James
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The Ancient Magus’ Bride ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
The Ancient Magus' Bride ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

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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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Friday’s Feature: What Makes Something ‘Near Great’

As a self-proclaimed anime fan, it is sometimes hard to step back from something and really think about it. Aiming for some form of objectivity in reviews, which is never overly objective, compared with simply letting out my inner fan-girl and letting her scream “I love you anime” at the top of her lungs. Anyone who might know me in real life might scoff at the thought of me doing that, but I swear that inner fan-girl exists and sometimes she’s a real pain as she buzzes through my brain like a bee on a sugar high.

Small spoiler warning for The Ancient Magus’ Bride final episode in the images.

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And even then, some of you who have simply read my reviews will think, “Hang on a minute, weren’t you the one who gave such-and-such a scathing review or criticised so-and-so for some plot development?” And the answer would definitely be, yes. Because while that inner fan-girl exists and I sometimes love her exuberance, energy and optimism, the reality is that in any particular season of anime there are only so many good shows.

Once you eliminate all of the ones that are outside of your genre or personal preference, sometimes you are lucky to find one or two fairly solid shows within a single season. That doesn’t mean they are the only ones I like. Fan-girl me is happily laughing still at King’s Game and taking somewhat overly excited pleasure in how far Spiritpact has come since its abysmal first episode. If I only found one or two shows I liked, I’d hardly call myself a fan.

But inner fan-girl isn’t alone bouncing around inside my brain. She’s sharing the stage with a lot of different views and one of those is the cynic inside me who waits eagerly to pounce on anything fun and find the flaw (it doesn’t help that some of those flaws are even apparent to the fan-girl). This is the me that waits for things that are rising to fall, and was somewhat smugly satisfied with how KADO ended if only because it meant that inner fan-girl had to take a time out having been bitterly disappointed.

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Naturally I am speaking metaphorically and hopefully I don’t actually have multiple personalities streaming around my head for real (it’s crowded enough).

However, this post is about the ‘near great’ in anime and what I want to look at are two shows that have aired either entirely or partially during the Winter 2018 season that both stopped short of reaching greatness (despite the inner fan-girl willing them to be truly amazing). I enjoyed both in different ways and inner fan-girl was incredibly happy watching them. She waited eagerly for the episode to start and basked in the characters and the plot. For one of those shows she also basked in the gorgeous visuals while in the other she tolerated the odd lighting choices but found other things to enjoy. And yet, as the season comes to an end, and I start thinking about recommendations and what to say about these shows, the cynic in me strikes.

So why aren’t they great?

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I suppose you could ask that question of almost anything with just as much honest expectation of gaining an answer. “Why aren’t you better?” “Why don’t you match my ideals of what you should be?” “How could you fail there?”

For me though each show has one particular issue that is a sticking point that I cannot overlook. While everything will have its flaws, these are genuine concerns that, regardless of how great some aspects of the shows might be, they will never end up on my list of all time favourites even though they will end up on my list for favourite of the season.

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The Ancient Magus’ Bride

If you have followed Weekend Otaku and my collaboration series ‘200 Word Anime‘ you will know that for awhile now I’ve had some misgivings about The Ancient Magus Bride. Mostly petty nit-pickings of a show that is gorgeous to watch, has some excellent music, beautifully depicted magic and folk-lore and a reasonably compelling central couple. Okay, pacing is an issue and the whole cliff-hanger ending without really using it well in the next episode are things that have been minor irritations, but ultimately they aren’t deal breakers with this show and really come down to my own personal tastes.

No, what seals The Ancient Magus’ Bride in my mind as a show that isn’t going to achieve greatness no matter how much I wished it would is how the support cast are ultimately dealt with. That is to say, how they are not dealt with. In the race to bring events to their conclusion, characters are either entirely forgotten or become largely inconsequential. While the main couple get a worthy resolution, other characters still don’t even have a genuine purpose that has been explained. And one of those is a fairly important antagonist during the final episode and I literally have no idea what he actually wants from the confrontation.

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Any minor flaws I was over looking or putting down to taste paled in comparison with an ending that tripped over itself to get the main characters to their moment. Realistically, the show needed to move faster earlier on or needed to cull some of the characters when it adapted itself from manga to anime (assigning certain events to different characters to make it work). However, then purists would have accused it of butchering the source material and so this was a no-win situation. Ultimately people are still comparing the anime unfavourably against its source and people who never read the source just found the end a little bemusing even as it maintained the gorgeous quality we had come to expect from the series.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens

As we move on, I will note this is not an exceptional show by any means. Yet it sits higher on my watch list than the Ancient Magus’ Bride and is one I’ve talked about a lot. The reason for that is I went in expecting nothing and got something wholly enjoyable. Fan-girl me went crazy for it and episode 4 which tied events of the first arc together beautifully really cemented this as one of my favourite shows of the season. But favourite of the season doesn’t mean I am blind to its flaws and while I will still most definitely recommend this anime as being worth checking out, to say it is one of the great anime of the year would probably be a lie.

Yet it isn’t the somewhat questionable visuals, the slight repetitiveness to the sound-track (awesome music, but repetitive), or even the heavy subject matter of hitmen and assassins being given a light comedic treatment that really stops this show from tipping into the realm of great. Realistically, it is the lack of tension and sense of danger this show has inflicted upon itself.

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I know, a show about hitmen and assassins lacks tension or danger? How did that happen?

Well, the anime never, and I do mean never, actually allows the main characters to actually be seriously injured, maimed or killed. No matter what happens to them or whether they are a more peripheral main character, or even if they deserve it. No, our happy hitmen will be back playing baseball in an episode or two even after being stabbed in the gut, so don’t stress or worry. Seriously. About anyone. Everyone will be fine. At least everyone you care about because the villains are totally forgettable and throw-away and treated as such (I’m hoping for a final episode blood bath but I doubt I’ll get it).

It makes for a fun viewing experience, provided the subject matter doesn’t rub you the wrong way, but it doesn’t make for particularly deep or something that is going to have a long lasting impact.

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Where to now?

The thing is, not every anime has to be great. While the great ones will awe you, blow you away, and eventually sit upon your shelf in DVD form and probably in other merchandise as well, sometimes it is enough that you have fun with what you are watching. The Near Great are the anime that keep me entertained and give me something positive to say each week. They are the anime I’ll chat about with friends and probably remember for a couple of seasons after they are done. They are anime I might even get the DVD of, once it comes down in price.  The Near Great are what keep me watching anime season after season as there are many of these and they come in many forms.

So I’ll ask you now, what are the Near Great anime you’ve been watching recently?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Opening Themes in 2017

Tuesday's Top 5

Last year I wrote my list on the top opening themes of 2016 and unsurprisingly Yuri On Ice’s History Maker took out the top spot. This year there wasn’t a single stand out song that really stuck with me, but there were lots of opening themes that really matched their show so it ended up being a fairly close competition.

My criteria for top 5 opening theme is mostly that the song could be listened to as a song by itself and still sound good without the visuals, though also had good visuals to go with it, that it matched the tone of the show, and that it got me ready to watch the episode. So here are my top 5 opening themes of 2017.

Please Note – There probably won’t be any spoilers in this list.

Honourable mentions this week go to: Recovery of an MMO Junkie, 18if, Chain Chronicle and Land of the Lustrous.

Number 5: Here from The Ancient Magus’ Bride

This probably shouldn’t need too much explanation but the song conjures up a sense of sadness and lonliness even while it seems to move us forward. The visuals also have Chise alone a lot of the time and yet surrounded by magic and beauty, even when it is quite dark. All and all, I really enjoy this theme each week and feel it compliments the show quite nicely.

Number 4: Rapture from Juni Taisen

 

One thing I noticed last year was that not necessarily liking the show doesn’t necessarily mean that I dislike the theme. Rapture is a definitely a case where it captures what I would have loved Juni Taisen to be. It really gets me ready to watch something truly special and then I found the episodes mostly leaving me disappointed. That said, it wasn’t like the theme was a mismatch. It is more the theme is aspirational of what the show was trying to be.

Number 3: Tabiji from KADO: The Right Answer

As much as I ended up disappointed by the ending of KADO I still loved the way the show presented itself early on and I love how the theme just prepared you for a calm viewing experience that was puzzling and made you think. Visually, the quality of the opening isn’t impressive, but it still looks gorgeous and draws you into the story as you try to link ideas and images that may not actually go together. Regardless of how the show ended, it was a theme that really stood out for its show and set a tone that was unique in its season.

Number 2: Shadow and Truth from ACCA

Now this was a theme I would have happily listened to over and over again. It’s boppy and upbeat but also just a bit intriguing. The visuals stood out and it really set the laid back and yet exciting feel of the show. Okay, maybe I’m just a sucker for jazz inspired opening songs because there were a few this year I really enjoyed.

Number 1: The Other Side of the Wall from Princess Principal

This one is exciting, thrilling, powerful and visually entertaining. It is everything you could want from an opening about an all female spy team back at the turn of the century in a steampunk like setting. Thematically relevant and hitting just the right tone, this was definitely the opening of the year for me.

Alright, over to you. What opening themes made you pay attention in 2017?


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Karandi James.

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Anime Quotes – Autumn 2017

Yes, this is another fairly random post where I have collected my favourite quotes from this season (so far) in one place. I’d love it if you would share your favourite lines or quotes from the season in the comments.

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The Ancient Magus’ Bride Part 3

Review:

I mentioned in my review of part 2 of this 3 part whatever it is (prequel maybe to the upcoming series) but this is a really stupid way to release something. The first part came out September last year and while I do believe I have a great memory, even I’m going to forget things over that span of time. So I started this part and then had to promptly stop the video and go watch the end of part 2 again because I couldn’t remember what had happened there.

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Anyway, my comments from parts 1 and 2 remain. This is beautiful to watch and Chise’s story is adorable. It is a pretty standard story with the orphan girl who can see unusual things so is an outcast seeking refuge in the library and getting caught up in things, and the delivery is very slow and deliberate, but there’s so much respect being paid to the characters and the world that every minute of watching is a joy.

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Really, this was a nice taste tester as I hadn’t heard of this before and there is the series about to start next season (which hopefully I’ll be able to watch) but that’s about all it has been. As fun and adorable as watching it has been, it is like we just got a tiny glimpse of a much larger world and story. By itself, it does tell a story, and it is an emotional one, but it really doesn’t feel like enough on its own. Still, worth checking out particularly if you are interested in the series.


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The Ancient Magus’ Bride Part 1

Review:

I went into this knowing nothing but I saw it when looking at what was updated on Crunchyroll and thought it looked fascinating so decided to give part 1 a go. Kind of glad I did. It’s definitely slow moving but there are little bits of magic interspersed throughout which means that the scenes are never boring. While at first I found Chise to be a fairly bland character, by the end of this I genuinely felt for her and wanted to know more about her. I loved the study and the library in the forest. I would genuinely love to have a room like that (with or without the magic – just having that many books and that sort of space would be fantastic). Mostly the problem you end up with is this is a part 1 and so the story is just kind of starting when it ends. I will be looking out for part 2 because I’d like to know what happens next.

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The Ancient Magus’ Bride is available on Crunchyroll.