「One today is worth two tomorrows」
I try not to write many late night posts these days, especially on series I really like, as I don’t think I can really give them my best most of the time. Still, it’s that sort of a weekend – this season is so back-loaded that Saturdays especially pose a real challenge especially when other responsibilities call. I’ll do my best but I don’t think I’ll really do Mahoutsukai no Yome justice in the process.
I think you can see after two episodes what all the fuss is about with this series, both the manga and the anime – it’s not a mass-produced model by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a show that’s full of interesting images and ideas, a fairly serious piece of work – the kind of anime that shows off what the medium is capable of. We’re still very much in the introductory stages here, seeing this strange new world through Chise’s eyes (in an almost literal sense, given the narrative style). But that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to talk about.
One of the first things Elias does with his new apprentice (and/or fiancee) is take her to London (after a little magical cosmetic surgery) to meet his equipper – because as everyone knows, a mage needs equipment. If you’re an enthusiast for this sort of this sort of detail this ep was just an appetizer, but Angelica Varley (Kaida Yuuko) is more interested in teaching Chise a few tricks of the trade with the help of her familiar Hugo (Kuno Misaki), a Vodyanoy water spirit (we’re heading to Eastern Europe for that one). Angelica is a mage too, with a specialty in creating the tools of the trade, as well as gizmos that run on magic as opposed to electricity.
There’s a lot of enchanting stuff in the sequence in Angelica’s shop, starting with the adorable fairy monster that takes a rather cat-like affection to Chise (she’s a magnet for these sorts of creatures, obviously). But there’s important exposition here too, especially as Angie teaches Chise the difference between magic and sorcery. It’s an oversimplification as she explains it, but that’s appropriate given Chise’s inexperience – and it’s a very important underpinning of Mahoustukai’s mythology. Sorcerers are, as Angie tells it, basically scientists – but mages are the real deal (and increasingly rare). They borrow the powers of faerie to perform miracles – but at a potentially great cost (as Angelica demonstrates).
A gift like Chise’s is not one to be taken lightly, as evidenced by the results of Angelica’s first magic lesson, where she hands Chise a crystal and tells her to imagine her favorite flower and will it into existence. There’s a lot of subtext here (the power of memory generally, and Chise’s memories specifically) but in practical terms Angie is quite taken aback by the dramatic results – what was to be a single flower has instead become a field of poppies.
When Elias and Chise arrive home, they find Simon Collum (Morikawa Toshiyuki) waiting for them at Elias’ doorstep. He’s both priest and pastor at the local church, and while it isn’t explained in detail it’s clear that there’s a long-standing – and not entirely friendly – relationship between mages and the church in Britain. Elias provides medicine which Simon uses to treat the villagers, and does “errands” for them – but clearly resents the notion that he’s being managed by the church. The relationship between Elias and Simon specifically seems similarly strained – though where Elias is concerned, it can be hard to tell his true feelings on the matter.
The final moments of the episode are quite literally a whirlwind change, as Elias whisks Chise off to Iceland (not on a train this time, you can bet) to check up on the local dragons. The moment his back is turned one of the aforementioned dragons sweeps Chise off up in its jaws and takes flight, bearing her away from a stunned Elias. This dragon has a rider, and he’s played by Namikawa Daisuke. And he knows exactly who both Chise and Elias are as well. I’m inclined to agree with the dragon rider, Elias isn’t very careful – though in this case, that’s to the benefit of the story…