「Love Conquers All」
As I mentioned last week, this arc isn’t one of my favorites in Mahoutsukai no Yome. It’s good, don’t get me wrong – maybe too good. But damn, is it uncomfortable for me to watch. There are a lot of important things happening here in the background (as there often are in this series) but what’s happening front and center is so profoundly unpleasant that it’s hard to get past it. But I suppose in part, that’s the point – to make us aware that there’s a lot of darkness in this world The Ancient Magus’ Bride is depicting.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that both of these errands the Church has sent Elias on have given us cliffhangers where the cliffhanger was a bit of a misdirection. Renfred and his associate certainly aren’t the primary drivers of events in this episode, but their intervention is interesting. Renfred presents himself as Chise’s savior – there to free her from the emotionless monster who sees her as his property. But Chise doesn’t want to be saved – in fact she tells Renfred that she doesn’t care if what he’s told her is true or not. Obviously Chise’s views of Elias are colored by the fact that he’s the first person to seemingly value her (even financially). But are they also colored – and too much – by her own lack of self worth?
There are a lot of spins one could put on this, certainly. Obviously the locals hold sorcerers in very low esteem – but as we’ll find out, they have very good reason. And Elias certainly seems to have an antagonistic relationship with Renfred. But is this is a matter of bias and personal animus, or are there deeper reasons to feel such distrust of sorcerers (as opposed to mages)? What’s undeniable is that Chise now knows that her own fate is clouded – that a “treasure” with the powers she possesses is cursed to live a short life.
When Elias (rather easily) dispatches the sorcerer pair and licks Chise’s wound, the cleansing of this land’s blight can continue – but because of Chise’s powers, she sees altogether more than she was intended to see (and more than I wanted to, quite frankly). Simply put, this is an ugly story – a tragedy. But who you consider a victim depends on your perspective, I suppose. The sorcerer (I always assumed he was a woman, but apparently not) who convinces Matthew to commit horrible atrocities in order to save Mina is a villain, clearly. But what of Matthew himself?
My take on this is pretty simple – Matthew was already a twisted and broken man before that scoundrel saw him as a useful tool for experimentation. I don’t excuse what he did on the premise that he acted out of love – at least not totally. There was hate and anger behind what he did, too – and a decent person would never commit such acts in any case, no matter the supposed reward. And of course, Mina – who was a decent person – would never have wanted him to do so. It’s a tragedy in the sense that everyone loses, pretty much – everyone, of course, except for that sorcerer who gave Matthew the push over the edge.
I suppose all that is why I found this arc’s ending somewhat unsatisfying. Mina, certainly, deserved to be freed from the agonizing limbo which held her – and so did Tim (Sanpei Yuuki) and all the other cats who sacrificed their eternal souls to stop Matthew. But did Matthew? Not in my book – but perhaps it’s more important that he did in Chise’s book, because that tells us a lot about her as a person. Her lack of self-worth isn’t all that makes her who she is – she values others as much as she devalues herself. Her kindness at least allows Molly to live out her ninth life to its natural conclusion – that’s about as close to a happy ending as this very unhappy arc has to offer us.