「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.




  1. I don’t value the lives of cats as anywhere close to the lives of humans. I could absolutely kill a bunch of cats if it meant saving the life of a lover or family member. And yes, he was going to go on to kill a lot more cats long after it would serve any sort of purpose, but by that time his mind was pretty clearly broken from watching his wife evaporate in his hands.

    As far as I can tell, Matthew thinks of cats as just dumb beasts. He’s kind of an idiot and grasping at the hope dangled in front of him by the sorcerer, but generally when you engage an expert you tend to trust their expertise…

    1. I think the emphasis is “humanly killing” vs. the butchering
      of the innocent cats that the Anime depicted; yes, of course,
      a human’s life (in Western culture) has greater value than a
      pet’s or domesticated animal and if it meant a (pet) cat’s life
      for a person, the person would definitely win.

  2. I had gotten the impression that Matthew already had the seeds of resentment for Tim before the sorcerer showed up. He may not have ever hurt the cat otherwise but he seemed possibly jealous of the bond between Mina and Tim. It sounds silly but it’s possible for a person to resent the relationship between their partner and pet if that relationship excludes the person.

    My guess is the sorcerer understood Matthew’s love for Mina could be strong in a way which is also weak. His love for her was desperate, uncertain, and insecure. They were clearly in love with each other but the negative stuff on Matthew’s side stemmed from his fear of losing her so early.

    The sorcerer knew enough, or could read enough into the situation to slip a crowbar into the cracks of Matthew’s goodness. Just a little push is all it took and the hope of a cure was enough to override any hesitancies he might have had otherwise.

    I don’t think Matthew was a healthy person but he didn’t do evil things until he was manipulated into it. Mina deserved salvation but of course she could not accept it if Matthew couldn’t receive it also. Personally, I don’t believe in eternal punishment so I’m okay with his release.

    Now a question for the story is are all sorcerers so problematic or has their reputation been ruined by a few terrible sadists?

  3. Matthews intent on saving a human’s life by making medicine out of animals is not as questionable as the show made it out to be. Most people don’t have problems eating animals, and many modern pharmateuticals are made from animals. So all the drama on this issue is hypocritical, unless the author is a supporter of the radical idea of animals having the same rights as humans.

    Without doubt the sorcerer guiding Matthew certainly did wrong by experimenting on humans. But I’d also question Elias not telling Chise about her predicament, further worsening it by bringing her in situatins, and fabricating a state of emotional dependency by exploiting her mental problems. (And low self-esteem and depression amounting to the will to commit suicide clearly is a mental illness.)

    1. When you put real-world values onto a fantasy show, it makes sense when things don’t mesh. We’ve already been shown that cats are sentient in this universe, so the show’s feeling of outrage makes sense because it’s through Chise’s eyes. They wanted us to feel that Matthew wasn’t just killing dumb animals, he was killing members of a different species. A species that eventually said “enough” and took him out, and a species Chise is now friends with. Of course Matthew doesn’t know that and the reason he hides it is because the townspeople would be upset because cats are useful, and Mina would be upset because she likes them, so everyone would have an issue with what he was doing, just Mina’s might be the only moral issue.

    2. In addition to the “real-world” vs. fantasy issue, there’s also the matter of cultural values. Killing animals in this fashion – for this reason – is anathema to Buddhism. Even though Mahoutsukai is not set in a Buddhist country, it was written in a largely Buddhist country, for a largely Buddhist audience.

    3. Well, I do research and part of the experiments that I do are on animals. It makes me feel bad that an animal has to die for us to find interesting stuff… Especially when many studies have shown that many animals may not be good models to the studies that we do. That being said, science in general is looking at ways to reduce the use of animals for this kind of studies, and when possible avoid it. I think we are conscious that not because we can’t understand there “language” it really means they are stupid. For example, a paper on science showed that chicks can count and bees can recognize faces. I don’t think that their life have more or less value than ours and we can’t classify them as stupid really.
      I think this anime is a very interesting representation of human nature. I mean there are several cases where unapproved human experimentation has been done on humans in Africa by universities in developed countries. They would probably be the sorcerer. I could be seen as Matthew… I don’t like killing mice but I keep telling myself that is for the good of humanity and the advancement of science… But what do the mice think when I am grabing them? It makes me wonder. I am a sorcerer to them?

  4. I felt like some parts of the episode was a little lacking. As in, the scenes felt empty/didn’t have the impact/atmosphere it could have had. But this is probably just me picking at things since everyone else seems happy, so oh well. Still love it.

  5. the sorcerer (I always assumed he was a woman, but apparently not)

    Given that you’ve read the manga, you surely saw that Show Spoiler ▼

  6. You have to see it from the perspective of Matthew. He wanted to save Mina, even if that turned him into a monster, just because of his love. Unfortunately, love can be a 2-edge sword, one that can be manipulated by a unethic SOB.
    Quite frankly, calling this people “sorcerers” is an insult to any human magic user. At least this Sophie looks more like an alchemist, and the fact that both Renfred and Alice don’t use that much magic (in comparison to Elias anyways) seems to follow the trend.

  7. I also thought it was weird that Elias is like ‘I’ll handle things here, you do the exorcism’ but the two sorcerers pretty much didn’t make another move.

    They sure didn’t seem to respect Elias’s power, but they didn’t try to test him either…

  8. I dont know if it’s because I love cats so much but this episode just burned me in the inside. I know it’s reality that in many country, countless numbers cats (not just cats) are killed everyday for food and/or personal reasons.. but still, every time I watch something like that, I just get so sad.. and every episode of this show get me teared up..

  9. people taking this to seriously. if cats and dogs could actually talk in real life and form kingdoms of their own. people would be a lot more wary of killing random animals. at least I wouldn’t hurt the little guy saying welcome home or how was your day?

  10. This pair of episodes also seems to be inspired a bit by the HP Lovecraft story “The Cats of Ulthar” This is part of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands cycle, tangentially connected to the Cthulhu mythos.

    “In Ulthar, before ever the burgesses forbade the killing of cats, there dwelt an old cotter and his wife who delighted to trap and slay the cats of their neighbours…” until “they saw all the cats of Ulthar in that accursed yard under the trees, pacing very slowly and solemnly in a circle around the cottage, two abreast…” but next day “every cat was back at his accustomed hearth! Large and small, black, grey, striped, yellow, and white, none was missing. Very sleek and fat did the cats appear, and sonorous with purring content” having left behind
    “two cleanly picked human skeletons on the earthen floor”


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