「None So Deaf as Those Who Will Not Hear 」
Mahoutsukai no Yome has quality to its construction that I quite admire – that is to say, it often plants little seeds in one arc that will grow, flower and bear narrative fruit later (sometimes substantially later). While this isn’t especially common you do see it in really good series from time to time, Hunter X Hunter being the one which leaps most prominently to mind for me. This style of storytelling tends to make the entire narrative arc feel more cohesive (sometimes you don’t even notice that), and lends a feeling of substance even to chapters or episodes that don’t seem to have all that much happening in them.
This was one such episode, certainly. After the rather dark and frantic nature of Cartaphilus and Isabelle’s arc, a respite was needed – and this episode gave us that. It was a reflective one right from the beginning, with Ruth trying to adjust to his new surroundings and Chise worrying over Elias’ self-imposed exile to his room (for two weeks and counting). Silky shows herself to be rather parental towards Chise here – clearly worried when she disappears into Elias’ room for a while (and she would have been even more so, if she’d seen inside) and chasing Chise out of the house with a wad of bills when she senses the girl needs a respite from what’s become a depressing routine since she and Elias returned.
It’s on this trip that Chise and Ruth (whose human form has shrunk rather dramatically – so as to more easily move around with Chise, he says) run into Angelica, who accompanies them into town for a shopping spree. Angelica clearly hits on a sore point when she (with alarming bluntness) tells Chise she may be getting too “dependent” on Elias. Angelica’s heart is in the right place here, and she’s known Elias a lot longer than Chise has – but for Chise, Elias is one of the very few people in her life for whom she’s ever been able to feel dependency. Surely, telling a child who’s never truly had a home not to get too comfortable in a place they’ve come to feel at home is an awkward thing.
Elias is having issues since his transformation when facing Joseph, no question – and as usual, he’s less than forthcoming with details for Chise. What isn’t usual is that Chise is starting to feel restlessness with this – as her feelings for Elias grow more profound, she resents that he’s not willing to trust her with the truth even when she shows that his fearsome true form doesn’t scare her. Eventually Elias does leave his room, but to sneak out of the house in the early morning, leaving behind only a note not to follow him. Elias may be old and in many ways wise, but clearly he doesn’t understand Chise’s heart yet.
Chise and Ruth go looking for Elias (I don’t think he’s in there, Ruth), naturally – and on this search they stumble onto something altogether different, an old man tending a rose garden at his cottage. He introduces himself as Joel Garland (Umezu Hideyuki) and invites Chise and Ruth in for tea, but they’re quite taken aback that around his shoulders is a busty and scantily-dressed fairy (Hayami Saori) that Ruth identifies as a Leanan sídhe – a Celtic vampire legendary for bestowing inspiration on its male victim in exchange for his blood and life force. Nothing at all about this situation seems normal – an old man such as Joel is useless to a being such as the Leanan sídhe, and there’s no evidence that the normal exchange is taking place.
This is one of those scenarios where as a manga reader, I have a duty not to go into too much detail – so I won’t. And soon enough the narrative trail moves on, anyway – after Chise has read Joel’s short love story about his rose garden, Ruth telepathically informs her that he’s found Elias in the woods north of their house. And there Chise finds him, half-submerged in the pond and surprised to see her in the woods at dusk (again, clueless as to a girl’s heart). Something has changed between these two, clearly – and Chise is afraid not of what Elias becomes when he loses control, but of his unwillingness to confide in her. That will take a back seat for now, though – Lindel intrudes on the moment as he has a wont to do, and summons Chise (and Elias, by necessity) back to the Land of Dragons…