「We Live and Learn」
It’s always nice to see excellence rewarded commercially in anime – especially as it seems to happen so rarely. Mahoutsukai no Yome is excellent without a doubt, a stellar adaptation by Wit, and it garnered almost 6200 in Blu-ray volume sales in its first week. While those numbers don’t make it a monster hit, that’s a pretty healthy return for a series as thoughtful and relatively pander-free as this one. I’m not going to go so far as to say the production committee is being rewarded for risk-taking in this instance, as the Mahoutsukai manga is itself extremely popular, but they have at least had the good sense not to dumb it down to try and appeal to the anime audience.
If it continues at its current pacing, the anime’s 24 episodes will likely use about 36 chapters from the manga – a manga which is currently only at about 42 chapters. So while The Ancient Magus’ Bride will almost surely get its anime sequel, it’s going to be a couple of years before we see it. These things can’t be rushed – and this is the sort of series that takes its time spinning its yarn. Exposition doesn’t happen in staccato bursts here, it’s slowly teased out over the course of multiple arcs – and that befits a story where the passage of long stretches of time is woven into the fabric of the narrative. The mysteries, large and small, sometimes feel as if they’re as old as time.
Like Togashi, Yamazaki-sensei likes to lay the thematic groundwork for the coming arc in the one before. We’ve seen Chise grow more and more impatient to learn more about Elias’ true nature, just as those around them have grown increasingly concerned with Chise’s growing complacency at being Elias’… Apprentice? Bride? Pet? Now we see Lindel summoning Chise through the person of his selkie familiar, Merituuli (Han Megumi – probably best not to imagine Hisoka and Gon here) – ostensibly to help her make her wand, but in part because he too is concerned about Chise’s attachment to his former apprentice.
Killing two thematic birds with one stone, Lindel decides to tell Chise something about Elias – he’s rather stunned that he’s told her so little already, in fact. Chise would of course rather hear it from Elias herself, because in addition to knowledge she would be getting an acknowledgement that he’s come to trust her – but beggars can’t be choosers. As they huddle around a fire in the land of dragons, Lindel begins to spin the tale of how he came to know the being Chise knows as Elias Ainsworth.
Lindel is himself a cagy sort, probably a function of having lived as long as he has and seen as much as he has. How long he’s not telling Chise, but a long time – longer than Elias anyway, and we know him to be centuries old himself. Lindel begins by telling Chise something of the existence of mages, beings whose origins and purpose are so mysterious as to be unknown even to themselves – born to normal humans but possessed of strange powers and often freakishly long lifespans, mages have been a part of the world’s fabric since there were people to tell stories about them.
As for Elias, he stumbled into Lindel’s camp at some point deep into the past, a frightening and huge creature, and collapsed from hunger. Lindel knows not what to make of it, and neither does the creature himself – his memories extend only as far as the beginning of the foot journey that brought him to Lindel. Bemused, Lindel decides to take the creature to meet his master, Rahab (Mitsuishi Kotono, about as iconic as they come), who’s likewise stumped – though she does name him Elias (she named Lindel too, naming things being one of her passions). Elias seems to these two mages to be a fairy, a creature of magic – but with a “hint of human” about him. At Rahab’s prompting Elias remembers one thing and one thing only – “Red”.
Answers are not what Mahoutsukai no Yome is about, not when it comes to these sorts of questions, not as this point in the story anyway. The mystery is what matters. What does seem clear is that more than simply taking Elias (who after his transformation to child-size begins to talk like a young boy, peppering his speech with “boku” and “kimi”) on as an “acquaintance” at Rahab’s order, Lindel feels something for him – the implication of his calling Chise “Granddaughter” is that Elias is his spiritual son. What we still don’t know is how far in this case the apple has fallen from the tree…