「Better to Ask the Way Than Go Astray」

Mahoutsukai no Yome continues to be the relentless powerhouse anime of the Fall season, a technically astounding and narratively powerful adaptation that manages to make what’s beautiful about the manga even more beautiful. This episode was not quite the magnum opus last week’s was (nor did it try to be), but it didn’t come remotely close to putting a foot wrong. There’s a lot of confidence on display here – in the story and the staff’s ability to tell it, and in the audience to buy in without having exposition forced down their throats.

Someone noted a slight similarity with this show to Natsume Yuujinchou in the comments last week, and I an definitely see that. I myself have referenced Mushishi on more than one occasion, and it strikes me that in a funny sort of why, Mahoutsukai is a hybrid of the two – Natsume resembles the song it’s singing, but it’s doing so in Mushishi’s voice. Mind you, this series is very much its own animal – but there are unmistakable echoes of Natsume Takeshi’s story in Chise’s (all the more so in the prequel OVAs). Tonally it’s cooler than Natsume for certain, and darker too – but warmer than Mushishi.

I think the narrative structure of The Ancient Magus’ Bride carries elements of both Mushishi and Natsume Yuujinchou as well, in the latter case in that it often alternates between more conventionally plotted conflict-resolution story arcs, and contemplative and melancholy ones. And I find myself responding in much the same way in terms of which mode I prefer. I love Mahoutsukai best when it muses on the emotional turbulence where the world of magic intersects with the mundane, and on the struggle of its protagonist to find their place in a world in which they feel an outsider.

Of course, in contrast to Natsume, this series has two characters whose struggle to find a place in the world is central to the story. As Elias dawdles at home, lacking the will do much of anything in Chise’s absence, she dreams of him as she nears the finish line with her wand. Lindel puts the finishing touches on it, using one of his song-spells to affix her red hair to the handle and inset two beautiful blue stones into the head (which Chise has carved into the shape of a bird). This is a gorgeous scene, and it’s a gorgeous wand – imbued with Chise’s not inconsiderable power, though she doesn’t realize to what extent.

That’s not all the wand is imbued with, of course – it’s also a little piece of Nevin’s beautiful, peaceful soul, and a bridge that connects he and Chise across the divide of death. When the wand is finished Chise unwittingly uses its power to take her to Nevin in the place where the paths of the living meet those of the departed, and he proceeds to be what she most needs – someone to whom she feels safe baring her fears. Chise is young and thus would be impatient and unsure in her judgment to begin with, but she’s also covered with scar tissue from the many wounds life has given her. Nevin is the embodiment of patience and empathy, the perfect audience to whom Chise can open up and be honest for once in her life.

It’s gutting to hear Chise say she feels “greedy” for daring to allow herself to connect with Elias, because this is something I’ve seen myself in abandoned children – there’s often a strong sense that they don’t deserve to be loved unconditionally, and a guilt for wanting to be. Of course Nevin offers the simple wisdom that Elias has given her no reason to feel afraid that he’ll break their connection, but his most sage words cut much deeper – he tells Chise that she must be selfish and say what she wants more often, and he reminds her that by devaluing her own life, she devalues the lives of those whom she’s impacted already (including his own). It’s hard for Chise to have Nevin defend her mother on the grounds that she was in a sense selfless by choosing to take her own life when she’d given up, rather than Chise’s, but it’s part of a larger message – her life is a gift, for those she’s able to help but most importantly, for herself.

It’s often the way of Mahoutsukai’s contemplative episodes to offer 20 minutes of melancholy reflection, intercut with one or two jaw-dropping set pieces (often set to vocal music), and so it is here, not just with Lindel’s song but Chise’s journey on wings of flame back to Elias – and home. It’s a stunning sequence, and a fittingly grand way for Chise to re-enter Elias’ life – and for Mahoutsukai no Yome to give us a feeling of closure as its first cour comes to an end.




  1. The only thing I can disagree with on your review is that this doesn’t rank at or above last weeks episode. Much as I was moved by Lindel’s song and the fairy dance of last week, this weeks song by him actually had gave me goosebumps. And Chise’s “flight of the phoenix” was just as magnificent. I don’t care that much for the song in the OP but the rendition during the flight was beautiful. And Chise… wow, we finally see how powerful (and beautiful) she really is. Those scenes match or exceed any that we’ve seen before in this story.

    Fully agree with you on Nevin’s view of Chise and her parents. Sometimes it takes a total outsiders view to get you to reevaluate things. Nevin said things that probably Chise would not have accepted if they had been spoken by even Lindel.

    I’ve studiously avoided reading the manga until I’ve watch the equivalent anime episode though I did read the first part of this episode where Elias is musing on how he feels about Chise. That was a body blow to how I viewed his reasons for buying her (even more so in the manga). How this will play out in the future is anyone’s guess but things have changed for both of them.

    What a glorious way to end the first cour.

    1. For me, the symbolism of the moment when Chise connects with Elias halfway around the world coupled with the magnificent visuals made last week’s climax incredibly powerful. Not knocking this one, believe me – it was pretty great too.

      1. We just put them in a different ranking, but they’re both powerful. To me, Chise’s desire to see Elias was so strong that she transformed into a phoenix to fly to him was the more emotional for me, YMMV. I finally read that section of the manga and, while I love both, the anime took that section to a whole other level. Just writing this puts a lump in my throat. This show just keeps getting better and better.

  2. For an episode that’s basically “dragon gives pep talk to indecisive teenage girl”, it’s amazing. What’s really amazing is how invested I am in this girl’s physical and emotional well-being, and her relationship with Elias.

    The dream of her mom and dad was pretty interesting, in that her parents seem to recognize and believe her about the weird stuff she sees; you can see the cracks they’re trying to paper over (how scared her dad ‘was’ about them), but it’s just… a gift. Something Chise couldn’t bear to let herself remember, the good times before the end, and Nevin’s advice let her finally remember it.

    1. Actually, regarding Chise’s parents (though you’ll find out in the next episode)…
      Show Spoiler ▼

      That’s more than likely part of the reason why Chise’s mother chose to end her own life.

  3. What confused me are the last tree Screenshots. Is this an Timejump vision? i bet this is Elias again in Berserk mode, he lost himself again. Perhaps Chise was not around when he turn into his “Dark Side”. Also Chise looks a bit more mature. Also what add up the confusion, until now we where in the “Nature”, but looks like they are in an Big City

    1. is this an “Force vision” from an “Padawan” of her own future? because in the preview we still see Elias in Dark modes, but the last Picture suggest me that this was an dream.. Looks like the anime is borrowing some Star Wars Force murmur.. It can not hurt, but do not Star Wars blend to much into this Anime or they loose their “soul”

      1. where “Flashbacks” are telling the past.. Are this one “Flashforward” to show us an possible future for Chise? Will it end up in Yin and Yan.. Elias is Yin and Chise is Yan? But Rutile (Well i admit. it is my desire) must play a part in it.. Perhaps she is the alloy that keep them together and Ruth backup Chise

        as you can see. this Timejump confused me.. but i did not fall down

      2. The scenes of the dragon in the city to Elias in beast-mode are images from episodes that are coming up, similar to how the montages of scenes in the OP show what happens in the first 12 episodes.

        I’m kind of surprised that they’re going for that since it’s not too far from where the manga is currently at right now… It kind of looks like this series will end on a cliffhanger…

    2. Also, i have an hunch that these “Eyes” of her Ward are some kind of Dragon eggs from the one she meet deep down in this Lake.. So she has “double dragon” power in her hand

    3. or both team up. where Elias is the Dark Side “Muscles” power house, and Chise is the “Brain” calm bright light

      She watch over Elias and Elias remain his “humanity”.. But i dunno..

      1. We’ll probably end up seeing more in the second cour (I’m guessing it’s gonna follow directly from next week and we don’t have to wait for spring?).

        Since all scenes from the OP have been realized, I assume we will have a new OP and animation for the remaining 12 episodes – where they’ll add more scenes from those upcoming episodes, including the scenes shown above.


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