OP2:「You」 by (May’n)
「East, West, Home is best」
We’ll have to see how the second cour goes, of course (though it’s not as if the manga jumps the shark, so I’m not too worried) but Mahoutsukai no Yome would certainly have ranked in the 2017 Top 10 list if it had been eligible. This is about as textbook as a top-shelf manga adaptation gets – resolutely loyal to the source material, but using great production values and soulful art and animation to make the experience even better. There was no reason to expect the second cour to start off any differently, and it certainly didn’t (apart from the OP and ED – and I confess, I really miss the classy first ending theme).
That OP is interesting actually, though I won’t delve too much into why for safety’s sake. It comes after a pre-open set to the voice-over of a character played by the unmistakable (except when I mistake him for Show Hayami) Nakata Jouji – though we don’t see that character until much later in the episode. Adding what that cold open adds right now is a fascinating choice by director Naganuma Norihiro, a rare change from the source material that may offer some interesting insights into where he plans to take this adaptation for the rest of its run.
The thing about Mahoutsukai is that it’s limited only by the imagination – it has the entire breadth and scope of myth and legend to drawn on, and it does so liberally. At times this may make it a bit dense, especially in anime form. I sometimes ponder on why I always take so many screenshots of this series, and I think it goes beyond the simple fact that it’s incredibly gorgeous to look at. No, there’s also something significant going on seemingly all the time – there’s not much that’s trivial here, right down to facial expressions and backgrounds. This series doesn’t have a lot of flaws, but maybe sometimes it gets a bit ahead of itself in trying to be about all the stuff it wants to be about, and gets its feet tangled up in the process.
Well… Truth be told, that feels like a harsh thing to say, given that this was yet another really superb episode, busy as it was. After the opening we start out with yet another magical sequence, as Elias teaches Chise how to shear the “wooly bugs”, whose down is useful for magical items in addition to being soft and fluffy. But he also warns her (too unspecific, as usual) to watch out for the similar-looking snow bugs – which attack her and steal her warmth before she can cry out for help.
What this is building up to is the moment when Chise can finally broach the subjects Lindel raised, and come clean about her own past with Elias. It’s quite a telling moment when she asks Elias if she “looked tasty” – while she didn’t mean it to sting him so, you can almost see Elias flinch. But even more telling is that Chise refuses to let Elias wipe that memory from her mind – she wants to know the truth about Elias, warts and all. He seems truly astounded that she’s not afraid of him, but she tells him that she’s only afraid of one thing – that he’ll leave her.
Let there be no doubt, the bond between these two is very real, and the glue which holds The Ancient Magus’ Bride together as a story. Elias is, as Chise observes, very much a child – someone who cannot even connect the cold he feels in her absence with loneliness. She must be his teacher as much as he is hers, but is either of them fully prepared to take on that responsibility? Each of them are, in their way, incomplete – some part of them is missing, be it something that was painfully ripped free or something that never existed in the first place.
This is all quite warm and fuzzy despite the troubling undertones, but the arrival of Nakata’s Ashen Eye shakes things up considerably. He’s known to Elias, a being of unimaginable ancientness who “smells of sand”, and tells the pair he’s come to celebrate the birth of a new mage. Exactly what Ashen Eye’s interest in Chise is may not be clear, but after dropping the tantalizing tidbit that she seems to have a hint of European lineage, Ashen Eye seems to cast an enchantment on her of some sort, with the use of a fox’s pelt (end-of-episode cliffhangers are clearly the modus operandi of Mahoutsukai, if you somehow hadn’t noticed). If he’s a being of his word Ashen Eye means Chise no harm – but is he?
ED2: Tsuki no mou Hanbun」 (月のもう半分)) by (AIKI & AKINO from bless4)