「Look Before You Leap」

It’s the end of another long day (and night – this is Mardi Gras after all) in New Orleans. And I’m exhausted, with another early morning ahead of me tomorrow. But there’s always time for a show as good as Mahoutsukai no Yome, even if it’s maybe not quite as much time as I’d like this week. With as barren as the schedule is of really elite (and not just very good) anime, a show like this one is all the more noteworthy and valuable. I try not to forget just how good it really is.

This is another one of my favorite mini-arcs from the manga – all too brief in anime form, though one might not despair for that too much given the preview. As many arcs in this series (and a lot of other really good ones do) the Barklem arc functions in two ways – as a compelling side story in its own right, and as a device to shed insight on the main characters in the story. It concerns the Barklem siblings (briefly seen last week) – older sister Stella and younger brother Ethan, both visiting their grandma in the vicinity of Elias’ house.

After a rare cold open revealing that Stella’s parents have forgotten her brother’s name, we jump into this story with the afterglow of Christmas at the Ainsworth house. Elias’ gift to Chise does indeed have a trick to it – it absorbs her extra magic and converts it into crystal flowers (on the bear’s head). Chise has received gifts from many, but has none to give herself – a reflection of how much her life has indeed changed. Simon she can at least thank in person, but she’s barely out the door (with a now-suspicious Elias in tow) when Stella accosts her, desperate for help in finding her brother.

The most interesting part of this exchange for me comes when Elias seemingly possesses Chise in order to demand payment from Stella – obviously this isn’t as invasive as it appears, but it’s a rather jarring moment. The demand for payment seems to be a crucial part of the relationship when it comes to mages, even something as trivial as sweets. An agreement is quickly reached, and the local neighbor population is recruited (bribed) for help in finding the missing boy. Once the magic flowers are exhausted, payment must be extended in a rather more painful fashion.

One wonders if Elias would have accepted the job if he’d known Ashen Eye was at the heart of Ethan’s disappearance – I think not, as much as he “hates old creatures”. Ashen Eye is a terrifying enigma – one suspects that when a being is an ancient as he, boredom must be the greatest enemy there is. The bonds of family are put to the test here, as Ashen Eye gives the children a harsh lesson in the power of words – powerful enough to break a bond between siblings.

The metaphor is clear here – words hurt, sometimes enough to break up a family, and hurtful things once said can be apologized for, but never truly taken back. Of course children say cruel things like “I don’t need a little brother like you!” all the time in unthinking fashion, but Ashen Eye is quick to remind Stella of just how powerful even unthinking words can be. I don’t think he’s evil, this one – but he is both unimaginably powerful (Elias cannot even attempt to stand against him) and mischievous. And that’s an incredibly dangerous combination.

As for Chise, this is bittersweet to say the least – as if her tragic past life weren’t enough, part of what she lost was a little brother. And when Ashen Eye snatched Elias too in a bid to make his day more interesting, she’s reminded in starkest terms just how much he’s come to mean to her. Meanwhile Elias proves to be singularly ill-suited to fend off the curiosity of a child and in desperation, chooses a new form to try and do so. Chise does what she has to do (ironically, making use of the pelt that Ashen Eye gave her) and two broken bonds are repaired. Chise comes away from the deal with a new friend, too – all the more reminder of how different her new life is becoming. As for Ashen Eye, he gets what he came for (in more ways than one) and is satisfied to cede the field, but those eyes of his are always watching…




  1. That said, while I agree and do understand it’s popularity, it just doesn’t really grip me that much. I did read til volume 8 of the manga so…. yea probably not my cup of tea.

    Redjuice Fan
    1. I’d have to agree with you. I’d say this is a good show, but something is keeping me from caring as much as I’d initially hoped. Call me crazy, but I still think the anime original OVAs are the best I’ve seen of Magus Bride. Maybe because it was one story spread out over 3 episodes and had more time to develop. I just find myself not really caring what happens to the characters in this show. I’m interested in learning about them, but if something suddenly happened to any of our mains and they were gone for good I can’t imagine myself getting too broken up about it.

      Some people seem to be putting this into the same tier as Made in Abyss and I just can’t see it. I can only see this show as “good” to “very good” and nothing more while Made in Abyss was and still is in a tier of its own.

      1. The main difference is Made in Abyss has a lot more tension, whereas this show is a much slower burn. You invest much faster when the tension is always in your face and there’s precedent that someone could die or lose a limb then you do with Magus Bride, cause as harrowing as the situations Elias and Chise find themselves in can be, it never really enters your mind that someone might die. Their suffering is different from Riko and Reg’s, it’s less frantic. When Chise gets hurt again (see, it’s even stopped being “if” but “when”) you know Elias and others will be there to help, will know how to help, and all she’ll need to do is basically sleep it off. Riko and Reg have none of that certainty, and all the scrambling can really suck you in as you pray that they get out of there with everything still attached.

        Personally I like Magus Bride more because I love me some good character interaction and the Slice-of-Life feeling, but I can see how it wouldn’t be enough for everyone.

      2. Whilst this is my anime of the season, I feel similarly that while it has its moments, it hasn’t quite captured the magical feel of the OVAs. I think the anime tends to rush through the interactions and situations at times, making those scenes less powerful (at least for me) than with the OVA.

  2. As annoying as Ashen Eyes is (I hate whimsical tricksters when they get to his level), it was a bit refreshing to see Elias be the one in trouble for once. It was another good way to show Chise’s growth since she found the solution without having anyone else to fall back on this time, even if Ashen Eyes did kinda hand it to her.

    It was also nice to have Stella along to sorta gauge everything, since after a while it can be a little easy to forget how crazy all this “daily” stuff can be to someone who has no idea things like magic and the fairy world even exists.

  3. Ashen Eye shows how deadly dangerous (and capricious) eldritch creatures can be. We’ve made many of the beings of Faerie into things that are cute or relatively harmless which is not necessarily how our ancestors saw them.

    This was not one of my favorite arcs when I read it in the manga but I really enjoyed it as an anime. Still in awe of how the animators have added to an already great story.

    While Made in Abyss is a well done story, I see it as getting darker and more depressing as it goes on while MnY allows me to vicariously watch someone gain love and a place in the world. The difference being that I hope that things don’t get any worse for Riko and I root for Chise’s happiness to grow. Of course the endings may change things drastically.

    1. The pelt triggers the change into an animal, and last time Chise was taken by surprise so she just went straight to fox because that’s what she saw. This time she was not only ready for the change, she was self-aware enough to be able to direct it toward what she wanted; the best sense of smell on four legs.


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