「As You Sow, so Shall You Reap」
Mahoutsukai no Yome is definitely in the home stretch now. Two episodes remain, and we’re truly staring into the maw of the undiscovered country. No one (outside the manga and anime team) knows what’s going to happen from here on out – and they’re lying if they say they do. But one thing seems absolutely certain – if there is to be more of the Mahoutsukai anime, it’s several years off at best. Even if we chart an original course for the ending here, it’s hard to imagine an entire season of new material.
To say this was a heavy episode would be an understatement – I don’t know if ‘d say it was the darkest so far (that’s a high bar to clear) but it was probably the most somber. That tends to happen when Joseph is involved, because he’s a creature whose very existence seems enmeshed in melancholy and despair. To want so badly to die that they’d be willing to go to the lengths Joseph does trying to figure out how to escape life – that’s a hatred of existence few will ever remotely be able to understand. Any time you’re going to be getting inside that head, you’re really entering the heart of darkness.
It wasn’t supremely difficult to piece together where this might be going, from Joseph’s perspective. He wants to die, Chise (at last) wants to live – and each is addled with a curse preventing them from doing so. The eternal experimenter, free of ethical constraints, Joseph obviously sees the opportunity inherent in this situation. And when Chise wakes in his laboratory (and sees the other dragon child – still alive, Joseph tells her) Joseph (who, interestingly, doesn’t remember their meeting in London) makes it clear to her quickly enough what’s really happening here.
This is ugly stuff – both before and after Joseph knocks Chise out in order to finish his work. He rips out his own eye and Chise’s in order to swap them and determine whether either body will reject the other (I don’t know whether he must abide by the constraints of the deal he made, or doesn’t actually care whether her body rejects his). And to keep her unconscious, Joseph traps Chise in a dream of her past – a past she’d largely forced herself to forget in order to be able to live on.
This is the first time we see most of this, and it’s the first time in a long time for Chise, too – which is why we were kept in the dark about it for so long. What’s really striking is how normal Chise’s past looks, and for how long – for all the world hers seems like a happy little family. But too many of them see too much – Chise’s ability to perceive the creatures she attracts she seems to have inherited from her mother, but her father appears to have been a mage. He was also a very good actor – he never betrayed a hint that he was considering leaving, that the monsters who follow Chise were too much for him to bear. He even considers taking Chise with him when he goes, but checks himself – that, of course, would belie the whole point of leaving and taking Chise’s younger brother.
What happens after is largely familiar – the downward spiral which consumed Chise’s mother after her husband took her son and fled. Having seen all that came before it makes this episode in Chise’s life seem that much more tragic, even if we knew much of the detail already – Chise’s mother genuinely loved her, but succumbed to the forces of darkness that her daughter drew to herself (and to her own demons, too.) Whatever his intensions, though, what Joseph has done here is given Chise closure – allowed her to understand what happened to her family in a way she never did when she was younger. She cannot forgive her mother, but she can accept that she did love her – and finally let her go.
It’s by no means clear (as I mentioned) exactly what’s going to happen next. Joseph seems not to be a simple creature, but rather a being who has lived so long that the elements which conspired to create him have taken on a measure of individual will. What “alpha” Joseph wants seems clear – to use Chise’s curse to die. But I suspect it’s not that simple – and as to whether the ensuing transaction allows Chise to live on (as the sentient manifestation of Joseph’s curse intimates it will) I don’t think Joseph especially cares one way or the other. Chise is not a passive player in all this, however – and given that her seizing control of her own destiny is likely a major theme in this closing arc, her will is going to be an important determining factor in how all this plays out.