As I’ve said in previous blogs, Hayao Miyazaki is an inspiration and one of my favorite storytellers. He has a brilliance that I aspire too. The art and words of his many wonderful stories give his anime a life of their own. I want my own stories to have the same “magic” as his. In fact, I see that same look of wonder in The Ancient Magus Bride anime.
The Ancient Magus Bride is a Japanese fantasy shōnen manga series written and illustrated by Kore Yamazaki. Hatori Chise has lived a life full of neglect and abuse, devoid of anything resembling love. Far from the warmth of family, she has had her share of troubles and pitfalls. Just when all hope seems lost, a fateful encounter awaits her. When a man with the head of a beast, wielding strange powers, obtains her through a slave auction, Chise’s life will never be the same again. The man is a “magus,” a sorcerer of great power, who decides to free Chise from the bonds of captivity. The magus then makes a bold statement: Chise will become his apprentice–and his bride!
I have been watching this anime and it’s amazing. I see the same heart and soul in these characters as I did in many of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films. For example, the relationship between Chise and Elias is the same as Chihiro and Haku in Spirited Away or Howl and Sophie in Howl’s Moving Castle. The women are stronger than they think and they can reach the heart and soul of the one they love, even when appear to be a monster.
Chise doesn’t see a monster in Elias, even with his bone face. She sees someone who loves and cares for her, something that has been missing her entire life. It’s touching to see her touch and caress his face, even though any normal person would be repulsed by it. It’s a great example of the old adage about seeing the beauty on the inside, not the outside. Even its simple music–mostly a piano softly playing in the background–lends to this unusual but everlasting love story.
Another great element of the story is how they explain magic an alchemy as two competing forces. I’ve always seen alchemy as “the science of magic” which is how I use it in the Forever Avalon series. In the anime, they see magic and alchemy as opposing forces. Alchemists use magic to alter reality by manipulating and “tweaking” the laws of nature, while mages break the laws of nature to alter reality by taking power from fairies or spirits.
This is an inspired system for magic that I’ve never heard of before, especially focusing on Britain as a land of powerful magic. This is something I relish and aspire to in my own stories. Another great concept is that dragons are one with the world, and when they die, they return to the Earth as mountains and trees. The interaction between Chise and the ancient dragons is sad and heart-wrenching. Along with the music and its sweet, loving song, it is a reminder of how the myths and legends of our own world can be seen in the places we see as magic in itself.
The last thing I want to mention is the villains in this. They are incredibly scary. With their heartless attitude for human life. Once again, it’s frightening when you look at the face of evil and see it smiling back at you. Evil like this is hiding in plain sight, and wee, as humans, we only see it when we want to. It is a reminder of how and why we must face evil and tear it down.
I would highly recommend this anime to anyone. The writing is magnificent with a little bit of comedy in all the right places, with heart and even horror thrown in where it needs to be. It has the heart and soul of a great story and, in the spirit of Hayao Miyazaki. It’s a story that will remain as an inspiration at the heart of any magical, fantasy story.
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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.