The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a Japanese manga. It’s not only a love story, but also packed with action and lots of magic. There are comic books, or you can watch the show English-dubbed or with English subtitles.
Chise (che-say) is a teen slave who is bought at an auction by Elias (elle-EYE-us), or the ancient Magus, who is hundreds of years old. What makes Chise special is, not just her vivid red hair, but she’s a “sleigh beggy.” This is a double-edge sword, as she has magical abilities but is also extra vulnerable to psychic attack.
Elias may look scary and intimidating with his black cloak and skeleton horned-head. And he comes off as very stern and controlling. Yet he’s actually the safest arms for Chise to fall into. Unlike anyone else at the auction, he has good intentions for her. He takes her in as his apprentice to teach her magic. But he is also hoping to make her his bride.
Chise is extremely timid. She’s incredibly grateful that someone has offered her a real home, with her own space and comfort. The series does an enlightening job at exploring the effects of PTSD, as Chise is traumatized by her devastating childhood. Her father abandoned her, leaving her with a mentally unstable mother who ends up committing suicide, making her a foster child forced to take desperate measures in order to survive — thus selling herself at an auction.
Chise has convinced herself that her parents never loved her because her PTSD caused her to suppress memories. However later in the series she remembers that there actually were some delightful times, that her parents truly loved her and it wasn’t her fault for their absence.
When Elias first takes Chise home, he helps her take a bath because she’s filfthy. He strips her down and throws her in the tub before giving her the privacy to bathe herself. It’s cute how he treats her like a puppy — how he isn’t trying to take advantage of her, he is genuinely trying his best to make sure she’s taken care of. It shows a lot of awkwardness between the two.
Several characters are introduced, such as Silver Lady who wears a bonnet and takes care of the home — which she firmly believes is her life’s purpose. There’s Ruth, Chise’s protective wolf guardian who also shapeshifts into human form. And there’s Angelica, a mage who works with crystals, as well as many others…
Elias and Chise have deep personalities with intricate storylines. When they first meet, Elias seems to take on the “fatherly” role as he takes Chise into his home and teaches her all about magic. In turn, Chise is skittish and fearful. She’s also incredibly clumsy and reckless with her magic.
However as the series progresses, the roles reverse and Chise takes on the “motherly” role as she teaches Elias about his emotions. He may be knowledgable about the dark arts, but he struggles to deal with his own feelings.
Elias gives Chise a fair amount of freedom but certainly has anxiety about it. When she spends more time and opens herself up more to others, Elias becomes painfully jealous without understanding why. He deals with his inner conflict by running away and secluding himself, which catches Chise’s attention.
At one point he transforms into a tentacle-armed monster and grips her so tightly she can’t even breathe. In return, she grabs a knife and threatens to hurt herself if he won’t let her go.
It takes quite a while for both characters to open up to each other and form a true bond. Both come from backgrounds that shaped them into severely untrusting people. Elias is nervous by how distant Chise is. And Chise believes she is a burden to Elias.
As Chise gains her confidence and learns how to speak up, and sheds her fear of relying on somebody other than herself, she’s able to realize how strongly she cares for Elias. While talking about her feelings for Elias with the dragon creatures, she stops herself and ponders, “why am I explaining all of this to you guys? … I should be telling Elias himself!”
And as Elias sees that Chise has just as much to teach him as he does to teach her, and feels great pain when she emphasizes her independence, he realizes that their partnership is rare and pure, and should be nourished like a flower.
The story sheds light on matters regarding mental health, relationship issues, power dynamics, and personal growth. It proves that two people who look completely different on the outside can actually have more in common than meets the eye. It demonstrates how in relationships we take turns being the student and the teacher, no matter your age or gender or anything else that society attempts to confine into distinct roles. It tackles how people outside of your relationship have the ability to tare you apart.
While reading (and also watching) The Ancient Magus’ Bride, what really touched me was Elias’ deep passion for Chise. I can see how he is conflicted by wanting to own her verses wanting to see her grow. I found it frustrating how Chise refuses to let herself rely on Elias, most likely because I can relate. Observing Chise felt like observing myself from an outsider’s viewpoint and helped me process my own issues and struggles. It allowed me to confront my own traumas from my past and face them fearlessly with forgiveness, just as Chise learns to do.
I personally found it tremendously sweet how Elias is envious of her other relationships. Society is always telling us how your friends are more important than your partner. While I agree that friendship should be valued, I also see dangerous tendencies of using your friends as a way of avoiding emotional intimacy with your partner. By venting about our issues or confessing our true feelings with our friends, rather than directly speaking about it with our partner, we cause misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict. Many stories fail to highlight the battle between how much of our energy we give to our lover rather than those outside of the relationship.
I highly recommend these series and as unique as the concept is, it’s also extremely relatable at the same time!
P.S. I know it’s Friday and this is technically a “Monday” (media) post but I just couldn’t wait any longer to post it!