“Sleigh Beggy, dear child who shares the name of those considered a neighbour from long ago. Your kind has always been closer to us than mortals. A burden too great for a child. How precious you are! What will you discover at the end of your journey. Go child, show me what you find.”
The Ancient Magus’ Bride Part Two continues directly on from Part One with no major time skip. We’re back into the same, dare I say almost “slice-of-life” style storytelling, with Chise endeavouring to help her magical neighbours. The writing of these encounters is an absolute strength of this series! The fantastical magical creatures are deftly interwoven with such universally human experiences, of love, of loss, of family.
Not going to lie, it managed to coax a few tears from me again. There are a lot of familiar faces who get given more development and backstory, like Redcurrant the Leannan Sidhe, Alice the apprentice Alchemist, and even Elias’s silent housekeeper, Silver the Silky has her story told. There are also a few new side characters who we are introduced too, including a normal human friend for Chise (finally) and mysterious ancient fae with a penchant for trickery.
Chise gets more backstory too, with more light being shed on what became of her parents. She’s come a long way since we first met her, and is able to forgive and move on from the past. When her will to live is challenged, Chise refuses to give in and keeps on fighting. This new resolve has been hard earned and it’s so SO rewarding seeing her on this path to recovery.
As much as Part One was about Chise’s spiritual growth and discovering her self-worth, Part Two focuses more on Elias’s journey of learning what it means to be part of the human world. He is almost child-like in his immaturity and lack of understanding towards emotions. Loneliness and jealousy are two particularly challenging obstacles he has to come to terms with, recognising these new feelings within himself and how to manage them in a healthy manner.
Fortunately Chise seems to be quite the natural at caring for others, despite her upbringing, and this strengthens her relationship with Elias. They’ve developed a rather unconventional dynamic, and by this point are starting to seem almost co-dependent on each other. Two broken individuals that seem to inexplicably fit together.
The one thing I felt this series really needed was a more purposeful plot to tie it all together. And we finally get this in the second half of Part Two. Building up to the climax of this season, a pair of Lindel’s baby dragons are kidnapped which sets in motion a series of events that leads to the final showdown. This threat brings many of Chise’s friends and allies back into the story as they unite against a common foe.
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In Part One, we were introduced to a being known as Cartaphilus (or Joseph), an alchemist of indeterminate age with a tendency towards malevolence, trapped in the body of a young boy. As expected, Cartaphilus makes a return as the Big Bad of the series. Yeah, ok, that’s a little bit cliché, but he ends up serving as an incredibly interesting foil to Chise’s character.
Similar in many ways but also very different, they form a two sides of the same coin type of scenario. Both Chise and Joseph have had unfortunate childhoods that brought isolation and suffering; Chise burdened with her Sleigh Beggy ability and haunted by horrifying visions, and Joseph cursed with immortality yet still susceptible to pain after merging with Cartaphilus.
But whereas Chise turned this misery in on herself as seen in her self loathing and suicidal ideation in Part One, Cartaphilus has been lashing out at the world as if hurting others would lessen his own hurt by comparison. For all the times Chise has scolded herself for being “selfish” focusing on her own misfortune, it’s Cartaphilus who is truly selfish. If he’s suffering, then everyone else must be made to suffer too. He lacks any form of empathy and is prepared to literally rip others bodies limb from limb to save himself.
On the other hand, Chise is willing to tear herself apart to save others and the final confrontation shows how far she truly has grown as a person.
The bonus features are somewhat light compared to those with Part One. There’s an audio commentary for one of the more pivotal episodes with the ADR director and some of the voice actors, and a short interview from Anime Expo where the President of the animation company Wit Studios and The Ancient Magus’ Bride series Director discuss some of the production aspects, such as the challenges of adapting a manga to anime, and the messages they hope to convey. It’s interesting additional content, but not as crucial or heavy hitting as the OVA that came with Part One.
If The Ancient Magus’ Bride Part One wasn’t your cup of tea, I don’t think Part Two really brings anything new enough to win you over and change your mind. However, if you’re already aboard the fan-wagon then this is a solid and satisfying concluding chapter to the series so far! It continues to deliver melancholic bittersweet stories that unfold amidst the gorgeous backdrop of the English countryside with a twist of whimsy and magic.
I’d definitely call this series a bit of a guilty pleasure and I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey these reviews have taken me on. As the teaser trailer aptly summarises, The Ancient Magus Bride is “a tale about learning to see the beauty of an often unkind world”. And it absolutely does meet that promise.