The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Vol. 1 – Review

Manga trawl continues, with another very solid series! This one may go in any manner of weird directions, since its premise is so incredibly loaded, but the story so far is just totally enchanting. It’s basically holding to one of my favorite styles of magic, the one that builds off of old stories and treats magic as beautiful and dangerous and tends to feel vaguely European. It’s a style I strongly associate with Diana Wynne Jones, since her Chrestomanci stories were very formative for me, and it’s used well here. Definitely worth a look.

Here’s my full review over at ANN. Notes below!

The Ancient Magus' Bride

Chapter 1

There’s a nice warmth and sense of hominess to the details of the backgrounds, both mundane and magical

“It’s the greatest tool a mage could hope for – a ‘sleigh beggy’”

Opening with a magical slave auction is a pretty bold declaration – “things are different here”

The art is great. Rich, ornate details, great use of stark blacks

She’s Chise Hatori, he’s Elias Ainsworth

Tossed away because she could see the invisible

He really does treat her unabashedly like property. A child, or more like a pet

The creature and character designs are ornate and evocative. The manga creates a consistent faraway world

Elias is blunt and antisocial, Chise scarred through neglect

Sleigh Beggys are like queens of magic, drawing all manner of things to themselves

“Fae notions of gifts and favors aren’t always in a human’s best interest.” This story is nailing the tone of a classic fable – the world and rules, the ornate and dangerous atmosphere

“I don’t intend to force you down any road.” “You bought me, so I don’t really get a say in it, right?” “But you’re practically like family now!” Elias is deeply awkward, a classic mage recluse

Deceived by fairy folk within the very first chapter. Old stories indeed

She holds back, because Elias called her family. A very weird and unequal relationship, but you obviously can’t directly map this to the real world. And it’s a pretty classic scenario

“He’s warm, but… it’s strange. He feels kinda stiff and awkward.”

“I bought you to make you my apprentice, but also… my bride.” Oh boy

Gettin’ weird!

Chapter 2

“His apprentice and his bride? Should I take both roles seriously? Or either of them?”

Chise has really good faces

The housekeeper is a silky, a house spirit

The letter twists itself into a paper bird and flies away. This all reminds me of the aesthetic of Chrestomanci, or I guess Dianna Wynn Jones in general, so Howl’s Moving Castle works

“I’d like you to get ready for our honeymoon.” And then he later says it’s a joke. Such a weird dude

“You look kinda strange and sketchy.” It’s good that Chise isn’t cowed by him

And now we meet Angelica Purley, the magical smith – an artificer

“You didn’t find her via underhanded means, did you?” “Not to worry. I paid for her fair and square.” Elias is great, and it’s great that the rest of the cast acknowledges he’s a weirdo. Things would be a lot worse if he were actually imposing

“You child-fancying hedge wizard!” It’s pretty light as far as scoldings go, though

Althea is her daughter. “She wants to be a witch like me. But times being what they are, I wish she’d set her sights on a more normal career.” Again, the spectre of a magical era dwindling is raised – now by Angela, Elias, and the faeries. Magic is dying out, always a compelling idea

Alchemists manipulate the laws of nature, but mages borrow power from magical creatures to break them

Magic is dangerous, and there can be consequences

Angelica summons her familiar Hugo to help Chise give magic a try. I like that they have to coordinate with magical creatures to create magic. It helps fortify the sense of this being a breathing world, makes the heroes more likable and limited

Chise remembers a moment with her mother, and the flowers bloom

The shots of Angela and Hugo working are wonderful. Magic feels beautiful and, well, magical in this story, which is actually a rare feat. Nothing here feels mundane

“Tell me of your parents. Are they dead? Or did they abandon you?” Damnit Elias

Simon Cullum, a priest, arrives

Chapter 3

Elias handles matters for the church in exchange for the church not prying further into his business. There’s tension there

Elias makes medicine for all of the village. Another classic mage idea

The panel flow is solid. Physical comedy, good sense of movement when necessary, though it’s not often necessary


Lindel, Keeper of the dragons’ aerie. Everyone has multiple names, everyone knows each other from hundreds of years back

Baby dragons are great

“Unlike humans, we do not fear death. We live our lives to the fullest without regrets.”

A brief flashback to a moment when Chise almost jumped off a building. Well-illustrated

I like Chise and the dragon each pardoning the other for being unsure of the rules of their culture

“By the time Chise is a full-fledged witch, she too may belong to a final generation”

Nevin the dragon dies, offering a branch of his tree to Chise as a wand. It’s a startlingly beautiful moment

Chapter 4

And now they visit the kingdom of cats! A pleasant village, home of Molly, the King of Cats

Cats gain wisdom and the ability to speak as they use up more of their lives. A great worldbuilding detail

As are things like Elias hiding in Chise’s shadow

“Once, there was a man who enjoyed killing cats. Our King sacrificed several of his lives to bind the festering light that remained.” Even using lives as currency is shared by this and Chrestomanci

“What mother does not sacrifice her lives to save her children?” As in the last chapter, death and renewal, a new generation

Chapter 5

Oh boy, these bubbles conveying Chise sinking into a memory are a wonderful visual touch

2 thoughts on “The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Vol. 1 – Review

  1. Been planning to read this since the creator’s other work, “Futari no Renai Shoka,” captured me with a vaguely similar “two main characters bumble into socially awkward relationship and daily life ensues” premise alongside the gorgeous art. Glad/Enthused to see such a positive review!

  2. I like to think you began taking fewer notes each passing chapter as a result of getting increasingly absorbed in the story. It really is an excellent series though. Hard to believe this is the mangakas first major publication! Everything about it seems so confident and well-realised; it feels like a story that was fully-formed as soon as he began to write it.

    I also (as I’m sure many, many others are) am wary of the relationship between Chise and Elias though. Thing is, I do love the relationship they share, the familial one, the mentor and apprentice. But to view it as romantic? Uhh… I’m glad it seems to be aware of how strange this is,
    as you’ve pointed out, so I do feel like I’m supposed to (like, authorial intent and all that jazz) find it a troubling idea.

    But yeah, that composition is crazy. In terms of what atmosphere the series is trying to achieve, I genuinely think this is the most well-composed manga I’ve ever read. Everything from the artwork to the panel layouts work perfectly in unison to craft its world. It um… takes me an hour at a time to read a single chapter because I get caught up in the series’ own pace :p

    I could probably talk for hours and hours about this one in excruciating detail.. Glad to see you enjoyed it too, looking forward to your thoughts on future volumes as they’re released!

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