With the anime series debuting on October 8th, the last of the three-part OVA prequel released earlier this month and being a fan of the original manga series written by Kore Yamazaki, Mahoutsukai no Yome: Hoshi Matsu Hito (The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star) is definitely aimed at the thirsty fans of the ongoing manga series. It’s a no brainer that newcomers will be confused by the sudden appearances of key characters without a proper introduction, but it shouldn’t discourage them from watching this beautifully animated three-part OVA prequel story about the protagonist, Chise Hatori’s backstory (before she encountered her magic teacher/husbando Elias Ainsworth). Newcomers will appreciate this OVA more if they choose to read the first three manga volumes or after having seen up to episode 6 or 7 of the anime once it airs, as some of the notable characters in the OVA, with the exception of two specific characters in Chise’s flashback, will have made their on-screen debuts by then.
Animated by Wit Studios, each of the parts had been released at different points in time, drawing closer to the release of the anime series. The first part of the OVA was released last year on September 9. The second on March 10, 2017 and the final part released a year from the first.
The first OVA focuses on introducing the world of Mahoutsukai no Yome and the start of Chise’s backstory. The second concentrates on revealing Chise’s uncomfortable family life with her relatives and the strain her magical abilities can cause on those around her. It provides an explanation for her love of books, the forest library or Mayoiga and her newfound friendship with its librarian, Riichi Miura. The last part of the OVA explains Riichi’s own tragic story and how the child of a star, “our light,” gives us the hope and courage to keep moving forward in life.
When the first part of the OVA begins and progresses into its other parts, we can sense that it doesn’t attempt to explain the origins of the characters on screen. In fact, it focuses instead on introducing you to the magical world that Chise finds herself involved in. The distinction between the human world and the magical world is palpable in her retelling of her experience with the forest library, or as we later come to know it as Mayoiga. Set in the early portion of the Mahoutsukai no Yome storyline, this OVA injects itself as a part of the blossoming beginnings of Chise and Elias’s relationship. They already established that Elias would teach Chise all there was to know about magic and Chise would be Elias’s teacher in all things involving the human world, its concepts and about human emotions. Their relationship is a bit stiff as the characters retain a certain distance from one another.
In creating and establishing the world of Mahoutsukai no Yome, the OVA fully utilizes the ability of animation to show rather than strictly using voice-over to effectively draw the audience into the story. I found that the OVA did well in letting the scenes breathe, establishing shots to give visual context of the story’s world and creating a mood within a scene. Unlike most of the fantasy/supernatural genre anime and manga that I’ve seen in the past, Mahoutsukai no Yome explores a world where fantasy creatures belonging to the Western folklore roam amongst humans or choose to remain hidden from the eyes of regular people, than just the supernatural beings found in Japanese folklore. It is one of the aspects I enjoyed about this series because it is refreshing and cool to integrate other cultures into my favourite genre.
One particular part that I felt established the mood and set the scene was Chise pouring Darjeeling tea into cups. The background music is quiet as the sound of tea being poured into the cups filled your ears, creating this peaceful morning atmosphere where the members of the household are all gathered together to share a meal. It’s a lovely scene for me to watch because of the fact that I know the original source material. I’m already aware that Chise, Elias and Ruth never had a real family to partake in all of the wonderful experiences related to having one. It’s heartwarming for these individuals with no real blood ties to sit and eat a warm breakfast.
Watching the OVA as a whole, there are significant elements that help the viewer understand the world of Mahoutsukai no Yome and Chise’s life in her flashback.
Doorway shots were numerous and held significance in the first two parts of the OVA. They were effective in separating the familiar world from the unknown, instilling the viewer with the sense of wonder as to what lay beyond the doorway.
Doorways are also used to introduce the viewer into the world of the story, bringing us to Angela’s home where she is busy preparing Chise’s study materials as Elias’s apprentice of magic. With the dark background contrasting against the bright light and colour of Angela moving across the screen, framed by the doorway, this short scene pulls our attention immediately, lending the viewer to think about what’s occurring inside of Angela’s home and what she is so urgently running around for.
The use of doorways was also effective in showing the perspective of a character. In the first part of the OVA, the doorway frames Chise running to answer the doorbell and her conversation with a customer requiring medicine. The doorway reflects Elias’ perspective as he watches Chise from a distance, while sitting in the living room area. As her caretaker, he is aware that she is slowly becoming more capable in dealing with magic and developing an independence to using magic. But because he’s sitting in the living room, Elias still retains an influence over Chise as he is able to get up, walk to the door and affect the conversation she’s having with the nameless customer with his own presence.
In the second part of the OVA, we see Chise’s relatives becoming more upset in their dealings with her due to her powers to see spirits who are capable of causing her harm. The situation is heartwrenching in her point of view as we watch her being utterly rejected by people who are supposed to be family, who refuse to make any real palpable attempts at trying to understand why she is having trouble with communicating her feelings.
It’s a powerful image to see the hallway slowly pan to the right with Chise standing outside the door to the apartment as her aunt and uncle are fighting. Although the closed doors and sounds suggest that the issue is private, we don’t have to see the conflict to know that it exists and how it has an effect on the individual who is perceived to be the root of the problem. The subsequent image of Chise running away past all the closed doorways is equally powerful in that she has no other place to turn to in her own time of desperation. She runs off to get herself away from her fears, not even having the chance to get any sort of help for her dilemma, but it’s in vain.
The use of light and darkness and the positioning of characters on screen is significant in the OVAs. Several examples of harsh lighting during Chise’s flashbacks in the apartment she lived in with her relatives as well as the outdoor scenes gave the impression that she couldn’t handle the pressure of any sort of attention being paid to her, either positive, neutral or negative. When she was young, Chise had a tendency to make herself into a tiny ball, a defensive mechanism to protect herself and always situated herself into a corner or a tiny space in a room. Although in this particular shot, Chise is found in the middle of the frame where our eyes would normally focus, we’re more inclined to see her cousins fighting in the bottom right of the frame where an action is taking place. While enshrouded in shadow, Chise is being ignored by the viewer. The angle is shot in her perspective as well which prompts the viewer to see what she is looking at, which is mainly the family that she cannot connect with on any level.
The storybook, “The Lonely Little Star” is what connects the parts of the OVA together.
The symbolism of stars is tied to light and darkness. Stars float in the darkness and are seemingly alone in space, but they are connected to other stars, no matter how far apart they are. The recurring theme of light and the symbol of the child of a star are meant to be a message of hope. One that inspires Chise to continue living and moving forward in life, despite the hardships she endures before her fateful encounter with Elias.
A trope introduced in the OVA is Riichi’s romance with Mayumi Niikura because it’s reminiscent of all the tragic romances Chise will encounter in the series; her own relationship with Elias being ambiguous and not leaning too heavily as a passionate romance itself, but a warm connection between two people seeking acceptance from the other person. As a new character and someone who develops a friendship with a young Chise fits as a parallel to her, Riichi exists as a ghostly entity, stuck within the confines of a magical world. They both suffer from the fate of being related to magic in some shape or form but are connected with their love of books, finding solace in escaping reality for a time to immerse themselves into the realm of fiction.
Mayoiga, as explained by Elias in the final part of the OVA, is an interesting setting. It’s a world that draws people into itself but can only exit if they are able to bring something out of the space without consequence and those being able to draw something out of the space is met with good fortune. Chise is able to jump in and out of Mayoiga because Riichi is able to gift her with books belonging to the library as well as giving Chise her own library card. But Riichi remains trapped inside, never being able to be gifted with an object from the library. In a sad turn of events, the space is destroyed by the invited rat demon creature because of its greed tainting Mayoiga and by extension, destroys Riichi as well.
The OVA does a splendid job of introducing the world of Mahoutsukai no Yome and delving into the backstory of our protagonist Chise. I think it also does a nice job of contributing to the world of the series in that it gives us a reason as to why Chise is so enamoured with studying and books. I cannot wait to see the anime released in about a week’s time.