There have been many great shows jostling for our top spot this year, but one stood out above all the rest. It rounded up our year in the most beautifully fitting way, so we wanted to pay our respects to…The Ancient Magus’ Bride.
A year of personal loss and new life for us both at the blog, also brought with it The Ancient Magus’ Bride. Through magical means, it taught us to face fear and sadness with the knowledge that these cycles, which are part of nature, always hold beauty for those open to it. That beauty is a permanent fixture in Magus’ Bride, bridging the wonder of spirit with the physical. In magnifying the ways we can impact our reality through intention, through hope and sadness, this series displays a lushness of allegory as well as visual majesty.
Elias, the magus himself, purchases the protagonist Chise at an auction of rare and mystical creatures, she the only human. Being a Sleigh Beggy, she is gifted with seeing past the boundaries between our world and the magical. Ghosts and demons are constant in the corner of her eye, in the background of her day to day. We’ll see the occasional ghoul slope along out of focus behind her, mere white noise when she can ignore their existence. But they are the shadows of her past, punctuated with loss, rejection and mourning. Passed around an insensitive family ever since she can remember, until Elias brings her to his home, all she knows is abandonment.
In a mask of horn and bone, Elias would be passive to human life if not for his work as a magus, a bringer of magical solutions to the desperate. But by showing Chise something as innate to him as understanding, he builds up her optimism and confidence. In turn, she learns to harness her birthright as a Sleigh Beggy to bring healing to others’ lives, showing her mentor the full potential of human emotions he is unable to feel.
Through their partnership, growing to something undefinable by the realms of love, we see the power of giving ourselves to life in all its forms and endings, even the ones we cannot comprehend. In the fourth episode ‘The balance distinguishes not between gold and lead’, Chise helps an elder dragon to pass on and gifts him with the vision of a final flight, a power long lost to him. Neither he nor the younger dragons fear death, because they know the honour of feeding back into the world that first birthed them centuries ago. But it is in Chise’s sorrow that we are bathed in the splendour of a last happy memory, carried away in the molten gold of a setting sun and the joy of a dying colossus.
Nature’s acceptance of life’s transience, and the human desire to claim it for ourselves, is personified by the equally impermanent character of Titania. She is the wild heart of the series in her sensuality, enigmatic yet palpable wisdom, and renunciation of the maudlin even in knowing life’s darkness. Her alluring, winking presence could almost be narrating the series; when we find ourselves in the woods, we can either earn our way clear in her eyes or be forever lost.
In giving us these awe-inspiring sights with every passing episode, in tales of humanity’s denial of mortality and the peace of the spirit world Chise shows them, our own sadness and regrets have been affirmed and soothed. But the emotional intelligence of its universal stories keep them from being pushy or sentimental. As with Chise becoming Elias’ bride, it doesn’t entrap her in a world she didn’t ask for. It shows us the value in all we can’t plan for, simply telling us to keep our eyes open.