Will Chise learn to not only take care of others, but herself too?
Title: The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Mahou Tsukai no Yome)
Publisher: Mag Garden (JP), Seven Seas (US)
Artist/Writer: Kore Yamazaki
Serialized in: Monthly Comic Garden
Translation: Adrienne Beck
Original Release Date: July 4th, 2017
While there is still a bit of an episodic quality to The Ancient Magus Bride, insomuch that there isn’t a concrete, final goal that Chise and the other characters are working towards, the stories are connecting more and more to the point where we seem to be in the middle of a larger plot surrounding the villain Cartaphilus (who first appeared in the second volume and has made similarly shadowy and unsavory appearances since then).
After a small detour, where we the readers are once again reminded that Chise’s lifespan will be very different than that of a normal human being (whether it is extraordinarily long or unexpectedly short is dependent on her current actions), we finally get an answer to “What is the College?” which has previously appeared only in-passing in the background of the story. As it turns out, the College is much more informal than the name suggests; more than anything else it’s an organization of mages and alchemists that forces them to work together, help each other out, and keep an eye out for potential newcomers and training them — which is why they’ve been interested in Chise ever since she came to England. They do have connections with other magical groups and that’s why they’ve finally come to Elias and Chise in person: some dragon chicks have been stolen from the aviary that Linden oversees and they’re hoping that with Elias and Chise’s knowledge of the dragons that they’ll be able to help. After an amusing scene (for someone who has been socially withdrawn for years, Chise is able to make new acquaintances and connections astonishingly fast), Chise and the group are back to the auction house where she was bought and where her current life began.
Many of the side characters have changed since our first interactions with them, which can be a little jarring if you go back and re-read parts of the manga, but Chise has changed the most of all and her character growth feels by far the most natural. She’s no longer the kind of person who would willingly auction herself off because any life was better than her current one (I was amused and pleased to see that she at least got the sales from selling herself off). This isn’t to say that Chise’s mental state is optimal right now — she’s still very dependent on Elias in some unhealthy ways — but Chise also now will stand up straight, not automatically assume everyone she meets will hurt her, and will fight to help others. She’s found a community of friends and for the first time in so many years she has a chance to live her life as herself. It’s very gratifying character growth to see, although it seems like the next volume will once again confront Chise’s lack of care concerning herself when it comes to saving others.
That is an aspect of Chise’s character that does need to get addressed. There’s no shortage of manga characters who will let themselves be beaten to a pulp for the sake of saving a friend or family member, but there are many times when those actions come off as very destructive like they do in Chise’s case. I don’t think that this story is leading up to a tragic ending where Chise dies young, but she’s hurt herself magically so many times before that unless she has permanent consequences someday, as much as I hate to say this, the stakes in this series just won’t match what the characters say they are. But, based on the final panel in this volume, I don’t believe that the series intends to shy away from that thorny issue, which leaves me excitedly looking forward to the next installment.