The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 17: Blonde Chise and Terrifyingly Powerful Curiosity

February 6, 2018

Quick Summary

In The Ancient Magus’ Bride episode 17, “Look before you leap“, Chise HatoriElias Ainsworth, and Ruth are on a Christmas walk when they meet Stella. She is frantically looking for her younger brother Ethan. Trouble is, her parents insist she’s an only child. Why is she the only one who can remember her brother? What’s blocking Elias’ magic when he tries to locate her brother? And what price will they have to pay to find out?

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.

What’s In This Post

Quick Episode Summary
3 Favorite Moments
Thoughts
Related Posts

Interested in the OP?
"The Ancient Magus' Bride" Original Soundtrack 1 / Animation Soundtrack (Music by Junichi Matsumoto)

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3 Favorite Moments

Stella was only a little less anxious after learning Elias was a mage. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

  1. Poor Stella! She’s frantic and feeling guilty at having lost her brother. She feels abandoned because her parents don’t even remember him. Hatori, the one girl who listened to her seriously, suddenly starts talking about compensation. And then, Elias grows out of Hatori’s shadow and towers over the little girl (6:56). I thought it was endearing how she instinctively clutched and hid behind Hatori. She even immediately believed the explanation that Elias was a mage, though you could from her expression she was still wary (7:11). What made the scene to believable to me was that Stella admitted to being scared, but said that losing her brother was even more terrifying to her. She was forcing herself to be brave, and it’s hard not to feel sympathy for a character in that situation. I almost felt bad at myself when I laughed at her reaction to Ruth speaking!

    Hatori’s bravery never ceases to amaze me. She hates pain, yet offered her own blood to help find Ethan! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

  2. Remember in previous episodes when Hatori told the slave trader that she didn’t handle pain well? When Hatori realizes she’s out of the crystal flowers, she knows she has to compensate the vampire-like creature who knows the next step to finding Ethan (9:54). With Elias’ approval, she offers a half teacup of her own blood with the knowledge that the creature would bite her to extract payment. Her expression mirrored how I felt on her behalf — partly disgusted, partly resigned, and partly resolved to see it through, since they really did need the information. I thought Stella’s reaction was a great capstone to the scene. When she learned that Hatori was willing to go so far partly because she couldn’t see her brother, Stella gave her a world-class hug. I usually don’t remark on the sound a hug makes, but her was so forceful I thought it would knock Hatori over! It’s little scenes and details like this that I look for in anime.

    Elias had no idea how to deal with Ethan’s inquisitiveness. So he ended up having to put his foot down. Or across. Or something… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

  3. From “Gasp! Monster!” to “Hey, hey what is that?” in under 15 seconds (16:40) — Ethan certainly adjusted quickly to his predicament! At first, Elias terrified him. But once Elias mentioned Stella, Ethan’s curiosity took over, and be became fascinated with Elias’ bone face. I could feel Elias’ discomfort as Ethan completely disregarded the concept of personal space to try to find the seam — completely unaware that this was his natural face! Did you see how Elias took control of the situation? He gently pushed the young boy away — using his booted foot! Then he transformed himself in a blonde Hatori. The push involved no malice or force, but I thought the gesture was so awkward that it was perfectly in keeping with Elias’ lack of personal skills. I think experience nearly traumatized him. When he mentioned it to Hatori later (19:28), he said in a shaken voice, “A child’s curiosity is terrifyingly powerful.”

    This show has so many “favorite” moments — like this shot from Hatori finding Elias — that it’s hard to pick 3! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Thoughts

And once again, The Ancient Magus’ Bride makes it hard to select just three favorite moments! The show is so consistently enjoyable that I’m worried about withdrawal after it ends!

Let’s talk about the logic of magic. The concept behind this episode was that words have meaning. Meaning has consequence. Words uttered in the heat of the moment can lead to broken relationships. That wisdom has been expressed in the rules of the magic world that say once uttered, words can’t be taken back. A broken bond remains broken; if Ashen Eye hears an utterance like “You’re no brother of mine,” he’s legally allowed to take possession of the now broken bond.

For years, I’ve accepted this kind of logic in the context of magic. I saw it as a way to pass on these lessons from age to age in an entertaining way. But it was only today that it occurred to me how unjust this kind of thing really is!

I grant that Stella’s words were hurtful and should have some consequence. But is the “just” response really abduction? If wisdom says something harsh is bad because it hurts a relationship, what can we say of a power that makes that destruction permanent?

Is it really “just” for Ashen Eye to take Ethan because of a few harsh words? And just how many arms does he have? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Isn’t that self-defeating? Sort of piling on?

Maybe we could argue that what Ashen Eye was doing was merely trying to put a scare into the kids. That all along, he intended for them to find him and play his game. That somehow he knew they’d win and he’d give Ethan back.

I don’t think that justifies what Ashen Eye did, for two reasons. First, playing with people like that is simply cruel. Stella was terrified at what had happened, and even Elias was displeased, saying “I hate old creatures. They’re too powerful” (16:27). Far from doing this to teach Stella and Ethan anything, Ashen Eye seemed to be doing this just for his amusement.

The second reason is that I honestly think he was open to the possibilities that our heroes might never find him or that they would lose the game. The magical world’s full of examples of humans who lost. I thought it was clear that if he were amused, Ashen Eye didn’t care either way.

Where am I going with this? People sometimes get mad and say things that they don’t mean. The whole idea of holding them responsible by punishing them just doesn’t feel right anymore. The older I get, the more I think the answer likes in applying mercy, not justice. I argued this point in the Thoughts section of my post on Re:CREATORS episode 21. As in this case, I think that beings arguing for justice, like Ashen Eye, are more often arguing for their own benefit, whether it be amusement, money, or power. It’s hard to accept that kind of argument anymore.

I’ll give The Ancient Magus’ Bride credit: in the end, the narrative opted for mercy. Stella and Ethan were reunited, as were Hatori and Elias. I’m glad for that!

What were your favorite moments in the episode? Let me know in the comments!

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