The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 20: Mending a Fraying Fabric and a Tempting Proposal

Quick Summary

In The Ancient Magus’ Bride episode 20, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” Chise Hatori and Elias Ainsworth come up with a plan to save the dragon. They leap on its back, but almost before they know it, they’re high above the city and Elias is falling to the ground. Hatori has to make a decision about how to save the dragon on her own, at great risk. Can she live with the consequences? And what about Mariel, the woman who tried to make a deal with Hatori at the end of the last episode — what was she after? And what will that cost Hatori?

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

What’s In This Post

Quick Episode Summary
3 Favorite Moments
Related Posts

Interested in the OP?
Mikhail and Alice: We’ll distract the dragon for you! They forgot it was a fire breathing dragon! Plan first, execute second! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This is one of those moments that combines both a thumbs up and a thumbs down. First, a big thumbs up to teamwork! Elias and Hatori hatch the plan for Hatori to touch the dragon and drain its magic. At the same time, Elias will absorb the magic from her to keep her body from failing (3:08). Mikhail Renfred and Alice immediately begin trying to distract the dragon, and they succeed! That’s where the big thumbs down comes in. They got the dragon’s attention easily enough. But they didn’t have a plan for what to do with their success (3:32). To put that another way — they didn’t have a plan for what to do when a fire breathing dragon turned its attention on them! If Merituuli the Selkie had shown up any later (3:39), I’m afraid Mikhail, Alice, and the other sorcerers would have been converted to charcoal.

Wow, indeed! She’s more calm than I would have been! But then, considering what she’s been through… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This does a great job at setting up dramatic tension that leads to a difficult decision, then weaving the consequences of that decision back into the plot. Elias was very clear: he would help Hatori but he would need to drain the excess magic or her body wouldn’t be able to handle it. Sure enough, there was a consequence to Hatori trying to help the dragon on her own: she now has a dragon arm (8:11). I can think of few series that so tightly craft their characters, decisions, and consequences — it’s a real treat to see! Even better, the scene used humor to drive her plight home, as Shannon berated Elias for being so slow to embrace Hatori that Angelica Varley beat him to it (8:33).

Hatori’s decisions don’t affect her alone. Elias, Ruth, and Silky all hurt when she hurts. She’s beginning to understand that! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Speaking of consequences: Of course, Hatori’s not the only one affected by the dragon’s arm/curse and the shortened lifespan it represents. Ruth and Elias, among others, will be affected, too. That’s why my third favorite scene is Ruth and Elias catching up to Hatori (after she leaves the house alone — again!) and having their heart to heart to heart talk about life (14:23). They spoke of their own failings; Elias spoke of the dichotomy of Hatori preferring to do things on her own, yet always going after Elias to bring him back home. Hatori said how she had conquered her uncertainty about wanting to live, and Elias pulled the whole conversation together with (16:40) “Self-sacrifice. You think that by destroying yourself, you can earn the right to be here?” How often have you seen that trait in someone? Or felt it in yourself? For someone as emotionally immature as Elias, that seemed like an amazing insight. Or maybe it was because his emotions were so relatively unsophisticated that he could see Hatori’s heart so clearly?

The music was especially affective in this episode — especially in the scene where Hatori walked alone to organize her thoughts and feelings. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.


The music was sweeping and moving in this episode! Especially in the scene leading up to my third favorite moment…

And again, too many favorite moments to fit into my site’s format! Well, constraints often drive creativity! At least that’s what I tell myself…

Elias’ insight this episode about the possibility that Hatori might be trying to use self-sacrifice as justification to allow herself to feel like she belonged really hit home for me. Or rather, the uniquely Japanese insight into self-sacrifice compared to what I’ve come to think of as the Western perspective struck me. Which is an interesting way to put it when you think about it, given the amount of influence that the Christian Scriptures, which speak from a decidedly Middle Eastern perspective, have had on Western thought…

Anyway. You’ve likely come across the phrase that goes something like “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his brother” (John 15:13). While I was growing up and studying for my English/Theology degree, I constantly came across stories where self-sacrifice in the form of martyrdom was looked on in a positive light. The implication was that being self-sacrificing was, in effect, a selfless and objectively good act.

Hatori knew that she was putting herself in moral danger. She didn’t figure on the impact to those who loved her. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I admit to never being really comfortable with that idea. It’s not that I’m denying that such acts are praiseworthy. Quite the contrary: a soldier dying to protect his fellows, or a mother dying to protect her children, are powerful statements of love and should be lauded. What made me uncomfortable was that the depictions I’d seen of these acts seemed incomplete. The equation wasn’t completely solved. The dramatic arc hadn’t closed. There were pieces missing.

Interestingly, anime was the art form that filled in the gaps, and this episode of The Ancient Magus’ Bride in particular shines a light on the issue. Hatori’s decision to sacrifice herself to save the dragon is on the surface laudable. But can we exclude the impact on the others in her life? Angelica had one answer: She slapped Hatori! Elias got angry enough to turn and walk out of the room. Even loyal and supportive Ruth flat out called her an idiot (6:44). What I needed to make the picture complete was this: her life isn’t just hers to give. Many people around her, especially Elias, Ruth, and Silky (we can’t possibly forget Silky!), are joined to her through bonds of love and affection. Making a decision to save people at the expense of her own life doesn’t just affect Hatori. It affects her family and friends, too.

Just to be clear, I’m not trying to argue against self-sacrifice. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we should use art and our religious teachings to paint a more complete picture of it. Show how we are all related to each other. Maybe even try to move the conversation in the direction of how we prevent such situations in the first place! I know I wouldn’t mind living in a world where people no longer have to decide to die to protect those they love.

What did you think of this episode? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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