In The Ancient Magus’ Bride episode 5, “Love Conquers All,” Mikhail Renfred pushes his psychological attack on Chise Hatori in the hopes of shattering her bond with Elias Ainsworth. Why is the Thorn Mage just watching this happen? Later, Hatori discovers the heart-breaking truth behind Matthew and Mina. Must she grant Mina’s tragic request? Or can she find another way?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What’s In This Post
3 Favorite Moments
- Mikhail thought hammering home the idea that Hatori was going to die early under Elias tutelage was the right track. Putting aside whether or not his assertion was true (I’m betting it’s not), it turns out it wasn’t death that Hatori was most worried about. It was Ariel’s suffering, which the art and voice acting (kudos to Ami Naito!) portrayed with chilling effectiveness (2:52). Mikhail seemed shocked that he didn’t buy her lies/half truths — didn’t she want to be free? And in a scene that was already my favorite, she raised the bar: casting aside his expectations of her, she declared what was important to her, Hatori. And that was belonging (3:41). She wants to stay where she’s valued. I am absolutely loving how her character is growing and recovering her self-determination!
This show not only conveys high beauty, but visceral horror. Mina discovering Matthew’s cabin in the woods was masterfully portrayed. I felt Hatori’s fear as she tried to stop Mina, but couldn’t. Quick cut-aways to a blood axe falling; silhouettes that showed you the scope of the atrocity but didn’t bog you down in gore; all culminating in Mina’s expression when she realized what she was seeing (11:05 and 11:37). That’s the way you build you dread without being resorting to cheap tricks. I’m focused on that aspect of the scene — the leading edge — because the last part (around 13:52 — the part that started, “Mat… thew…”) is just too painful to talk about.
- Hatori’s distraught that she can’t come up with a better answer than erasing Mina and Matthew from existence (19:08). A memory of the field of flowers from her youth gives her an idea, and enlisting the help of the Ariel, she’s able to invoke the idea “Seed to soil, flower to seed… Those whose time is to return, to the place where they must return” (as the Ariel says at 19:23). Because Hatori was unwilling to accept such a bleak outcome, with the help of her friends, she was able to give Mina and Matthew a much happier ending by reincorporating them into the cycle of human life — even if it was in death. Like I said earlier, seeing Hatori come into her own is such a treat!
I hope you found this episode as beautiful as I did! In fact, this show has so often conveyed such delicate and delightful scenes that it made me wonder what makes The Ancient Magus’ Bride so effective at entangling our emotions? At first, I thought the quality of the characters was it; then I thought it was the strength of the animation and art; then I thought it was the pacing and plot. Maybe a combination of all those things?
I think all those things play an important part. In fact, without them, this last component couldn’t fall into place.
What is this amazing thing?
Consider another visually affective series this season: Land of the Lustrous (it’s playing on Amazon Strike). In a recent episode, Diamond learns something that might save her* friend Phos, and she sprints home to tell everyone about it (starting around 17:00 in episode 3). The sequence was exquisite — her determination, focus, and grace were amazing. I even found that I’d held my breath during the first part of the scene.
Yet, it’s a different kind of beauty than we find in the Ancient Magus’ Bride. As a life form, the gems are a science fiction concept that’s beyond our experience, so while we may call them beautiful, it’s an alien kind of beauty. In this show, the attraction is rooted in how magic and its affects are accessible, almost natural, to us. I’m not going to walk outside my door and see Diamond run by. But I reflect almost daily on my part in the world. Mina saying “The souls of all living things are part of a cycle” (17:23) is an idea that’s part of my daily life. So seeing that her plight has so exhausted Mina that she’s willing to be severed from the community of humanity is palpable to me. Her despair is real in a vital way because it’s grounded in realities that are part of our lives — our real lives!
That connection to our experience is what make the beauty in this series so affective. When Hatori finds a way to keep Mina and Matthew within the cycle of human life, even if it’s in death, I felt elated. The concept alone was enough for me to feel emotionally satisfied. This being The Ancient Magus’ Bride (link is to the first volume of the manga at Amazon), though, it wasn’t content with just that. It treated us to some wonderful animation that was so tied to nature that it classifies as sub-creation. The wind, the feathers, the flowers and the petals — it was all so natural and accessible. And though I intellectually know I’ll never see such a thing in real life, I felt like I could.
That’s the amazing thing about this show.
Though there is one major downside to all of this: I’m running out of synonyms for the word “beautiful!”
What do you think makes this show so alluring? Let me know in the comments!
* Strictly speaking, the gems in Land of the Lustrous don’t have a gender. Yet, I find myself mentally using gender-specific pronouns for them. I find it interesting that I resist just saying “it” because that sounds so disrespectful to these them!
Other Posts of Interest
- The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 1: April Showers Bring May Flowers
- The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 2: One Today is Worth Two Tomorrows
- The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 3: The Balance Distinguishes Not between Gold and Lead
- The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 4: Everything Must Have a Beginning
- The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 6: The Faerie Queene
- The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 7: Talk of the devil, and he is sure to appear