Review/discussion about: Mahoutsukai no Yome
Marriage often binds both parties with a single phrase: “until death do us part.”
Mahoutsukai no Yome chooses another phrase instead: “doomed to fail.”
Elias Ainsworth, a mysterious “man” with an elk skull for a head, literally purchases a young woman named Chise Hatori at an underground auction. The reason? Her unique properties of being a so-called “Sleigh Beggy” grant her innate magical talent. While alarming at first, Elias provides her a home and a chance to cultivate her abilities, leading Chise down a path of self-discovery.
While this synopsis captures the intent of Mahoutsukai no Yome, it does not reveal the major illness of the narrative that plagues it. In its attempts to tell a grounded tale about a strange demon, a distraught oddity, and their relationship together, the anime succumbs to a constant sickness: the incoherency of its approach.
Nowhere does this virus attack harshest than in the basic flow of the given scenes. Despite how much the show banks on having what should be beautiful, dramatic moments, the anime instead ruins its tone through illogical comedy asides. Take the segment where Chise flies back home in a blaze of glory, her task complete and emotions swelling (all while the opening track amplifies the scene for added hype). Rather than letting the conclusion flow in a natural manner, the anime throws in a quick jab of humor without provocation, ruining this climactic moment for a cheap laugh.
Sadly, this unnecessary comedy not only undercuts these moments and especially the less-dramatic ones but also exists across the entire season. That’s putting it lightly. The anime seemingly cannot stop itself from interjecting its serious or emotional scenes with a snappy joke or a swift funny. It highlights a glaring disrespect for its own drama. It simply has no place here among the otherwise meaningful perspectives on life, death, and the purpose to be found within them.
Mahoutsukai no Yome ignores its flow only to worsen its cough through improper build-up. Specifically, it does a poor job of explaining and justifying Chise’s powers, defaulting instead to her having them without much reason. There’s a couple of quick stills here and there to at least hint at Chise practicing, but so much of her growth as a magic user is either waived away or simply not even depicted despite the prevalence and the importance of the motif. It turns many of the narrative moments from consequential outcomes to coincidental happenings requiring unfair acceptance.
The entire story deteriorates anyway the further along it progresses. While the first half or so of the show possibly excuses itself by setting up grander plotlines and ideas down the line, a bigger sense of meandering and aimlessness fills the gaps as it goes. In truth, the slice-of-life structure permits it more of an episodic feel, so the piecemeal scenes have some basis. However, the emphasis on the drama outweighs the segmented nature of the show, leaving either side in shambles.
In fact, the lack of any real goal in sight adds to this deterioration. Visiting the fairy land and saving a dragon are interesting events on their own, but, when connected or even simply compared to the bigger picture of Mahoutsukai no Yome, they cannot make the bridges required to cross those gaps between them.
And it only gets worse from there. Contradictory dialogue. One-off scenarios. Poor thematic exploration. The story sticks with this incoherent sickness from beginning to end, leaving the project in a ramshackle state in dire need of some medicine.
ART & ANIMATION
Arguably speaking, the visuals for Mahoutsukai no Yome act as that much-needed cure per se. Or at least, they instill some relief, for they earn the honors for the best part in show.
This statement becomes truer as more of the artistry takes shape. Rolling fields of green. Seasonal forests dripped with either sunshine or snow. The dapper streets of a European city. Mountainous regions hiding serenity. Their quaint, quiet home. These settings and more build the visual strength of the anime, and it remains in high spirits for nearly its entire run.
Speaking of spirits, the presentation also puts a ton of stock into the magical happenings that regularly take place. From Chise and her abilities to the mythical grandeur that envelops several of the sentimental moments, Mahoutsukai no Yome prides itself on the majestic splendor that the magic therein creates. These creations then feed into the nice sense of movement that not only the effects bring with them but also the characters enact through their various scenes.
They have some swell designs, too. Chise’s striking red hair and vibrant green eyes contrast with her tired, plain looks, forming the prominent duality between her unique status and her lonely nature. Elias is tall, draped in black, regal clothing and donning that formidable animal skull with twisted horns. Altogether, he assumes a menacing aura, an aura which simultaneously intimidates with ease and hides his true feelings.
The supporting cast have their presence, too. Ruth the shaggy dog. Silky the doll-like maid. The otherworldly denizens of the forest. The helpful human compatriots nearby. The fantastical and the real merge and emerge in the various designs touted by these creatures and people and others, giving Mahoutsukai no Yome another major positive.
Once again, though, the anime cannot stop itself from trying to be funny when nobody asked it to be so. The rounded, chibi style, while fitting such an angle, detracts heavily from the regular seriousness that the settings, the magic, the movement, and the designs portray. That is to say, these silly-looking segments are quite silly to include indeed, and the overall execution suffers because of them.
The newfound cure in its artistry halts some problems but not others. Specifically, Mahoutsukai no Yome hits disease again in the involvement and the development of its cast.
At the forefront, Chise and Elias exist as the main pair throughout the show. Describing such a pairing, however, becomes an exercise in futility from the get-go. He is her husband. And her master. And her tutor. And her parent. And her friend. A tangled, complex relationship sows an unease that serves more as a bizarre asterisk to the whole affair and less as a meaningful avenue that the anime explores.
The idea is that such a warped bond between the two reflects their individual problems.
Chise has hardly ever felt compassion up to this point in her life. Thus, the honest words and actions from Elias, while uncomfortable and far from a human norm, enwrap Chise with a warmth and a welcome that she has been missing for way too long.
In contrast, Elias grasps very little on the concept of emotions. So, when Chise ignores him, disobeys him, or wows him (either directly or indirectly), these new feelings of jealousy, trepidation, and love not only confuse him to his core but also chip away at his monstrous soul.
Yet they remain in this husband-master-tutor-parent-friendzone for the entirety of the show. It may seem as if they learn from each other at certain points along the way, speaking honestly and earnestly during candid scenes. But there’s not much in the way of progress. This lack thereof evidenced by the fact that, as the catalyst for the last arc of the season, they still cannot seem to understand how the other feels on a personal level.
At the very least, Chise herself is one of the only bright spots in Mahoutsukai no Yome when regarding the writing that props her up. The anime puts a lot of stock in the negative space around her. Isolation. Lack of self-worth. Past trauma. She has the power and the heart to turn things around for the better for others, but her most damaging weakness is believing that she isn’t strong enough for her own person, spiritually or emotionally or otherwise.
Thus, across her journey filled with turmoil, Chise experiences connections and events that guide her down a path of healing. She’ll make new friends to combat that isolation. She’ll gain new outlooks on life which teach her the worth of her presence. She’ll face her trauma to solidify a better future. Her kindness towards others despite her own troubles characterize her as a gentle soul, but her growth here beyond the negativity that constricted her being proves that her best trait materializes as powerful bravery.
Elias receives the opposite treatment. Where Chise grows a lot during her well-defined arc, Elias seems to float along, his awkward thoughts and stoic behavior translating into meaningless contributions during the season. His direct interactions with her fail to be remotely interesting, and his morphing into a demonic, nightmarish hound can only be overused so much before it becomes another tiring trait to his character.
To his credit, emotionless characters like Elias are not inherently problematic. It’s just, in this case, his immutable form leads to a static, frustrating arc to watch unfold. Unlike Chise, he rarely seems to retain new knowledge or improve his person. Sure, he cares about her, and he is no doubt a powerful entity himself, but these characteristics alone cannot support his importance within the story.
Supporting should have also come from the side characters, but they as well contract disease. Ruth has his episode and then, true to form, has the presence of a shadow, impacting the story, let alone the other characters, to a minimal extent afterwards. Silky gets a just a sheet of backstory. And, as for Cartaphilius, he has his convoluted parallels with Chise that boil down to inconsequential evil without much merit.
Altogether, while Chise recovers, the rest of the characters remain in quarantine.
MUSIC & SOUND
While the audio within Mahoutsukai no Yome does not alleviate as much pain as the accompanying visuals, it manages to triage some of its wounds over the weaker, diseased writing which backs both the story and the characters.
The first ending track brings its A-game. Titled “Wa -cycle-“, it combines slower pacing and soft vocals to provide a delicate offering. Yet the nostalgic, homely mood it establishes and the ethereal sounds going on behind this mood stave off that ever-present sadness with a dash of optimism while persisting with a magical base. It’s by no means a flashy track, for that’s precisely the point, instead supporting the show with a clear feeling of calm.
Most notably, however, the first opening track “Here” soars to the top as a top point of the season. The power and range of the vocals bolster the song with emotion and finesse. The cultural influences, such as the castanets and the acoustic guitar, infuse it with a romanticized melancholy that befits the anime quite nicely. And the various building-block decisions – such as the striking start to the song, the grander instrumentation in the background, and the flourish at the halfway mark – solidify it as a powerhouse of a piece.
Unfortunately, the second OP and the second ED have much less staying power for Mahoutsukai no Yome. “You” serves as a major downgrade from its first counterpart. An almost inevitability considering how awesome it happens to be, but the bass and the piano cannot match the same fervor, and the vocals and flow of the song similarly fall behind.
As for “Tsuki no mou Hanbun”, it seems rather confused as to what it wants to be or where it wants to go. More piano, this time with a defined dance beat of sorts, attempt to garner the same emotion as before. The male and female vocalists, in a way reflecting the relationship between Chise and Elias themselves, also try to help, but the uneventful track simply ends up forgettable.
Talking about the characters must then lead to the voice-acting performances. To which there aren’t any real standouts save for possibly Ryouta Takeuchi as Elias. Dripping with suave and commanding with intimidation, his voice captures the strong, unfazed “man” well enough.
Better yet, the original soundtrack gives Mahoutsukai no Yome a push forward over its VA inclusions. More of that cultural instrumentation coincides with the setting. Strained violins equate to dramatic tension. Spacey, warbly effects add an alien sound for those unknowable times. A distinct piano melody signifies important moments of the anime. So, even if the audio misses on occasion, this OST and some of the other tracks have a presence regardless.
I don’t like this anime. At all. I dislike it immensely and without remorse.
It all starts with the characters themselves. I loathe the main villain and his unbearably lame persona; I will speak nothing more of such a worthless antagonist. Elias is a monotonous blob who walks around without contributing much, boring me constantly by existing without purpose. Chise, despite how much I appreciate her formative arc, fails at being an inspiring protagonist, and so her plight throughout the plot feels mild at best.
Not to mention that the romance angle, intentional or not, had that inherent, off-putting weirdness. As many of my readers know, romance is my favorite genre, but I could not support the bizarre relationship formed between the two. Not only did it effectively go nowhere but also it refused to be a meaningful point of the anime to begin with.
Most of the other characters are awful as well, but, even disregarding them, most of what the show tries to do gets on my nerves anyway. The comedy is not funny to me, yet the drama is laughable during certain stages. I don’t much care for the world, the magic, and the lore. And I find the various plot segments extremely lackluster. So much of what it puts forth I view as either abhorrent or lamentable, causing my huge disfavor with the project overall.
So, I’ll repeat it one last time: I do not like this anime. And I’m glad that I no longer have to think about it anytime soon.
Mahoutsukai no Yome files for a divorce where no prenuptial agreement was agreed upon beforehand. Support payments on its visuals give them a healthy outlook, and the fight over who gets which parts of the music demonstrate some care. But the mishandled story, the botched characters, and the near-zero amount of entertainment result in a bitter aftermath. Blatant incompetence parts this failed marriage.
Story: Terrible, from the flow to the build-up to the meandering to the writing, incoherency plagues the narrative
Art & Animation: Good, a detailed setting, magical effects, nice movement, and interesting designs outlast the distracting comedic style
Characters: Bad, Chise overcomes her self-doubt, but Elias is too static, his relationship with her makes little sense, and the supporting cast are subpar at best
Music & Sound: Fine, the first OP alights with flair, the first ED brings nostalgic calm, and the OST has its moments, but the major downgrades in the second OP and second ED do not go unnoticed, and the VA performances are mediocre, sans Elias
Enjoyment: Terrible, unappealing characters, the weird “romance”, the uninteresting world, and the horrible drama make it a completely unfun experience
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review.
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