Title: The Ancient Magus’ Bride /魔法使いの嫁 Mahō Tsukai no Yome
Mangaka: Kore Yamazaki ヤマザキ コレ
US Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Level: Middle School, High School
Reader’s Advisory Tags: depression, suicide, abuse, substance abuse
Content Warnings: Frequent discussion of character suicide, some body horror.
I have to tell you about this manga, because it is SO GOOD. I had plans to cover other titles, but picked this up for my personal reading. I read all of what’s available in a couple of days, and I’ve watched most of the anime on my commute.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is the story of Hatori Chise, a Japanese girl who has been ostracized by her family and society for her strange behavior. Chise is able to see fairies and spirits, which follow her and frequently terrorize her. When she is about to complete suicide by jumping from her school building, she is approached by a stranger who convinces her to put herself up for sale in an auction instead. She is then sold to Elias Ainsworth, a being that is not quite fairy or human. Elias takes her to his home in England, and he informs her that she is his apprentice and future wife. Chise, it turns out is a sleigh beggy, a human who can tap into unlimited magical power. This comes at a price, though, as this unlimited magical energy drains her physically, and will ultimately kill her.
As the story progresses, Chise becomes more assertive and makes connections with others in ways that make her cherish life. We learn more about the characters and their motivations, which are complex and interesting. Yamazaki weaves various folk traditions in such a way that are respectful of the original tales but also give a unique point of view. This is a story about valuing life and others, and it’s beautiful. Most of the characters have been broken in some way, but they are fixing each other and themselves.
I want to point out that The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a shōnen series. There is no moe, no sexual objectification, and the story features a female protagonist who is able to show both vulnerability and strength. The setup was something that held me off from reading this, but Chise is not a slave and Elias clearly doesn’t understand what a wife is. They have a positively chaste relationship.
I highly recommend purchasing this series. It has enough action and drama to really hook students, and it’s alternatively heart-wrenching and hilarious. I recommend treading carefully, though. Suicide is a frequent topic. There’s also a character who was once made to take and sell drugs by her parents, and there is discussion about what it was like for her to detox and recover from that abuse. That topic in a popular shōnen manga was a big surprise to me- Japan has a very conservative attitude toward drug abuse, and the character is treated with a lot of respect.
I believe a lot of titles have been engaging in ideas around suicide in Japanese culture recently in a way that shows attitudes around mental health are slowly taking a turn. More and more titles are centering around the affirmation of life and connecting with others. I’ll get around soon to talking about mental health in Japan, but in my next post, I want to get back on schedule with Food Wars.