I’ve been a fan of this story for a few years now. Back in 2016 Pontifus let me sit around and read all the volumes that had been published in America. The following year, he came to visit and brought the latest one with him! So watching the show hasn’t been a totally new experience. However, it’s been more fun than I thought it might be. I often don’t enjoy watching anime if I’ve read the manga. It’s just a personal preference. This one definitely layers in a lot of prettiness and good voices and all the stuff you want out of an adaption of your favorite manga.
As a show, I think it’s very good so far. It presents nearly all the information I would want in there and the pacing is good. Ancient Magus’ Bride, like, oh, Bride’s Story, is all about the wonderful details surrounding the characters and their story. My wife has taken a particular liking to the little lizard salamander spirit thing that shows up in most episodes just to sit around and look cute.
I said when I first read the manga that Ainsworth is basically the guy I want to be when I grow up. That did not stay true for long, of course, as the manga complicated everyone’s lives.
I could write a lot about the magic in the show. It’s clearly something lots of people are interested in, but I haven’t yet personally seen a take on the show from a magical practitioner (if you have, feel free to send it my way!). The show really gives the magic a chance to shine. Nearly every episode has something that could be used in real ritual.
I have no idea if the manga-ka really went out and researched magical practices or not. But that doesn’t really matter. They feel useful, which means they will be useful.
The question, of course, is who to provide the reading for? Chise is the obvious choice, but Ainsworth has just as much of a need, it seems. I posted a quick poll on Twitter and… got a tie. So I asked lvl1_chef‘s twitch feed if they wanted to break the tie: OtsukaLeia did, and she voted Chise. Don’t worry person who voted for Ainsworth (i.e. my wife), if I can’t come up with a twelfth anime for this year, I’ll probably cap things off by returning and reading Ainsworth as well.
I’m going to use the English Magic Tarot again. Given that the show is deeply invested in English magical traditions, it seemed appropriate. I also think I’ll add one more card to the standard past/present/future spread: the spirits. Chise’s whole deal is that she is accompanied by the spirits at all times. So they’ll undergird the timeline, so to speak.
We had two of these cards the last time we used this deck. That could mean my freezing fingers just didn’t do a great job shuffling. But this is also a good chance to see how the same symbols, in different contexts, add up to different meanings.
So the past is represented by the Knight of Coins. As we saw last time, he’s an old duffer. He’s supposed to be out, riding that horse, having adventures. But he’s tucked away in the library. It’s OK to do that, but not on horseback! Chise had a hard life in the past. It affected her mental and emotional states, but it was mostly material. She lost a lot. She nearly killed herself, just because she didn’t care anymore. And when her slave auction dude is preparing her, she says one thing: she may not care what happens to her, but she doesn’t handle pain very well. This knight of coins can represent that, in a way. He is withdrawn into those books. He’s surrounding himself with books so he doesn’t have to be bothered or hurt by anything else. He’s taken all that knightly energy and used it to build ramparts, not go out on adventures. And we can remember, too, that the story about Chise before she meets Ainsworth is about a magical library she hides in to escape the world. As she learns then, it won’t work forever.
In the present we have the seven of swords — the first of two sevens we drew. Sevens are about conflict, and swords are about the intellect. The show, at its current state (the latest aired episode is the first where we see Ainsworth’s back story, has positioned Chise between a conflict and a lack of conflict. Her emotional state is stable for the first time in a while. She is happy in Ainsworth’s house. I love how the show remembers to show Silky making sandwiches and doting on Chise, particularly given what I know about Silky’s background. Chise has, for the first time, a fairly loving home. It’s deeply unconventional, and the love comes, in part, from Ainsworth’s curiosity, but that doesn’t change the emotional content.
However, she is conflicted intellectually. She knows a lot of things that she didn’t before. She knows about spirits now, really and truly. She knows some magic. She knows her fate as a Sleigh Beggy, and that people want her. She also knows that some people believe Ainsworth is just using her, and that (as we saw in the most recent episode) Ainsworth needs to be more forthcoming about things. So she is assaulted by her thoughts, even as she is safe enough to indulge in that kind of thinking. The seven of swords, in this deck, portrays a thief fleeing while swords fly around him. His past schemes have caught up with him. In this case it’s not Chise’s scheme that’s the problem — it’s Ainsworth’s — but the catching up is all too true.
In the future, we got the seven of coins. This is another card of conflict, though it’s difficult to see that in the card itself. Waite and Smith depicted this card in this way:
The farmer looks at his crop coming in. This is one of those cards that tests if you think positively or negatively. I drew this card for a client earlier in the year and asked her to tell me about the look on the man’s face and if this card was good or bad. She was horrified: he looks tired and miserable and there’s so much to do and it’s just awful. Others, though, see the card as peaceful, as the farmer stops working for a while and lets nature take care of its part. Which side is true? Well, that depends.
Look at the English Magic version again:
The woman is richly clothed and is followed by coins. But the coins have faces on them, which is weird. She is, in some way, pursued by her wealth. She is not trapped by it, as the nine of coins sometimes depicts. She is merely unable to get away from it.
This was the future card, you’ll recall. Chise’s future is troubled, but it’s not all bad. Her material circumstances will continue to support her. But she will begin to push against the boundaries of those circumstances. Readers of the manga may remember the trip to see the neighbors she’ll take eventually. That is a situation in which the physical issues she deals with turn up as restraints and dog her steps, even though the manga quickly moves on to more cheerful imagery.
And what about our bonus fourth card? The spirits will always love Chise. They will always love all magicians, as we learn in this recent episode, from Lindel and his teacher. The six of cups is a card of happiness, but also specifically of happiness and strength being passed on. The two who watch the rainbow aren’t lovers; they’re mother and child. the cups are full or flowers, but they have dark outlines. There is always a depth in a cup card, a depth you can drown in. I’ll refrain from quoting Eliot.
No I won’t. In The Waste Land one of the poem’s many speakers gets a tarot reading. One of the cards they are dealt is the Drowned Phoenician Sailor. They are told “those are pearls that were his eyes.” That’s a quotation from Shakespeare, by the way. The implication is that water drowns and has no respect for what it takes away.
Think of the show so far, in fact. The earth is kindly and abundant. The winds are buoying; they have a compact with the earth, we learned, and spread seeds and rot with equal aplomb. Fire is the dragon’s domain, and they all seem to love Chise. But water alwys tries to drown her.
When the auctioneer stopped Chise from killing herself, she didn’t have a knife — she had a bridge over water. She fell into the water in the dragon’s reserve and in Ulthar. Both times, she seemed as though she didn’t want to get out. Chise is overwhelmed by water, by the weight of her emotions — which she tries to ignore.
The six of cups is a happy card, but only if emotions don’t destroy you. If you’re so afraid of them that you nearly die when you encounter them, as Chise is, then the six can be terrifying. The six of cups depicts a parent sharing a moment of beauty and learning with a child. Chise has to accept sharing, has to open up.
She is, of course, doing so. That’s why Ruth is so important. Even as she is an apprentice, she takes on responsibility for someone else. Teaching is the best way to learn.
This one was long! But it went really well!