Chise Hatori is a sleigh beggy - a human with incredible magic potential. Now in the care of the mysterious magician Elias Ainsworth, she seems to have finally found a place to call home. However, as she begins to acclimate to her new magical surroundings, she learns that a cruel fate may lie ahead for her.
While on a mission to stop a magical blight, Chise and Elias find themselves confronted by a pair of alchemists, Renfred and Alice, who wish to collect the malicious blight for their own purposes. Chise must now deal with the fuller truth of Elias’ desire to keep her, as well as facing the darker sides to the magic she is only now becoming accustomed to.
Volume two of The Ancient Magus’ Bride begins on a slightly darker note than the first volume ever delved into. The first two chapters in particular tell a grimmer tale, going deeper into how magic can be used in less-than-wholesome ways. The real reason for this is more due to a shift in focus for the volume. Whereas volume one of the manga was all about Chise finding a new home and a new life, this second volume instead focuses more on the cost of magic, and on what makes a monster as compared to men.
The story of Matthew and Mina in chapter two is the clearest driver of those themes. Matthew, a small-town, honest, young man is extremely loyal to his good-natured, if perpetually-sickly wife Mina. When Mina is diagnosed as terminally ill, Matthew attempts some drastic measures to avert her fate. Matthew, tragically, is driven mad as he instead wreaks terrible havoc on the world around him until he himself can barely be considered human. His story, along with most of the other major characters in this volume like Renfred, the new child-like alchemist, and a certain mutt, tread this line between monster, beast, and man. In this way they are used as foils especially for Elias, exploring his own inhumanness and putting into question if any true relations can be had between humans and “monsters.”
Due to this focus on the monsters and magic, however, Chise and Elias’ relationship ends up taking a bit of a backseat. The few moments they really have together are great, but a lot of this second volume ends up setting up future plot arcs and new characters instead of really having a pure narrative thrust in and of itself. However it is thematically resonant, with Chise having a few really beautiful moments to temper the darker introduction. The latter half of the book does have those softer, more comedic moments that were really enjoyable before, though I didn’t find them quite as memorable as the first volumes’. In fact some of the characters, like the faerie king, just come off as kooky. Good for a laugh, but not super meaningful.
The art manages to capture these tonal shifts well, with a number of scenes in the first chapters made perfectly nightmarish, and chilling to look at. A few more pages this time feel more cramped and are less intuitive to read or comprehend, at least at first glance. These are but minor complaints however, as the art is still gorgeous, with some wondrous magical moments to be found, and some of that excellent pastoral english countryside is still pervasive throughout the volume.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol 2, was an enjoyable read, and a good followup to the first volume. It is a strong continuation for the series, though it does feel like more of a setup for much larger and longer running story beats, more than it is a crucial next step in Chise’s and Elias’ relationship. It is a book well worth picking up for fans of volume one, as it fleshes out a lot of AMB’s wonderous world while also promising a lot more interesting developments in this story in the future.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride Vol. 2 was published in English by Seven Seas Entertainment, on Sept 1, 2015, translated by Adrienne Beck. It covers chapters 6-10. The original work was created by Kore Yamazaki, and published by Mag Garden, in Monthly Comics Garden. Vol. 4 releases April 12, 2016.
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