Normally I write these reviews in tandem with reading the manga itself. I tend to read a chapter and then write down my thoughts. Today went a little differently. I went to visit some friends for a nice day of Dungeons & Dragons. I play a human monk based on my short story Firedancer Elena, which you can find on my website as well. I know, you didn’t ask. My friend that was hosting lives a couple towns away, so I had to take a train ride there. I decided to read this volume of The Ancient Magus Bride on the train on the way there. I also brought my chromebook so I could write the review on the way back. This would give me some time to think about what I read and perhaps write a more cohesive review of it.
And this volume was intense, so it was probably a good choice. The theme of suicide and wanting to live or die has been big in this manga and I would say it’s been a driving force for the main narrative. Chise is certainly not a happy person when we first meet her, and this changes a little bit overtime, but the sadness is definitely still there even in this volume. She speaks about her pain very openly in this volume though, and she talks about how now that she finally wants to live she’s suddenly going to die any quicker. Poor Chise.
On the topic of her newly acquired curse, we get a little bit more insight on that as well. Dragons use magic just like humans do, but the way that they use it is very different. It’s a much more natural process for dragons, like breathing is for humans. We are then told a story about someone absorbing a dragon’s heart to gain its powers. What Chise did to save the dragon, although it had very different intentions, was similar to this practice. Unfortunately the strain of absorbing something like this from a dragon is much more than any person can take, and the curse will eventually take her.
Lucky for Chise, the lady that collaborated with her at the auction last volume is apparently part of a coven that might be able to help. She comes over to invite Chise and Elias over to one of their meetings. They initially decline, but after thinking it through they decide that they can at least hear the witches out. The only way they would help is by Chise joining them, which neither her nor Elias want. What changed their mind was realizing that the alternative was Chise dying without a solution at all.
So they follow the ritual and appear at the coven where they talk. The intention was to use Chise to help the leader of the coven with one of her problems, but the leader herself doesn’t agree. After some talks, Chise and Elias end up leaving empty handed.
Elias is then approached by the witch, Marielle again, who tells him a way to cure Chise. There is no way to cure this without anyone dying, as far as she’s aware, but there are ways to fix it if the safety of another person is not important. So Elias in his desperation decides to kidnap Stella and use her as the sacrifice. Ruth helps him out by not telling Chise what he’s doing, and they get started on the ritual. Chise is forced unconscious but with the help of her memories of Nevin she manages to wake up again and rushes to the room where Elias is starting the ritual.
After giving Elias a good punch she helps Stella out of the room, but quickly realizes that Josef, also known as Cartaphilus, has a hold on Stella as well. He offers Chise a way to cure her curse that wouldn’t require Stella’s sacrifice. After Elias betrayal this seems like her best option, and she takes his hand.
Before my thoughts on the cover I do want to take another moment to talk about the theme of suicide or moreso lacking a drive for life. It’s easy to call them the same thing since they often stem from a similar mental state, but they’re different responses to the same problem. One is more intense than the other, but each are extremely valid in their own way. It’s a topic that isn’t talked about enough and I say that knowing it gets talked about a lot more nowadays than it used to. I can unfortunately relate to Chise’s lack of drive to move on with life. Not at the moment, luckily, but I’ve been in that mental state before and I undoubtedly will return there at some point. What’s important is acknowledging that this is not a healthy mental state and then trying to work on improving it. That’s easier said than done, but I do want to offer my respect to the author of the The Ancient Magus Bride for handling such a delicate topic so well. It’s not magically over when life goes a little better, and Chise reflects that. The road to recovery from serious mental health problems isn’t easy, quick or glamorous, but there are many people fighting this battle and we need to let them know that they’re strong enough to do their best. Okay, back to the manga now.
I’ve spent a little bit of most of my discussions talking about the cover art. Depending on the kind of series you’re reading, the cover can give away a lot about the contents. I think this one is best studied in hindsight though. The front cover (or back cover depending on how you look at it from a western perspective) has Elias and Chise heading in one direction on the platform. The back has Josef going the other way, and also features what looks to be Ariel. I’d like to think this is a nod at the fact that Chise and Elias get a lot closer during this volume, only for Elias to completely ruin that near the end, and Josef (I’m going to keep calling him Josef instead of Cartaphilus) is there to pick up the pieces. As with every volume before, I’m very excited to see where this story is going next, and if you feel the same, I hope to see you here again next week for volume 9. Thank you so much for reading, it means a lot to me!