The Power of Two to the Fourth: The Ancient Magus’ Bride

The Ancient Magus’ Bride is one of those on my list To Be Seen…I’ve seen just the first episode of the anime and read just the first volume of the manga. In terms of the narrative, I only know the beginning. I don’t know where the story goes from here.

But, remember: the beginning of a narrative is supposed to do a few things. It’s supposed to introduce the setting and characters, and it’s supposed to hook the reader/viewer.

Introducing character at the beginning is particularly important because the conflict in the story oftentimes arises from the characters. And as I’m seeing The Ancient Magus’ Bride, I’m saying, “Whoa…this is really cool,” and I’m saying it from my perspective as a writer looking at the interrelationships between the two main characters.

The main characters, Elias and Chise, form a basic complementary couple in terms of types. Until recently I’ve largely skipped over talking about character pairs, except in the case of A Woman Called Fujiko Mine, because I found trios more interesting, or at least I noticed them first.

Fujiko-Lupin was an interesting pairing (see last week’s post) because they were NOT a complementary couple; they were symmetric…they were similar character types (tricksters) and had similar strengths and weaknesses. Most couples, at least in stories, are complementary: the strengths of one are matched somehow with the weaknesses of the other, so between the two of them they can do more things. This allows the writers more room to drive the story forward.

Elias and Chise are a complementary couple, of course, with different strengths and weaknesses. What’s interesting about them from my standpoint is that they simultaneously form at least – AT LEAST – four different complementary pairs. They are master-slave, teacher-pupil, bride-groom, and father-daughter.

Ancient Magus's Bride

Chise (left) and Elias.

Eh?

Master-slave: Of course, the series starts with Elias buying Chise at auction.

Teacher-pupil: Elias is the eponymous Ancient Magus. He is explicit about training Chise to be a mage as well.

Bride-groom: Elias makes it clear that intends to marry Chise. I don’t know if he will, but he describes every trip they take together as a honeymoon. Plus, the show is called The Ancient Magus’ BRIDE. Duh.

Father-daughter: Elias is childless, and Chise an orphan. Elias acts in a parental manner toward Chise: he bathes her, and carries her around when she is tired, dries her clothes when they are wet, and so on.

What’s so neat about this is that these various roles have the possibility of creating conflict as the story goes on, either conflict between the demands of each role or conflict internal to Chise, from whose point of view the story is told.

This is heightened by the fact that Chise has almost zero self-esteem. This makes her question every good thing that happens to her. She can’t believe that anyone would treat her well, so she is constantly doubtful about Elias’ motivations and actions.

This has already started. Whenever Elias does something kind for her, any of the little things he does in the father role, she can’t imagine why he would, or why someone would do that for her. Boom. Internal conflict.

Maybe she’s right. I don’t know where the middle of the narrative is going.

But the four-fold nature of their relationship has the possibility to create conflict among all their various roles. Of the four of them, master-slave is probably the least common, and supposedly that was resolved immediately – Elias frees her as soon as they reach his home in England. But it’s still there in Chise’s mind that Elias bought her, and in fact bought her for a great deal of money. At any point she could overtly decide to do something…accept a marriage proposal, for instance…or decline to resist something she does not want…a marriage proposal, for instance…because in the back of her mind she still believes he owns her.

You know who handled that well? Robert Heinlein, the science fiction writer. In Citizen of the Galaxy we meet the protagonist, Thor Rudbek, when he is bought on planet Jubblepore by Baslam the beggar. Thor and Baslam have a good relationship, but at times Thor’s bitterness at having been bought and sold bubbles up between them.

Of course, there’s a certain psychological tension between the father/daughter and the bride/groom pairing, or at least I hope there is. Electra complex, anyone? Teacher-pupil can interact with the others in all sorts of ways: what damage happens to father/daughter when pupil defies teacher? Can pupil defy a teacher who owns her? How about a bride who is married to her teacher?

I don’t know where this story is going, but in the way they have set up the relationships between Elias and Chise, there is the possibility of a very complex story between the two of them, not to mention whatever outside forces are brought to play on the couple. I’m looking at it and the writer in me is saying, “Whoa, that am seven kinds of clever.”

And I’m going to watch the rest of the anime, for sure now. That means that in the way they introduced the characters, this start to this series accomplished another goal of the beginning of a narrative: it hooked the viewer. Well done!

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

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