I enjoyed The Ancient Magus’ Bride until Kore Yamazaki decided to change the direction of the story by sending Chise to college.
Now I still like it: I like all the characters from the first plot arc and I’m enjoying some of the people from this new arc. I think Yamazaki’s strength lies in creating characters who seem real and remain likable. But I just can’t see where the story is going right now, and I have limited patience for waiting to find out.
One of the attractions of the story is the interrelationship of Chise and Elias and how that changes as the two of them grow together. In that sense they are very like a couple in an arranged marriage, learning how to live with and love each other.
I think it’s very important they are taken together as a unit, because as much as I like Chise I don’t think she’s a great character on her own. To be blunt about it, I think she’s too perfect, too Mary Sue by herself.
Let’s start breaking things down. We could do the mind-body-soul thing, but I don’t think that’s important in Chise’s case. Instead, let’s take a step back and take her as she is.
She’s pretty, she’s smart, she’s quick, she’s a good friend to Alice and Stella (and now some of her college chums), she’s kind to Ruth and many of the fae folks including even Cartaphilus, who cursed her. And as a sleigh beggie she is POWERFUL. That’s why Elias bought her in the first place and why other people covet her.
Notice that she has many positive qualities. Nothing wrong with that, so long as we “cut through the treacle,” to quote Bart Simpson. What are the negative elements of Chise’s character?
Well, one used to be that she was expected to be short-lived. That underlay the first arc of the story: Elias had to try and keep her from burning out before he could find a way to save her. But as part of changing the direction of the story, she picked up a double curse, one from a dragon and one from Cartaphilus. And brother, Cartaphilus, a.k.a. The Wandering Jew, knows one really good curse: immortality.
Yeah, um, oops. All of a sudden that pressure is off. Or can be off. We don’t really know what Cartaphilus cursed her with, but all of a sudden no one’s worried that she might die any time soon. Like, you know, she has time for college, right?
And she has one other character flaw: she has no self-esteem at all.
That makes sense. As a sleigh beggie she was in contact with the fae world, but as other people around her didn’t, it made it difficult for her family. Her father and brother left, abandoning Chise and her mother, and the mother, unable to bear the stigma Chise brought on them, killed herself.
See it? From Chise’s perspective everything wrong in her life, and there’s some serious wrong there, is her fault. It’s because she is LIKE THIS.
But because she is LIKE THIS she also has a high value (look, another strength) so she puts herself up for auction, where Elias buys her.
Her low self-esteem leads her to perceive herself as less valuable than anyone else she knows. That, follows, too, right?
But what that does is make her totally heroic. Is there someone in need of saving? Stella’s brother or a baby dragon, maybe? Here She Comes to Save the Day! Because she does not value herself at all, she is inevitably willing to sacrifice herself for anyone else.
Structurally, what that does is turn her major weakness into a strength. If your own value is zero in your own eyes, then to you there is no cost in saving other people: if you save them it’s a win for the world and if you lose your life the world is no worse off. So she’s totally the hero every single time.
So what is her weakness, what is her “But…” in “The Protagonist is a ___ but __”?
If her pitiful self-esteem is actually a hidden strength, and it is, there’s nothing left. She has no weaknesses. Chise can’t fail.
It’s okay, Chise, it’s not your fault.
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.