Posted by Lenlo on 27 February 2018 with categories: Finished Series: Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction, Mahoutsukai no Yome

Hello and welcome another episode of Mahoutsukai. This week it makes the best of a bad narrative decision, introduces more tertiary characters and sprints through story arcs like nothing. Lets jump in!

Starting off, I am a bit disappointed in how quickly the auction/dragon bit was resolved. Its as if Mahoutsukai can’t let any given story or arc last longer then 2 episodes. At this point Mahoutsukai is less of a drama and more a “monster/problem of the week” type show. That might be an unfair criticism, as many drama such as Rakugo, Steins;Gate and Your Lie in April also lack the typical “arc” format. However in those the story always seems to make sense, it… it flows, for lack of a better word. One event always lead into the next. In Mahoutsukai just feels like its moving from one story beat to the next, trying to hit all the notes it can along the way, without considering how those beats link up. Regardless how good those stories are alone, they often don’t fit together well.

The other big issue with Mahoutsukai is pacing. Like I said, every “arc” is about two episodes, and from what I have read its burning through manga chapters. In this episode alone we went from a burning auction, to moody time with Chise, to new Witches, to teasing at Cartaphilus again. We, the audience, aren’t given any time to get used to the new status quo before the story starts sprinting to its next solution/story beat. Mahoutsukai needs to give itself time to breathe. If you jump from tragedy to tragedy, high octane story to another, you start to desensitize to it. Mahoutsukai tried to do this with Chise’s silent walk, and I think the lack of VA here was a good choice. It let us focus on expressions, visuals, the beautiful landscapes. It and the following scene with Elias all worked well. We just needed more of it.

The final bit of concern I have, before we talk about story proper, is the issue of characters. Namely that Mahoutsukai has to many. In these last few episodes we have been lambasted by named characters like Stella, Toby the scientist, the new Witch and the return of the auctioneer, etc. On their own any of these characters would be welcome, but when thrown at the viewer all at once its just overwhelming. Who are we supposed to care about? Will any of them appear again? There are only 4 episodes left and I doubt most of these characters are required for them. It comes back to Chekhov’s Gun, the writing principle of don’t include something in the story if it isn’t used. This applies to characters as well. Toby and the other scientist added nothing to their scenes, so they shouldn’t have been in them and shouldn’t appear again.

As far as story goes, I know I have been ragging on it up until now. But Chise’s new curse is the best thing to come out of a bad decision. I wish the Witches weren’t involved, as the role of “forbidden” or “old” magic is already filled by Ashen Eye, but I don’t expect they will succeed. Why you ask? Because Cartaphilus is our antagonist, and he is clearly interested in Chise’s new curse, shoving them on a collision course. My personal theory is that once the Witches fail, one of Chise/Cartaphilus will approach the other and a figurative “deal with the devil” will be made. Cartaphilus gets the dragons power, Chise gets a taste of his cursed Eternal Life. Its a good Catch 22 when neither character can really harm/defeat the other without ending the story and binds them together for future seasons/chapters.

All in all, another standard week for Mahoutsukai. It showed its strengths, art, design and characters. But it also played up its weaknesses, writing, pacing and direction.  I know I have been mistakenly saying this over and over lately, but I truly think Cartaphilus and Chise’s inevitable “deal” is our last story beat. Done right it has the gravitas to close out a season. The key words there though are “done right”. With how Mahoutsukai has been up till now… Lets just say I am more than alittle worried about how it will close.

But time will tell. See you next week folks!

5 Responses

  1. Avatar Vonter says:

    I think both you and me are repeating the same complaints.

    – Chibi skits turn off the drama.
    – Conflict is resolved very easily.
    – Ideas are presented but not developed enough.
    – All in all the series has the elements to be better but just doesn’t resonate strongly enough to fully recommend.

    It’s one of those cases in which I think the pieces are well made and refined but as a whole it doesn’t particularly paint a better work. It lacks something hitting a nerve in some way. For example the scene in which Ruth sees her former master being turned into a monster in paper sounds really disturbing, but in execution the character didn’t sold me the terror/panic/horror of the idea. It hits a note but doesn’t hit it as high as it should.

    All in all, it’s beautiful, but doesn’t move me in a way I think it could. Or that even less detailed series have.

    • Avatar Lenlo says:

      I stopped even mentioning the chibi to be frank. Its a known annoyance and I wanted to avoid retreading it.

      For Ruth, you hit the nail on the head. Not much has even been done with his character since it was introduced. Hes, figuratively and literally, a guard dog now.

      I think Mahoutsukai tries to do to much to fast and suffers for it. Sadly there are only so many ways I can write that before it starts to sound repetitive :P

      • Avatar Gonzalo Ruiz says:

        Have you seen that speech the creators of South Park had about good writing?

        They basically said one should avoid having a story that has “and then x happens” and instead change that to therefore or but. That’s a simple way to tie the events together since you make more of a correlation of how events affect the story.

        That’s could also be said about Mahoutsukai, while there are callbacks to events, the issue lies in that several things could have happened in any order. The old man and the vampire fairy, or the trip to the druid land or even the dragon land segments did make Chise grow as a character but, other than that it didn’t change much from a global sense.

        I wonder when all it is said and done, if it’ll be better to aboard a review from what this anime was about and if it did succeed in telling that. Just suggesting if that could be a more interesting exercise rather than repeat the main recurring issues and missed opportunities.

        • Avatar Lenlo says:

          And interesting thought.

          How Mahoutsukai handled its Relationships, their purpose and if they worked or not, was already going to be a big part of any overall review I wrote. The question at this point for me is simply how much do I time do I spend on that, vs other qualities such as direction and animation.

          I do appreciate the suggestion btw. Im always looking for ways to improve, and considering I am a Software Developer by trade, my writing style tends to lean towards technical, for good or ill.

  2. Avatar Yualexius says:

    The animation is still pretty good as usual, though I finally started to get bored with the story’s progress. Not to mention that there are too much potential to make every episode a better one but I guess I’ll just settle for the average episodes that The Ancient Magus’ Bride had recently. Hope the team behind the anime could give justice to the story with few episodes left in their hands.

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