Mahoutsukai no Yome: Hoshi Matsu Hito (OVA) – 01

Yeah, that? Anime. Next?

mahoutsukai-ova-01-1I can’t imagine too many viewers weren’t gobsmacked by the first episode of Mahoutsukai no Yome: Hoshi Matsu Hito.  But you know, I did warn you – if you watched or read any of the stuff I did from Anime Expo this year, you know the trailer (to be truthful, it was three minutes of pure glory more than a trailer) absolutely wowed me in a way I haven’t been wowed very often.  And the full version  – at least so far – is every bit the visual masterpiece I hoped it would be.

mahoutsukai-ova-01-2Yamazaki Kore’s Mahoutsukai is a very popular manga indeed, having sold several million volumes in Japan and made multiple appearances on the New York Times manga bestseller list in English.  It’s already been nominated for a Manga Taishou award.  I haven’t done much more than skim it, largely because it’s still so new and I didn’t want the frustrating experience of having to catch up with the publication quickly and have to wait on monthly releases.  But I’ve loved what I’ve seen, and even before I saw those perfect three minutes of footage I was keenly looking forward to the inevitable anime.

mahoutsukai-ova-01-3Well, it’s here – sort of.  I was surprised a series this popular should get a three episode OVA rather than a full series commitment, and an original prequel at that.  But I suppose the reason is the same as mine for not having read much of it – it’s quite a young series.  I’m sure a proper adaptation will follow on the heels of Hoshi Matsu Hito, but for now we must content ourselves with three episodes spread out over almost a year – and given that the 23 minutes of the first one felt like about 23 seconds, that’s a bitter pill indeed.  Still, it’s one I’m more than happy to swallow, because this was a superb effort on every level.

mahoutsukai-ova-01-4Mahotsukai is what I want from Production I.G. (yeah I know this is technically Wit, but we all know it’s Production I.G.) and rarely get.  This is the “My God – it’s full of stars!” reaction you get with Seirei no Moribito – the graceful, elegant and regal visuals and stunning music.  I haven’t seen I.G. this committed to a work in a very long time (probably since Moribito in fact, and the 2007 series that followed it, Ghost Hound).  Mahoutsukai is the sort of anime that puts I.G. in the conversation with studios like Bones and Madhouse when we’re talking about platinum studios, but too often they’ve delivered works that were technically impressive but somewhat sterile and lacking in ambition.  Well, not so here.

mahoutsukai-ova-01-5I don’t have a pad full of notes as I sometimes do with episodes I love (I only have three words written down, in fact), because this episode does a fine job of setting up the story without a lot of explanation.  Really, you just want to absorb yourself in the world it creates and float there.  There’s modern London, there’s the estate of the titular magus, the fearsome-looking Elias (Takeuchi Ryouta).  There are the forests and the bookshelves and the kitchen and the library.  There are the sprites and faeries and youkai and talking dogs and the dust motes hanging like diamonds in the dappled sunlight.  This is fantasy.  This is magic.  This is anime, as it somehow feels as if it was always intended to be.

mahoutsukai-ova-01-6I don’t know to what extent Yamazaki-sensei was involved in the crafting of this origin story, and how much of it comes directly from director and series composer Naganuma Norihiro.  But it feels pretty seamless with the core story, that’s for certain.  That story is a tale of the magus and the young girl named Chise (Tanezaki Atsumi, who was Mayu in Death Parade) who’s his disciple.  They live in a land of magic, but Chise clearly comes from the land of humans – Japan, to be precise.  Elias calls her his “human teacher”, and she works as his assistant.  Her familiar is Ruth (Uchiyama Kouki), who switches between the form of a shaggy black dog and a shaggy black-haired boy.

mahoutsukai-ova-01-7The manga never really explained how things got this way, but that seems to be the plan for Hoshi Matsu Hito.  And there are hints in the first episode, a backstory with echoes of Harry Potter.  Chise’s mother killed herself and she was taken in by relatives, but she’s an odd child – she sees things humans aren’t supposed to see, and is terrified by them.  That makes her an outcast among both her step-family and society in general, and it isn’t until she stumbles onto the cottage (a big cottage, true) of a man who calls himself the Forest Magician (Sakurai Takahiro) that Chise’s fortunes seem to take a turn for the better.

mahoutsukai-ova-01-8I’m certainly interested in seeing how we get from here to where we know the story is going, but truthfully Mahoutsukai no Yome for me is more about the journey than the destination.  It’s just such a beautiful piece of work – so absorbing, so magical (much credit to composer Matsumoto Junichi’s music for that) and so brilliantly realized.  There are elements of Ghibli here, and something of Shinkai Makoto’s realistic impressionism in the look (Art Director Takeda Yusuke is a serious A-lister, with Moribito among other works on his resume), but Mahoutsukai is very much itself.  It completely enraptured me from the first frames I saw in Los Angeles, and its grip never loosened by the time (impossibly quickly) the end credits rolled.  As long as anime is capable of producing works like this, there’s reason to be optimistic about its future.

Preview:

 

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19 comments

  1. Am so glad you liked it! All I have to say about the first OVA was “Awesome – exactly what I was hoping for!”

    The only thing I could ask more for would be a full series done in this manner as well. Now THAT would be a treat!

  2. Eventually a series will happen, surely. No reason to suppose otherwise. Possibly unrealistic to hope you’d get 13 episodes with these production values, but look at Moribito for 26.

  3. If the first three episodes draw in the Ghibli crowd there might be some hope…

  4. Of a full series? I think it’s almost a lock. Probably not with production values at this level, but I would be very surprised if it doesn’t happen.

  5. K

    Very interesting to see the VA credit for Tanezaki Atsumi given to Mayu from Death Parade. I loved that show, but I hear her voice more similar to her effort in Lisa from Zankyou no Terror at least in this first ep, albeit a more experienced sound. And I absolutely loved her role as Asako Natsume in Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

  6. Yes, she was phenomenal in that role – loved that performance.

  7. That was gorgeous- like stepping into a fairytale (interestingly I hear that the the fairies in this are based on those in actual Celtic lore- which was what initially drew me to the OVA; I’m a sucker for mythology).

    I think I might go and read the manga now….

  8. S

    More than Harry Potter, the backstory seemed to me like a mix between Natsume and Kotoura-san.

  9. Y

    Thanks!!! This wasn’t on my radar at all… Such a shame it’s an OVA and we’ll have to wait so long to get the rest. It sent n’y SO fast…

    This is the kind of show that made me fall in love with anime in the first place.

  10. Y

    *went by … Not “sent n’y” weird autocorrect…

  11. D

    Not familiar with the source material (though it’s now firmly on my shopping list), but man, this was a glorious thing to behold from start to finish, it really succeeded into bringing you in to its magical world.

    Can barely wait for more.

  12. This works perfectly if you have already read the manga. It presents a different take on well liked characters.

  13. s

    oh wow, i had no idea this came out. I better watch this ASAP; from the looks of this post, it encapsulates some of the great qualities that i look for in anime

  14. e

    This was cruel. Such a glorious 20+ minutes introduction and then months before we get to experience the rest. But hey if that’s the result it’s worth it isn’t it? ^^
    They did a great job with the characters in terms of both voices and art adaptation from the manga, and the backgrounds are really really lovely – plus dat food – . In terms of characters this is just a first glimpse but the new ones are interesting and the manga ones are spot on. Definitely a work full of love and care :).
    – It does seem Chise’ mother committed suicide possibly soon after trying to strangle her child btw. They weren’t beeing too subtle with the camera focus on those fresh red marks around her neck and later the bandages…
    – I’ve been fond of the music even more than the visuals if that’s possible – ( the art is beautiful but I still put Moribito’s a notch above in the human and architecture department. Pimped up Ghibliesque character design is just more to my taste ) since the preview and it hasn’t disappointed. The ED song ‘Clockwork Quick And Lightning Slow’ is another winner.

  15. G

    Such a stunning piece. I’ve read some of the source material (a few chapters only since it was still really new when i read it), and I didn’t recall being so engaged as this. I.G has definitely stepped up a notch for this adaptation in portraying the whimsical and magical. The use of silence and green landscapes made me think of Mushishi just that little bit, but the Ghibli influences are definitely stronger (almost thought that was No Face there). Can’t wait to delve into the main story after this

  16. R

    I adore this series with my entire heart. I’ve been following it since like, chapter 8 or something and I fell in love with it immediately. It is also one of the few manga series I’ve seen really nail old European (mostly English, since that’s where Elias lives, but not limited to) folklore. It’s also one of the few shoujo series where I unabashedly adore the character progression. It’s not heavy on traditional romance, but it is full of lessons of love. Romantic, familial, paternal, platonic, all sorts. It’s heartbreaking and uplifting, and magical in a way few series are. I wouldn’t compare it to Harry Potter (as I’ve see quite a few people do) because while they share a setting (England), the tone is so completely different.

    I would put it more as a darker, more melancholy cousin to Natsume Yuujincho, which is the series that most invokes similar emotions. And maybe Mushishi, it’s somewhere in between the two. And I can not WAIT for the full anime to come out.

  17. R

    Also I’m surprised you said the manga never explains how things got to this point, because the very first chapter of the manga does just that? I didn’t count this as a prequel since it actually seems to take place after Chise meets Ruth, which is several chapters into the manga.

  18. R

    I really wish there was an edit button.

    Correction, it seems more akin to a flashback during the current arc than a prequel, which some people would consider the same but I feel is slightly different.

  19. C

    Honestly I find this new flashback to be introducing more mysteries rather than explaining things. It’s established in the first chapter of the manga that Elias simply bought Chise at an auction, as very valuable merchandise (because of her spiritual affinity). The implication was that, as implied here, her ability to see youkai made her life so horrible that she eventually ended up in the kind of seedy yet magical place where humans are bought and sold. I really have no idea how that would tie into this particular encounter of hers.

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