Every week, I come across praise for this show, and I’m just… well, lost. I don’t see what everyone else is seeing. For example, something people commonly laud about the anime is that it’s atmospheric. Really? What makes a show or film atmospheric to me is when the setting comes alive. When the art direction and the cinematography combines in such a way that the setting becomes its own character, I can’t help but sit back and bask in the “atmosphere.” I’m not getting that from Mahoutsukai no Yome whatsoever. It just looks like a lot of humdrum, generic British pastoral fare. Throw in a few forest scenes, and that’s about it. In fact, nothing I’m watching this season is particularly atmospheric. Houseki no Kuni’s winter episodes came close, but nothing else.
People also praise the show’s mix of seriousness and humor. Hoo boy, I cannot disagree more. I actually find the random shifts to comedy absolutely jarring. They’re tonally dissonant. Even when the characters are only trying to be serious and introspective, however, the pacing is so languid that I find myself falling asleep. Maybe it’s just Chise’s monologues that I can’t get into. Voiceovers in general are kinda lazy, but I can normally stomach them. My problem here is that I just don’t understand the girl.
Chise: I’m depending on someone who doesn’t think anything of me. I tell myself that I wouldn’t mind being abandoned, yet I don’t want to be. I’m selfish.
How does that make her selfish? I’m trying to follow her line of reasoning in these sentences and I just don’t see it. Yes, Chise is too emotionally dependent on someone she doesn’t understand, and even when they do truly get to know each other, a little self-sufficiency is never a bad thing. Yes, she is in denial about her abandonment issues. But how does any of this add up to selfishness? Plus, since when has she ever been selfish in this entire story?
Chise: The reason I’m not scared [of Elias’s monstrous form] must be… because I’m cursed.
Chise: [Love is] not a word that I deserve to say when all I can think about is myself.
Again… what? She’s literally looking for Elias because she’s worried about him. She’s obviously deeply infatuated with him. Is it love? Eh, who knows? But Ruth’s right: Chise’s in denial for some reason. Maybe she doesn’t think she’s good enough to love someone. Maybe she doesn’t think she’s deserving of love in return. But… I dunno, this just feels a little too dramatic.
There’s a very brief side story in the second half of the episode involving a leanan sidhe. They’re apparently vampires (I thought they were more akin to fairies) who grant men power in exchange for blood. This particular leanan sidhe is haunting an old man who tends to a garden of flowers. He’s also an amateur writer on the side. According to Ruth, the old man would die if the vampire takes his blood. When Chise reads one of the old man’s short stories, however, she realizes two things: 1) it’s a semi-autobiographical love story about the one time he managed to lock eyes with the leanan sidhe long ago, and 2) he has enough talent on his own. He’s not getting any from leanan sidhe. So why does the vampire stick around? It must be love, is it not? Why does the old man stay single and still dreams of the beautiful girl he once saw in his garden? L… ove? That’s what the story would like you to think. The vampire claims that her kind can only love by consuming and giving. After all, it’s in her nature. So obviously, she doesn’t love the old man. But we’re supposed to think that, like Chise, the leanan sidhe is just in denial.
I actually agree with the vampire, though. She and the old man can never interact. In all their decades together, they’ve literally managed to lock eyes… like what? Twice? She can’t do anything for him, and likewise, he can’t do anything for her. He saw someone beautiful so he decided to write a short story about it. That’s not love. It’s just an infatuation. It’s a very strong one, sure, but it’s still just that. In fact, there’s even evidence to suggest that love at first sight is really just physical attraction. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense, but it doesn’t fit our feelgood narratives. We still think of love as something mystical and intangible when… well, I don’t really want to be overly reductionist about love. I truly believe you can love another person. I just don’t think this show has it. It has a lot of strong infatuations… fixations often born from less than ideal circumstances. But love? Nah, I’m not feeling it.
Anyway, it’s obvious I’m not getting much from this show. I’ll ride Mahoutsukai no Yome out until the new season, then I’ll more than likely replace it with something else.