Vinland Saga – 10 – Dawn in the Age of Twilight

Vinland Saga has become an exercise in guarded patience, centered around the question of how long Thorfinn going to pursue revenge, and when he’s going to wake up and live his own damn life. Maybe that’s what he thinks he’s doing, and his father, both in life and in his dreams, is just wrong that there’s a better path than the one he’s on.

Maybe Thorfinn is simply caught in the inertia of the events surrounding him, and would simply rather put effort in what he sees as a sure thing—one day cutting Askeladd’s throat—than the uncertainty of returning to a life of peace with his mother and sister. After all, Thors tried to live that life, and failed when his past caught up to him.

Whether consciously or not, Thorfinn is drawing nearer to ending up just like his old man: strong and distinguished, but in too deep to ever get out. But he’s still young, and as many lives as he’s taken, it probably doesn’t come close to the number his father took. There is still plenty of time to turn his life around into something worthwhile.

His dreams start as an idyllic life that never was with his family in the endless, rolling, fertile hills that look a lot like England (or possibly Vinland). They end with the skies darkening, his village attacked, and his father run through with arrows. Will Thorfinn ever take that dream to mean stop wasting your life chasing revenge and return to his family?

Maybe, maybe not. As Vinland Saga reaches its midpoint, I’ve found Thorfinn’s quest for revenge misguided and increasingly not that interesting. I’d like to know whether it’s going to reach a point where he either finally manages to kill Askeladd and moves on to something else, or walks away from that quest entirely.

But the cloud of uncertainty persists without any regard for my wishes, and in the meantime, the Danish war with England seems to be winding down. Askeladd’s men have been mopping up lesser villages as the main army has headed north to rest. Canute has failed to do anything with his 4,000 men in London, preferring to pray to Jesus in his tent.

Askeladd’s men are so restless, the smallest insults between them become pointless fights to the death. Having awakened from his beautiful, terrible dream before dawn, Thorfinn stays above the encampment, among Roman ruins, where Askeladd finds him.


It’s there where Askeladd attempts small talk but is rebuked by Thorfinn, asserting “they’re not friends” and that he hasn’t given up his goal of slitting his throat. Askeladd likes Thorfinn’s look, but still isn’t scared. He knows time isn’t on his side, and that his would-be killer will continue to grow stronger as he grows older and weaker.

But by that same token, if the Christians are to be believed, Judgment Day and the end of everyone and everything on earth, could be upon them in as few as twenty years (an event Thorfinn likens to Ragnarok). Considering the Romans were a far more advanced society than the Saxons who defeated them (not to mention the Vikings on the cusp of defeating the Saxons), it certainly seems like humans have had their time in the sun, and now live in an age of twilight.

And yet, the sun still rises just as it always has, bathing the land in light and possibility. With the dawn comes a rider from London, who reports that Canutes forces were routed by the English led by Thorkell, who’d grown impatient waiting on the bridge and is marching his men north to meet the main Danish army.

The war is not over as long as Thorkell is with the English, while Askeladd sees the potential for great riches if he and his men rescue Prince Canute. Not wanting to share the glory or spoils of such a victory, he kills the messenger, and will make do with what he has. He fires his men up, and Thorfinn seems poised to continue following him.

If the end is coming for all, Askeladd will be satisfied with “going out with a bang.” But as we know, the world wouldn’t end in twenty years, meaning final blazes of glory are woefully premature, especially for someone like Thorfinn, who still has a mother and sister to protect, and a family and home of his own to build. With so many dawns he has yet to watch rise above the horizon, it would be a shame to descend into night now.

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Vinland Saga – 09 – London Bridge is NOT Falling Down

Turns out that huge warrior leading the defence of London from its famous bridge is not even an Englishman, but a Norse giant named Thorkell. King Sweyn’s armies will make little progress until he’s out of the picture, so Askeladd sends Thorfinn to work out some of his frustration. Thorfinn makes him promise for yet another duel in exchange for Thorkell’s head.

Floki and the Jomsvikings beseech Thorkell to abandon his contract with the English and re-join the Danish army, and he’ll be paid double. But like Askeladd’s right hand man Bjorn, it’s not about themoney. Unlike Bjorn, who likes easy wins, Thorkell doesn’t want to fight the English; they’re too weak. He’d much rather fight the tougher Vikings.

As the Vikings continue their siege of the Thames, Thorkell makes any ship or soldier who comes too close regret it, sending a hail of arrows from his archers, or just heaving a massive boulder or tree trunk into the Viking ships, sinking them. He’s a bit superhuman, but heck, so are a lot of Vikings, chief(tan) among them the late Thors and his giant oar.

When Thorfinn leaps onto the bridge to face Thorkell, it’s immediately apparent the latter has a huge advantage in size and strength, and isn’t that much slower. One wonders if it would have been better for Askeladd to send Bjorn instead—preferably on his berserker mushrooms. Then again, I’m sure Askeladd values Bjorn far more than Thorfinn.

Thorfinn hangs in there about as long as you’d expect, considering the moment Thorkell gets a grip on any one of his arms or legs, it’s basically game over. Thorkell blocks Thorfinn’s dagger with his hand, then slams him back and forth against the bridge like a ragdoll.

To Thorkell’s surprise and delight, Thorfinn hasn’t lost any of his will to fight, and when Kell’s guard is down Finn claims two of the fingers from his stabbed hand before plunging into the Thames. Thorkell lets him go, hoping for another fun fight in the future.

It is clear King Sweyn bit off more than he could chew, and isn’t going to get the quick victory he wanted, so he redirects the bulk of his armies to Wessex in the west, where they’ll hopefully have more luck. He leaves the continued siege of London, and just 4,000 men, to his son Prince Canute, despite protests from Ragnar, whom the king blames for making the lad “faint of heart.”

Whether Canute succeeds in London will probably determine whether he succeeds to the throne, but as we haven’t heard a word from him, who knows how that’ll go. Perhaps at some point he’ll get some lines and we can see what kind of person and warrior he is beyond what others say about him.

As for Thorfinn, he’s washed down the river westward and meets back up with Askeladd’s crew, now headed to Wessex. After popping his dislocated shoulder back in, he joins the march, remembering the words of the “madman” Thorkell talking about how fun fighting is. But it’s not fun for Thorfinn. It never was, and probably never will be.

Vinland Saga – 08 – Bound by Past and Pride

Thankfully there are no goofy-looking generals or ships overladen with treasure falling down waterfalls without damage this week, as Askeladd’s crew returns home to the Jutland peninsula and settle down for the winter. When they arrive, there are boys eager to join the crew to replace those who died in battle, and girls eager to give Askeladd a warm welcome—and get some pretty jewelry in return.

These lands are owned by the feudal Lord Gorm, who micromanages every quarter-piece of silver it will cost for Askeladd and his men to live, eat, and drink on those lands. Askeladd is rolling in dough, so that’s not a problem. He also meets Gorm’s slave Hordaland, named after her homeland in Norway. Gorm blames her noble upbringing for her ineptness as a servant, but Askeladd thinks he’s just not using her the right way.

Oh yeah, there’s also that tiny little matter of the duel between Askeladd and Thorfinn; the time has finally come. Now that he’s older and harder, a couple women actually take notice of Thorfinn’s mild cuteness, though he once again needs a good barber…and probably a bath too.

Like last time, Askeladd treats the start of the duel rather casually, but Thorfinn immediately demonstrates that if he lets his guard down too much. He’s killed many people and gotten a lot of training and battle experience since their last duel, and it’s on full display in his less erratic, more deliberate and thoughtful fighting style.

However, in those same years Finn has gotten older and better, Askeladd is still as good as he’s ever been at using not just whoever but whatever he has to win, and he also happens to know exactly how to push Thorfinn’s buttons.

He pretends not to remember Thors’ name or whether he actually killed him, with a condescending and disrespectful tone that causes Finn to quickly lose his temper and make an ill-advised charge that Askeladd is all too ready for.

Since no one said anything about a fight to the death, and surely Askeladd has no interest in taking the life of one of his best scouts, he simply knocks him out after neutralizing him with a stunning move. Thorfinn may have become a better warrior, but he’s still no match for his captain.

That night at a huge feast, one of those eager boys sidles up to Askeladd seeking a job, and asks his possibly future captain why he risks keeping someone like Thorfinn around when he could easily kill him in his sleep? Askeladd is categorical: Finn would never do that. He is a warrior, like his father, and would never accept victory devoid of honor.

Askeladd can sleep soundly because Finn is held back by the twin binds of past and pride. He also can’t help but laugh as he watches Lord Gorm, a slave to money, beating Hordaland, not just a literal slave but a slave to her past and pride, being a former noble who had no say in her present situation.

As Thorfinn sulks aboard his father’s ship, Thors comes to him in a vision, and upon placing his hand on his son’s head, Finn turns back into a boy and bursts into tears. Thors knows nothing he can say can stop his son from seeking revenge, but reminds him again that no one has any enemies, and the most honorable warrior has no need for a sword.

When Hordaland surprises Thorfinn with some dinner, we finally get to hear how she feels about her situation, rather than just assume from how she acts around Lord Gorm. She believes, rightly so, that she and Finn aren’t that different: both are where they are because they have nowhere else to be. In her case, she believes even if she ran away and kept running, she’d just end up someplace just like Gorm’s lands.

As the snow starts to pick up, Finn tells her about Vinland, and in doing so attempts to give her some hope that it does matter whether or not you run and/or fight (Horda would never kill, and probably doesn’t want to start, but she can still run if she chooses to). True to Thors’ words of wisdom, both Finn and Horda have no real enemies—only their own self-imposed binds.

In the August of the next year (1013), King Sweyn’s armies mount a huge invasion of England, burning, pillaging, and raping their way all the way to London…where their momentum is suddenly halted by a stout defense, including someone who looks like Askeladd’s wilder English brother. Sweyn also gives his son Prince Canute a chance at valor, who along with his other son Harald, are candidates for succeeding him.

While it’s exciting to see an early London come into the picture and other big-world developments, what made this episode was the duel (and how it was won) and its more intimate moments: those between Askeladd and Gorm, Askeladd and the wannabe fighter, and between Thorfinn and Hordaland. Vinland Saga has some shiny toys to toss around, but those smaller human interactions pack a far meatier emotional punch.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 14 – Glowing Fists For All!

Carissa’s Coup Arc is brought to a suitably ostentatious and splendid end, as Index III truly BRINGS IT this week. As Itsuwa safely delivers Touma and Vilian to the gates of Buckingham Palace, Touma gives Vilian his typical spiel of helping out for “no special reason” except that he won’t abandon all of the people “running around for their lives”, trying not to lose what’s important to them.

Carissa awaits with Curtana Original, which she uses to summon a fleet of unmanned aerial fortresses. Touma has a bear of a time keeping up with her sword’s pandimensional fragmentation, but while he was thrust into the final boss battle far quicker than he’d hoped, he’s obviously far from alone. Kanzaki, Index, Amakusa, and Sherry all arrive in turn, though Carissa isn’t cowed by any of them.

Even a Saint like Kanzaki has trouble against Carissa and Curtana, while Touma has to time his right arm just right since the weapon has a brief lag between slash and effect. He manages to strike true before Carissa can kill Vilian, who uses her crossbow to rediredct the flash bombardment from Coven Compass to land a direct hit on Carissa’s position.

Unfortunately, it only gives her a couple light scratches; more will have to be done to defeat her, which means more allies must take the stage. As Carissa picks up the idea of bombardment by having bunker-buster cruise missiles launched on the palace grounds, elder Princess Rimea broadcasts a message bringing the forces of Knights back to their feet…including Knight Leader.

Carissa soon finds she can’t launch any more missiles, since Acqua has destroyed all military antennae. This is why you have a magical backup to a vital scientific device, or vice versa, but of course Carissa hasn’t thought anything through beyond “I have Curtana Original, I am invincible.” Now she has three Saint-levels fighting her in Kanzaki, Acqua, and Leader.

And then Mom shows up. Queen Elizard casts aside her own Curtana Second, knowing it’s powerless against the original, but whips out another magical treasure of the royal family: the Union Jack, which she uses to redistribute all of the power imbued within Curtana to each and every one of the millions of British people.

This essentially turns every British citizen into a hero in their own right, with the mandate to “do what they will.” It’s essentially a re-imagining of that iconic signal from Admiral Nelson’s ship during the decisive Battle of Trafalgar: England expects that every man will do his duty.” Only this time it isn’t just England, nor is it just men.

With over 90 million now aligned against her, Carissa can’t help but hesitate for a moment, which is the one thing she can’t do. In that moment, Index (yeah, her!) delivers a simple incantation to cause Curtana to swing upward and hold in place just long enough for Acqua to launch Touma at it with his right arm. He shatters the sword and delivers a devastating punch to Carissa, and suddenly the coup d’etat is all over.

Unfortunately, Touma’s troubles are not. The beaten Carissa is confronted by Fiamma of the Right, who is there only to check on those items which he desires to possess: Touma’s own right hand, yes, but more importantly, Index. A magical item he steals before heading off to Russia was a kind of safety device that allowed Index to live a normal daily life despite having memorized 103,000 grimoires.

In the Tower of London, Stiyl, Elizard, and Touma look over a bedridden, unconscious Index. If Touma is to save her, he must get that device back, which means he’s headed to Russialand. No rest for the weary.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 13 – Preparing the Countercoup

The good guys (or rather, the folks we typically follow) have had their backs against the wall since Carissa’s surprise coup, but this week they start whittling away at the upstart princess’ power. Touma and Floris survive and run into the fleeing Vilian, who is picked up by Amakusa in their plane.

William continues his fight against Knight Leader, who believes he has Acqua’s number thanks to a spell that nullifies or “zeroes out” the sharpness of his opponent’s sword, but like Imagine Breaker works on all magic.

Thankfully, William’s Ascalon has enough hidden bells and whistles to overcome the ability. William doesn’t kill his old friend, but he knocks him out of the fighting.

William and Touma meet up right by the coach in which an unconscious Index resides. Just as they’re down one less thing to worry about, Carissa arrives with some of her knights, and decides to give them a demonstration of the power of Curtana Original (none of that Diet Curtana crap!)

Even Touma’s Imagine Breaker can’t nullify the sheer force of Carissa’s attack before he’s flung way up into the air amongst the debris from the ground below; Curtana can cleave through the very dimensions of space and beyond, after all.

William, seeing that Touma is also trying to lesson the destruction and thus on the same side (at least in this scenario) saves both Touma and leaves Index with him, who naturally wakes up confused…and in need of some supper!

Amakusa picks them up in the plane, where Kanzaki and Tatemiya discuss the next stage of their mission. Touma, Index, and Princess Villian will head to the secret underground station under Buckingham Palace, where they believe Carissa has gone. In that station lies a special train car that contains magic that stabilizes the power of Curtana Original, which is unbalanced and prone to overload.

Not only does Touma need Villian’s royal blood to unlock the way to the car, he relies on advice through a quick phone call to this season’s mascot, Misaka (who is having a bad day, eating lunch in a restaurant full of women with big boobs). When a golem appears and reconstructs every time Touma cancels him, he also leans on Index’s not inconsiderable magical know-how.

Villian distracts the golem with a physical attack (she has no offensive magical skills, only potential) while Index recites an incantation that makes the golem re-expose Touma’s right arm, allowing him to cancel it once and for all.

The seal is broken, the car is released, and the Puritans’ Coven Compass aerial fortress prepares to cast a debilitating large-scale flash spell. Bottom line: Curtana Original’s power is dampened, and Carissa herself is injured.

 

Still, she’s not going to give up so easily. It’s going to take a sustained assault on Buckingham to wrest control of Curtana from Carissa, get her in custody. Her alliance with the knights is already weakened by the forceful withdrawal of their leader from the battlefield (courtesy of William).

But first, Amakusa and the Puritans sit down for a great al fresco feast, while both Kanzaki and Itsuwa consider changing into something more alluring for their mutual crush Touma. Knight Leader warns William that if he’s taking Carissa and Curtana on head-on, he’d better be prepared for an attack no one can block or nullify.

Just as news comes the Compass is in position, the feast cut short, and preparations for the counterattack begin, Queen Elizard arrives at the outskirts of London with her “calculating” elder daughter Rimea and Laura. Their destination? A museum where a flag—secretly a magical item that is likely to prove useful to their cause—is stored. The battle for the Untied Kingdom is about to begin!

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 12 – Who Had The Better Ten Years

Princess Carissa’s mother Queen Elizard remarks how impressively fast her second daughter’s invasion has unfolded, though it’s in no small part due to the power of Curtana Original (woe betide them all if she ever found Curtana Honey BBQ or Salt & Vinegar).

Her knights crawl out of the woodwork, but at every turn are met with resistance, either from witches, nuns, or…Sherry Cromwell. Carissa’s main goal is to legitimize her claim to the throne by killing her mother and sisters and then launching an attack on France (determined thanks to a captive Index’s analysis). She claims to be doing all of this for the survival and independence of her country.

Kanzaki Kaori makes one hell of an entrance by jumping out of a passing plane to stop Carissa, but she more than meets her match in Knight Leader, who let’s just say has a huge homefield advantage.

After quickly dispatching Kaori (making me wonder whether she’s become the Worf of Raildex: a strong character constantly getting owned to demonstrate an enemy’s power) KL and Carissa locate Princess Villian’s coach and prepare to behead her, but she’s saved at the last second by Acqua of the Rear, AKA William Orville, back in Britain after ten years.

Orville flees with Villian, puts her on Bayard, and sends her off to a Necessarius safe house. Knight Leader shows back up, and he and Orville have a duel. Considering how well he fared against Kaori, it’s no surprise even Orville has trouble with him. But as the episode closes he’s still in the fight.

Also in the fight: Touma, who passes Lessar off only to get cornered on a regional train. He finds Lessar’s comrade Floris in a cargo car, undoes her magical binds with Imagine Breaker, then takes her hand and leaps out of the train and off a bridge…into a river far shallower than he expected.

With Touma probably still alive and on the move with Floris, Orville and Knight Leader locked in battle, Villian headed to safety, and Queen Elizard and Laura Stuart also free and making their way back to London, the quick start to Carissa’s coup suddenly isn’t going so smoothly. Better still, there are plenty of players on the board who can make it even rougher.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 08 – Aligned Interests, Allowed Journeys

It’s official: the vamps have total air superiority in this show. I guess it can pay to be immortal! Mikhail is whisked to Sakhalin by Klarwein (the mad scientist) in a floatplane that wouldn’t be out of place in Porco Rosso. Yevgraf’s splendid airship has already docked atop a mountain. Where are the Jaegers’ toys?

Mikhail learns this was the birthplace of the Ark of Sirius, and an ancient sanctuary built by the Sirius sanctuary is where his father brought the Ark to be safe. Yevgraf believes because Mikhail has noble Sirius blood, he’ll be able to break through the barrier his father created at the cost of his life.

However, it’s not that simple. Mikhail also has a blood pact with Yev (formed when he turned him when Dogville fell) that not only prevents him from fully penetrating the barrier, but also prevents him from attacking his master. And now we know for sure: Mikhail wants the Ark so he can kill Yev. Instead, Yev decides he’ll try to use Yuliy.

Despite being about as gracious and simpering a thrall as a master could want, Klarwein is utterly ignored by Yev in every instance where he’s in his presence. While I don’t see the mad scientist’s loyalty wavering, it’s worth keeping an eye on what other “research” he’ll cook up in isolation.

Willard informs his team of Yuliy’s solo departure, and Fallon, Dorothea and Phillip all want to help him if they can, even if he left without them specifically to keep them out of something that could get them killed. But these are Jaegers; they’ll decide how they’ll be killed, so Willard announces they’ll make “a stop” before heading to London.

And in case you were wondering, the show isn’t done with Ryouko just because the Jaegers are no longer staying at Baron Naoe’s. She books passage to London, leaving a loving note to her pops about her duty as next head of the family to further investigate the attack on their manor. The Baron is content to allow his daughter her journey, but he’s coming too.

Finally, as soon as Yuliy arrives in Sakhalin, he picks up a tail, but it fortunately turns out to be a fellow Jaeger in Bishop, who I’m guessing is American from his attire. Yuliy and Bishop both want Yevgraf dead and the Ark out of the hands of the vamps, so they decide to work together. The first step is meeting with a recluse in the mountains who has info on the Ark.

Bishop is a bit of a walking cautionary tale for Yuliy; his entire team of Jaegers, which was more like a family to him than his own blood, was wiped out, leaving only him. Yuliy can smell the blood on him, almost as if he were a vamp himself, something Bishop explains is something that simply happens if you hunt them long enough and enough of the people you care about are lost.

By the time they arrive at the codger’s, he’s already being ambushed by vamps led by the twin sisters Larissa and Tamara, who have a flair for the theatric what with their sentence finishing and echoing laughter. But they can also handle themselves in combat. Once again Yuliy has to fight high-level vamps while keeping them from killing someone. Hopefully Bishop finds parking and lends him a hand fast!

Phantom in the Twilight – 01 (First Impressions) – Supernatural Study Abroad

Just minutes after arriving in London for their study abroad, Bayrou Ton and her BFF (and secretary?) Shinyao are robbed of their luggage, passports, credit cards, and Ton’s heirloom ring. Ton is a girl of action, and so runs through London chasing the semi-transparent beast-like thief.

Despite arriving during late afternoon at the latest, this chase goes on until after midnight, when she finally realizes she’s lost and separated from Shinyao. She throws a paper airplane with a spell written on it, which flies right into a night cafe that just happens to have been founded by her great-grandmother, Sha Rijan.

At Cafe Forbidden, Ton meets three strapping young lads who knew Rijan, suggesting they’re actually very long-lived lads. here’s the aloof, prickly one (Vlad), the tall, dark, and quiet one (Tauryu) and the kiddy, friendly one (Luke). They believe the thief is a goblin, and race to Hyde Park to deal with it.

Ton follows them in a taxi (I guess she had some pocket money), and watches a very bizarre spectacle unfold. The three lads, decked out in their fancy black coats, do battle with a whole band of goblins, while Vlad confronts a Spriggan. Ton reveals herself to warn him, but he’s distracted and is briefly stunned.

Ton uses the heirloom ring a monocled stranger returned to her and told her to wear to pull some kind of magical chains out of the ground she uses to protect herself. Vlad pounces on the Spriggan from behind and kills it with a coup-de-grace. Rather than explain to Ton all of the straight-up weird shit that just went down, Vlad glamours her instead; replacing her memories with false ones involving a police chase. Luke later wonders if it was the right thing to do.

Ton wakes up in the park like nothing weird at all happened, gets in touch with Shinyao, and after credits that underscore just how much these two friends care about each other, Ton meets her at their new apartment…only for Shinyao to be immediately kidnapped. Well played, show.

So, not the bestest first couple of days for Bayrou Ton! She has a cool name, though, and she’s voiced by Hanazawa Kana, making it two characters in short red jackets she’s voicing this Summer! Other than that, and despite some competent animation and a decent soundtrack, I came away a bit less enthusiastic for this than the quieter, more thoughtful Holmes of Kyoto. Twilight has a likable heroine but is a bit all over the place so far.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 16

The pagan holiday of Yule is upon Chise and Elias, and the Yule Twins appear to remind them to make their preparations, gathering various logs, boughs, leaves and berries. Elias wants to make certain Chise doesn’t overwork herself (she herself wonders if she’ll make it to next Fall), while they both have to convince Ruth that he’s not a failure of a familiar after Chise’s latest scare.

These scenes are imbued with the spirit and the beauty of the season, from the snow shimmering in the setting sun to the awkward exchange of kisses under the mistletoe. Elias reports that Chise’s kiss made him a little “tingly” in the neck and back, but is that because he felt something emotionally, or just feeling the effects of having to crouch down?

The next day, after receiving a message via bird in the night, Chise sneaks away to London on her own, where she meets Alice. Alice wants to hang, but also needs advice on what to get Renfred for Christmas. It occurs to Chise she hadn’t even considered getting Elias a gift, but wants to do so.

As they shop and eat and eat and shop, Alice eventually runs into a “straggler from her past”, who wants to sell her drugs. When he doesn’t take no for an answer, Alice kicks him in the balls, and Chise scares of his friends with a ferocious Ruth (eager to redeem himself).

Now that Chise has seen a glimpse of Alice’s past, she tells Alice not to hold back on talking about that past just because it might be uncomfortable; after all, Chise knows something about rough pasts!

Alice was a drug dealer and an addict until one day Renfred plucked her off the streets, invited her into his home as a ward of sorts, and stayed with her throughout the long, painful withdrawal process.

Once she was clean he put her to work organizing his library, but when she opened the wrong book a monster jumped out to attack her, and Renfred took the attack for her, having his face all ripped off.

From then on, Alice knew she could trust Renfred, which made him the first person she could trust in her life. Now that extends to at least a second person, as she clearly trusts and likes Chise enough to open up like this.

Once their shopping for their respective masters is finished, the two part ways, and Chise and Ruth (who is happy Chise has made a friend) head home, where an “angry” Elias is waiting. I use angry in quotes because he himself isn’t sure what it means to be angry, but if he was going to be angry it would be because Chise ran off alone without telling him anything.

Still, Elias is happy with Chise’s gift for him, a new string tie, while Chise learns that Elias has a knack for making teddy bears, and made a big one, his best yet, for her. He also points out other presents for her to open Christmas morning.

Chise goes to bed warm, excited, and actually looking forward to the morning, something that would have been quite foreign in her dark past. The next day Ashen Eye finds “a pitiful child” walking in the snow; likely the subject of next week’s episode. But this week was all about Yule, Christmas, and two women with dark pasts living much brighter, happier lives. I can dig it.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 02

This week, Chise gets a better idea of what her new life will be like, though she still dreams about the awful life she used to lead; a life she was willing to discard because she didn’t think it had any value. Now people treat her gently and with respect.

Silky, Elias’ “landlady” cooks and cleans and provide Chise with clothes. After watching her mother commit suicide after telling Chise she shouldn’t have been born, this kind of care seems welcome.

Chise accompanies Elias to London—an up-to-date London that includes The Shard—and while there he swaps his “bony” face for a human one—a handsome one, at that.

Elias takes Chise to the shop of another mage, Angelica, who has some issues with how Elias procured his new apprentice, and is taken aback when a simple rookie mage test—turn a crystal into one’s favorite flower—nearly gets out of hand, with Chise transporting herself to a memory of her and her mom in a field of poppies.

Elias tells Angelica that Chise is a Sleigh Beggy, an individual for whom the miracles that comprise the practice of magic come far more frequently than they would for someone less attuned to magic. After seeing the crystalline growths that populated Angelica’s arm, I felt nervous about Chise’s feet upon creating a partial landscape of her memory from that crystal.

Angelica doesn’t blame Chise, though; she didn’t know Chise is a Sleigh Beggy—something Elias didn’t tell her because that’s a dangerous nugget of information in their line of work. But like Elias, Angelica can tell that, like her own daughter, Chise will make a fine mage one day; it’s just a matter of proper training. Chise and Elias head from London back to the countryside.

After meeting with the local priest, who more or less gives Elias and Chise his blessing and an offer of assistance, Chise and Elias head to Iceland, a a land of dragons—and Chise almost immediately gets kidnapped by one said dragon.

Again, this show makes me recall Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, whose redheaded heroine was kidnapped more than once and had to be rescued (though during captivity she helped facilitate that rescue). We’ll see if Chise manages to use her newfound magical powers to attempt escape from her captors, if it once again falls mostly to Elias to rescue her. At this early stage in her apprenticeship, I won’t hold it against her for needing a hand…especially against a dragonrider!

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 01 (First Impressions)

When we first meet Hatori Chise—who both resembles and sounds like the heroine Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, or perhaps her long-lost, much-maligned sister—she’s pretty much at rock bottom, having seemingly lost the will to live, signing away her human rights so that she can be chained and presented as an object to be purchased at an auction before some Eyes Wide Shut-ass muhfuckahs.

But holding true to the episode title “April showers bring May showers”, as well as the axiom “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, in this, her darkest hour, she is met by, and purchased with a winning bid of five million pounds, by an imposing man in a black cloak wearing a big antelope skull on his head (unless…that is his head).

Chise, fully prepared for whatever horrible fate might befall her upon being purchased (let’s face it, the kind of guys who would buy teenager girls in an auction are likely to be…not so great!), quickly finds that despite his fearsome appearance, her buyer Elias Ainsworth doesn’t want her to be his toy, but his apprentice. He’s a mage, you see; the “real deal”, and he believes Chise, who is what in his trade is called a “sleigh beggy”, can live a fulfilled life of purpose as the newest member of a dying breed of mages like him.

Teleporting her to his super comfy-looking country estate, swapping her chains for an protective adder stone, and showing her kindness she’s never known, Chise ever-so-gradually starts to learn that despite all of the hatred, abuse and suffering she’d endured her entire life up to this point, this place just might be different.

For the first time, she’s told she has a home and actually feels welcome there, and is told she’s family and someone to be protected and nurtured rather than spat upon and discarded.

Thus, when Chise is lured out for a midnight stroll by faeries who later show their true colors by trying to further lure her into their realm, Chise repays Elias’ kindness—and in doing so decides to trust someone for perhaps the first time in her life—by resisting the faeries until Elias arrives to shoo them off.

It’s then when, while princess carrying her home, Elias also confesses he doesn’t aim to merely make Chise his apprentice, but his bride as well. Her reaction to this information, as well as other instances of lighthearted humor, provide a nice ice-breaking contrast to the darker themes initially at play, giving way to a hopeful future in a real home with a real family that cares for them; things every child deserves. A very strong opening.