The anime starts off as extremely promising and engaging but then quickly starts losing momentum and turns into a generic mediocre-at-best animu in the end. Many people mindlessly praise this anime and some go even as far as calling it the anime of the season. I think it's greatly overrated and I can't help it but to point out some of its many flaws and shortcomings.
Let's start off with my biggest issue with this anime, the characters. The way the show introduces characters doesn't feel fleshed out and they have minimal backstories which feel horribly rushed.
They kept dropping in so many interesting characters in the most spontaneous way who were many times more interesting than the actual main storydriven characters and I think they did not give them enough backstory/introduction. It was as if they were just checking off tick-boxes for the quota of characters that they would need to ex-machina-the-story further.
They needed someone to help craft Chise a magical staff/wand. So they introduced Lindel, the ancient dragon-keeper mage. Lindel has also known Elias for ages. Sounds pretty interesting, right?
Well, Lindel helped her make the staff in one episode and was shown in Elias' one-episode-backstory and was never relevant in another episode again, excluding the maybe 60 seconds where they showed the kidnapping of the dragonling. That's it.
Even worse with Rahab, the mage/mentor/teacher to Elias and Lindel. She seems like a super interesting character who could really shed some light on the whole mystery behind Elias, right? Well, she got maybe 5 minutes of screentime at most.
Why bother introducing characters that feel interesting and relevant to the story when you just sweep them under the rug in the next episode. It's really disappointing and this trend kept repeating.
Now let's look at Elias, one of the two main characters. He was obviously the most interesting character and we did not find out shit about him in the end. I can't help but hate the fact that they left Elias without a proper backstory.
As for Chise, I really liked how they introduced her and I kind of liked her backstory in the first episodes, but in the end it boiled down to her being a whiny suicidal brat. They then tried to make her super compassionate and whatnot, but that just didn't sell. She felt really shallow no matter what the show tried to make of her and I could not find a single aspect which I would like about the character.
The art is very inconsistent. At some points they use beautifully drawn top-tier backgrounds (e.g. some forest scenes etc.) and in contrast to that they sometimes butcher it with the most generic nondescript smudged rock-n-grass/wall-n-one-piece-of-furniture backgrounds you can think of. Vibrant and detailed vs. empty and nondescript. I really hated how it alternated between said designs. You could easily notice this with static scenes and moving scenes, where a static scene would look incomparably better.
I know it was most likely because of budget constraints, but that is not an excuse in my eyes. You should try to make your art look consistent throughout the whole show.
Sidenote: The chibi parts which were supposed to act as comic relief felt out of place and didn't belong into the anime which is trying this hard to be a drama.
I will try to make this section very brief. I will also disregard the opening and ending songs.
The music and effects were the redeeming qualities of this anime. I loved how they fleshed out the birds and whatnot in the forest scenes, the background music was really decent and it all managed to fit together really well, especially with the whole celtic/anglosaxon/gaelic music themes during fairy scenes for example.
As previously stated, the anime is very engaging at first and then goes into very mediocre levels. The main characters are half-decent.
Elias' story is feels heavily neglected and I doubt I'm the only one who would love to know what turned him into a skullheaded thornmonster.
Chise's character barely experiences any growth or personality change throughout the whole anime and she seems like a whiny spineless burden to the whole story and finally grows as a character in the last couple episodes, essentially making you sit through maybe 18 out of 24 episodes of watching a unstable teenage girl wading through pools of her own tears, just like Shinji Akari who atleast had the balls to rub one out to a comatose girl.
This anime lacked consistency, had too many time and budget constraints, felt rushed, the story was all over the place, the drama was forced at times, it could not make the main grill likeable and left too many questions unanswered and story points unfinished.
Should you watch it?
Only if you have nothing better to do.