some spoilers for Mahoutsukai no Yome: Hoshi Matsu Hito
Literature is an interesting, often captivating medium, filled with immaculate descriptions, and exciting worlds to explore with your imagination as you read the carefully thought out words of an author who built that portal for your mind. Some may say that with the advent of animation and film becoming truly mainstream, that literature has become someone of an under-appreciated medium.
The Mahoutsukai no Yome OVA, above all else, is a tragic yet pleasant reminder of the power of a story, especially the power it has on a child. Falling just shy of true greatness, it manages to still achieve dramatic tension and absolute pleasantry, seeping into captivation. It's a major appeal of literature, especially for a child, in which this OVA captures greatly.
As you know, this OVA is a prologue about the childhood of Chise, and it's a pretty tragic one, showing pretty well how Chise became the more reserved and quiet girl we knew today. She’s a decently strong protagonist facing a ton of childhood hardship due to what she sees and the isolation and scorn that comes of it, and it's tough to see her become so melancholy to the point where it seems like she may snap into tears at any moment, which she only does when something happy occurs in her life. Unfortunately, it doesn't show how she came into her current residence or how she began the study of magic, and given that this is a world in which magic still exists despite many people living without seeing magic or magical creatures, we never actually see any magic. Regardless, it's still a decently bittersweet tale, especially when Chise meets Riichi, a decent character/man who still struggles with guilt and anxiety over his promise and always wants the door closed to keep certain dark creatures away. You can tell how this ends.
None of the other characters get a chance to really shine thanks to the time limitations of this OVA, but for what they were, they were decently pleasant additions (especially the ever-wise Elias and Silky, who keeps an annoyed state when her food is neglected), though as you’ll see soon, I find the best partly these characters to be the lovely character designs. Still, Chise carries this narrative on her unfortunate shoulders, as we see things from her perspective given that she narrates the bulk of the story to the cast. Yet we see some things from when she is asleep at some points, which is odd. I do have a few other minor gripes. Riichi saying his last words after being bitten borderline in half wrings hollow in this scene due to the fact that it’s insanely convenient. I heard someone say that this means he died a long time ago given the current age of the person he made a promise to, so his spirit was trapped in the library. However things are so unclear that he may as well have just gained immortality (the kind that can be revoked by being killed), and given that he interacts with the physical realm still, that seems more plausible, if still unclear. Also, how come Riichi’s and Chise’s eyes grow red when reading? If it's meant to be conveyed that they're emotionally unstable, not only was that already cleared up beforehand, but it is in and of itself a bit hamfisted, especially thanks to that. If no, we don't know why. There are a few other minor ones but I forgot them, so meh.
Again, let me make it clear that none of these are major gripes but they do add up and prevent this story from truly reaching the greatness it could've had. It's still an emotionally resonant narrative with a nice protagonist and an ability to captivate us, so don't try to make it out to be that I find the story bad, but even with the very limited time it had, it could've done more. I can definitely forgive a few things thanks to this insanely limited run and the fact that it is ultimately a prologue. So, what else made the narrative captivating other than the protagonist and emotional resonance? Well, that should be quite obvious, dear viewers…
WIT Studio was the main team in charge of this production and it looks really nice. The character designs are fantastic, with special mention going to the designs of Elias, Angelica, and Chise. The visuals are certainly captivating not due to the admittedly solid animation or the CGI furniture that only looks ok, but for the designs of everything from the creatures to the characters. The water fairies, in particular, are wonderful designs and again the actual character designs adapted by Hitotaka Hatou and done by Kore Yamazaki look lovely as well. The environments are also very pleasant to look at, especially in the scene where Riichi reads the picture book Chise treasures and we see all sorts of stars and galaxies in the sky. This, above all else really drew me in when watching, making an already sort of nice viewing experience that much better.
The background OST is a pretty nice one that has decently pleasant, sometimes softly melancholic music, all of which fit rather well with the scenarios at hand, even if none of them are inherently standout tracks. There is also no OP theme, which felt weird, but the ED theme, “CLOCKWORK QUICK AND LIGHTNING SLOW" by Julia Shortreed, fits this exact same description as the rest of the tracks, so it's not very memorable, but it's decently melancholic.
Like a good book, this anime drew me in. While it regrettably falls short from true greatness, even taking its inherent nature into account, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable anime to watch. As per its role, it made me eagerly anticipate the main body title that would follow this work. For doing it so gracefully, I commend this short series.