In the last couple of years the popularity of ongoing manga series The Ancient Magus’ Bride has grown considerably. With ten volumes to its name (nine in English with the tenth due out in February), and a well-received anime adaption, it should come as no surprise that publisher Seven Seas Entertainment are working hard to translate more of the franchise’s offerings. Today I’m here to see what tales the first of two short story collections have to tell from this mysterious world.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride: The Golden Yarn begins with a story by the original mangaka, Kore Yamazaki. This tale is focused on the centaur courier, Hazel, as he goes to visit his aunt Marie over the festive holidays. His story is bittersweet, as we discover his aunt is an outcast from the centaur herd, having been born with only two legs and thus banished to live among humans. Hazel is the only contact she has with other centaurs now and she loves him dearly; so much so that she hesitates to reveal that she’s in poor health…
Yamazaki’s tale starts off a collection of stories that are all, more often than not, bittersweet in nature. Focusing on both new and familiar faces in this universe, all of the works on offer in this collection are captivating in their own way and the authors who have worked on the various stories have done a good job.
The second story in this collection was written by Kairi Aotsuki, one of the authors thus far unknown outside of Japan – but their story ended up being one of my favourites. Fans of both the anime and manga series for The Ancient Magus’ Bride will remember Joel Garland, the widowed man with a beautiful rose garden who’s haunted by a leánnan sídhe named Redcurrant. Aotsuki’s story tries to showcase how Redcurrant came to develop her feelings for Joel in a tale that really feels like it came from the original mangaka. It’s again a bittersweet short, but one I am very attached to.
The world of this series is extremely broad and opens up the opportunity for some truly unique ideas, like the story written by Jun’Ich Fujisaku (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex script writer). Fujisaku’s contribution is set in a modern day Edinburgh and follows a genius programmer who suddenly goes missing. When a colleague goes searching for him, they stumble across more than they bargained for and discover that maybe the programmer’s skills weren’t wholly natural.
As I read these stories I couldn’t help coming back to how dark and depressing they could be, as I mentioned earlier on. The exception to this is the two-part story written by Yuu Godai (Quantum Devil Saga author) about two werewolf siblings, which concludes in the next short story collection: The Ancient Magus’ Bride: The Silver Yarn. The dreary atmosphere isn’t really a huge problem (there’s nothing wrong with a dark story after all) but in a short story collection I found it difficult to go from one sad tale to another. I’d rather have had a happier one breaking up the gloom to lift my spirits rather than plunging me further down. It probably works better if you take breaks between the stories, rather than reading through the vast majority at once like I did.
Having said that, when I finished The Ancient Magus’ Bride: The Golden Yarn I was left feeling satisfied. I think the various contributors all did a fantastic job crafting tales that fit in this universe, and where existing characters were used, they were done justice to.
Praise is especially deserved for how well described the setting is, given that the series is set in England and all of these authors live in Japan. While reading about Scotland I really felt like I was walking the same streets as the cast.
This release comes to the West thanks to publisher Seven Seas, who also publish the original manga and guide books for the series. Translations have been handled by Andrew Cunningham, who doesn’t work on the manga but has given a problem-free translation for this book that matches up to that of the manga series in terms of quality. There are a variety of illustrations included throughout the book, which have all been provided by series mangaka Kore Yamazaki, and they offer great visuals for the characters in each story.
Overall The Ancient Magus’ Bride: The Golden Yarn is a must read for fans of the franchise. While I recommend taking breaks between stories to avoid getting bogged down in the darkness of these tales, each one is a welcome addition to this universe and I’m looking forward to reading the second instalment later in the year.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride © Kore Yamazaki 2014