WIT Studio and studio Bamboo adapt Kore Yamazaki's fantastical British fairytale into an anime of theatrical proportions
From the very moment WIT Studio President George Wada saw it on the shelf, the art was a major part of The Ancient Magus’ Bride’s appeal. Just from the cover of the original manga, you can see the appeal of its rustic British charm. As a manga released monthly, author Kore Yamazaki has the time to explore its unique depiction of fantasy based on British lore and legends. George Wada was one such person who was drawn into this world and made the decision to adapt The Ancient Magus’ Bride into an anime after seeing the below page. He loved this gorgeous example of Yamazaki’s art so much that he even instructed that the key visual for the series be an exact replica.
Adapting anime from manga (particularly manga with as much detail as The Ancient Magus’ Bride) is a challenge. In most cases, you can’t find an animation staff capable of working with detailed designs and finding a background team that can evoke the same feeling of wonder as the original art is an uphill battle. However, in this regard, the team at WIT Studio already have experience working with and addressing both of these concerns. In fact, you could say that the studio was set up for this exact premise, with their debut work being Attack on Titan, an adaptation of a manga known for its deep shadows and thorough linework. Likewise, George Wada has worked with the famous background director Yusuke Takeda on Kimi ni Todoke when he was working at Production IG and more recently on the original film, Hal.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride director Norihiro Naganuma has worked with Takeda before. As the assistant director to the director of the aforementioned Kimi ni Todoke, he also worked with him on Hozuki's Coolheadedness where Takeda depicted a traditional, yet silly, Japanese Hell. However, despite these connections, the WIT Studio work that The Ancient Magus’ Bride resembles the most is Hal. Like Hal, The Ancient Magus’ Bride was first seen in theatres (as three part prequel series). It's not uncommon to find films that feel out of place in a cinema, due to a lack of detail in the background or simplified character art that can only be noticed when the screen is 60 feet wide. But the level of detail and vibrant colours feel as if they’re made to be appreciated on the big screen, making even the TV release feel like a premium show.
For me personally, the art of The Ancient Magus’ Bride is something nostalgic. Bit of backstory: I’m British and Australian; I grew up in the west of England before I moved to Australia and often visited my grandparents in Hereford, a country town surrounded by farmlands. And it’s not just Kore Yamazaki that completely understands the British countryside, it’s Yusuke Takeda as well. The old country houses covered in moss, the pond scattered with lilypads, the deep forests filled with fairies (I was always told on no uncertain grounds that there were fairies in the Forest of Dean and I became convinced that they held a grudge against me for my attempts to cheat the Tooth Fairy out of money).
Although it works more as a fantasy version of the British countryside rather than an accurate depiction. The fact that the show can go for episodes without heavy rainfall is a testament to that. It's also been pointed out before how odd it is that a breakfast scene in Those Awaiting a Star features thick pancakes. But what it does instead of representing the countryside accurately is that it realises the image we want to have about British country life. The world of The Ancient Magus’ Bride is the world that I wanted to believe in whenever I took a walk through the countryside. The most vivid memories are the ones that I made up for myself. Stories of fairies, dragons and witches. And the British encourage this! In fact, the National Trust, the United Kingdom’s largest heritage and nature conservation organisation has compiled a list of “Enchanted forests” to visit throughout the UK, each with their own little stories and mythologies.
The staff of The Ancient Magus’ Bride entirely understand Kore Yamazaki’s fantasy version of the British countryside based on her childhood reading stories about fairies in England. As a huge fan of her manga, George Wada is determined not to disappoint her, saying “I don’t want to do anything that makes Yamazaki-san sad”. She’s consulted on various parts of the production in order to confirm that it fits her vision, including the character designs, colour pallette and the backgrounds themselves. She even gave specific instructions for the soundtrack of the show, requesting that the music expressed loneliness, sadness and fear to make sure it feels like Chise’s story.
Thanks to the close collaboration between the team at WIT Studio and Kore Yamazaki herself, the world of The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a uniquely compelling experience that not only presents a beautiful fantasy world, but makes you want to become a part of it. Just don’t follow the fairies!