How would you rate episode 22 of
The Ancient Magus’ Bride (TV 3) ?
Community score: 4.4
Whenever you try to humanize a truly vile villain, it’s a tricky tightrope. Having more believably human antagonists can certainly be a good thing, especially in a story as character-driven as AMB. Yet an unfortunate number of narratives tend to treat a relatable motivation as synonymous with redemption as if having an understandable or relatable reason for doing terrible things is enough on its own to make up for them. It’s a trap even otherwise thoughtful series can stumble into, and one that was definitely on my mind when we first delved into Lizbeth’s backstory.
Thankfully, AMB is a lot more savvy and deliberate than that. Everything we learn about Lizbeth is important and enlightening to how she became the woman she is now, but it never tries to excuse her. She is undeniably a victim of the restrictive, tradition- and lineage-obsessed world of sorcery; reduced to her ability to bear an heir to the family despite her undeniable magical ability. Like with any of the kids we’ve come to know and love, there’s sympathy to be had for her having to live in an environment so adamant about dehumanizing and turning her into a tool for power. There is a tragedy in how the world she lived in twisted what little affection she had for her son into a cruel, possessive impulse. There is a sadness to the fact that she could never even think to care for her granddaughter, because the life she has lived thoroughly annihilated her capacity for love. In a sense, she’s a pitiable figure – so poisoned by the toxic forces around her that she must maintain that same noxious cruelty to keep going.
Yet that sympathy disappears when we return to the present, finding an embittered, vengeful matriarch meticulously preparing to sacrifice her only remaining family. For all that is sad or pitiable about Lizbeth, she has ultimately made her own choice to inflict that same pain on everyone around her. She drove her son to his death, twisted Alcyone from caregiver to crony, and spent a decade trying to crush Philomela’s sense of self until she’d willingly sacrifice her life. Lizbeth did not begin this cycle of harm, nor did she have more of a choice to be a part of it than anyone else in this arc, but her actions are her own, and she has undeniably become an agent of the system that harmed her.
Which is why it’s so satisfying to see that plan quite literally smashed to pieces in mere moments. AMB might be published in a Shonen magazine and it may have a fair bit of supernatural action, but it’s rarely ever gone for the kind of grand heroics that we typically associate with those descriptors. Here, though, it indulges just a little bit, and the results are fantastic. Seeing Chise hammer her way through Lizbeth’s spell, obliterating a magical construct built on years of abuse and manipulation to capture the one soul who escaped the crone’s grasp is just beautiful. It’s a solution so blunt and simple that it risks feeling anti-climactic.
The real crescendo of this entire storyline isn’t Chise’s magical flex – it’s when Philomela finally finds the strength to ask for help. It’s not just that she’s finally reaching out to the hands offered to her, or rebelling against her grandmother’s wishes. It’s for the first time in this story – and quite possibly the first time since her parents died – Philomela recognizes that she doesn’t deserve this; that there is no fundamental failure within her that could justify the cruelty committed on her. She, like every other soul out there, deserves to find peace. The final shot, as Philomela’s shattered hands clasp as hard as they can to Chise’s, is the perfect way to close this whole sequence. There is doubtlessly more conflict to come against Lizbeth, and our last lingering mysteries to uncover, but this feels like the true conclusion to everything that came before, and it delivers phenomenally.
is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.