The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star (OVA)

4 out of 5

Directed by: Norihiro Naganuma

A prequel to the manga / anime series, ‘Those Awaiting a Star’ is only a bit of a stretch because of that: it’s very much assuming your familiarity with these characters – orphan Chise Hatori, and the demon-skulled ‘man’ with whom she lives, Elias Ainsworth – as well as the general magic-imbued setup of its universe.  Frequent viewers of the genre will certainly have no problem swallowing this whole-sale, and it’s not such a stretch that any new viewer won’t be able to get up to speed quick enough, it’s more that the emotional connection to people and places is assumed, leaving us with just the contents of the story to reflect upon.

Thankfully, the story is very, very good, and very involving, with high quality animation, voice acting, music, and imaginative creatures.

Those Awaiting a Star has Chise reflecting on her procurement of a particular picturebook, The Lonely Little Star; this involves one of her first major exposures to the world of the mystical, and aligns with the series’ general approach of observation over action.  Most affectingly, the OVA captures not only the occasional alienation of youth – of being different – but the inability to understand why you’re different, and how absolutely frightening that can be.  The presentation’s bravery in not outright presenting happy answers to these puzzles (e.g. Be Yourself!; Believe You Can And Everything Will Be Fine!) is carried through to its somber and, at, points, frightening ending.

While there’s undeniably a feeling throughout of wondering if you should know more about these people and places than you do, Those Awaiting a Star offers up an emotional story that certainly works on its own, and will likely have you seeking out more about the magic-tweaked world it features.