Even the most beautiful emotion can become corrupted.
The fourth episode of Mahou Tsukai No Yome (The Ancient Magus’ Bride) has aired and I will bring you the recap and review of the episode as we visit the Kingdom of Cats and the corruption that lays sealed within. Now, onto the episode recap.
The episode starts with Chise dreaming, hearing cats meowing as a woman asks that if cats have nine lives can she borrow one. Then she wakes aboard a train some time later, riding along the countryside toward their next task. The train wasn’t meant for humans, but for supernatural creatures, including a talking cat that is on his seventh of nine lives and tells them that the King of their kind awaits them at Ulthar.
When they arrive, they find it to be a rather idyllic village of sorts where the cats roam freely because their numbers have swelled to the point of becoming a kingdom of cats. The current King of Cats is known as Molly (the title isn’t gender-specific) and she welcomes them, grateful that the Church didn’t send a sorcerer instead since they have a negative history. Of course, then a little girl appears from inside of the house and Elias pulls a vanishing act, leaving to investigate while Molly shows Chise around.
The cats take her through a forest and tell her a tale about something that happened long ago, about a man who enjoyed killing cats, no matter how they tried to hide or run. The first King of Cats gathered them all together and they swarmed him, leaving not even a trace of him behind as they took him to pieces. But the act created corruption, uncleansed souls trapped deep within the island lake that every generation had to sacrifice several of their lives to hold it at bay. It’s been trying to escape, so they want Elias and Chise to get rid of it before it goes after both humans and cats.
Then a woman who crossed Chise earlier in the episode grabs her and throws her into the lake before any of them can react, teleporting away. She ends up slipping into another memory, as she did with the dragon. This time it belongs to a woman called Mina, who was sickly but she loved cats, and serves as the core of the corruption since her husband, Matthew, turned into it at some point.
Elias pulls her out of the water and explains why he was late: someone left magical residue all over the place and was getting in their way. So he needs Chise to work to cleanse that corruption before it gets out since his magic isn’t compatible. They wait until night comes and Elias gives her a bunch of magical equipment meant for purification and calls in one of the Aerials that tried to kidnap her in the first episode, since its magic is suitable for eradicating the corruption.
So she heads out onto the lake after some encouragement from Elias, wondering if he’ll leave her if she fails, when they arrive at the blight. She then recalls what Mina asked of her, to kill them, and wonders if they really have to do so. Was there a way to save them instead?
Her thoughts end there as she finds a knife to her throat because of the woman from before, as a man approaches and tells them that he has plans for that corruption while holding the Aerial hostage along with Chise. Elias identifies him as Renfred, who accuses Elias of treating Chise as a test subject. When Elias denies this, Renfred then brings up how he hasn’t even told her that she’s going to die soon as the episode ends.
So this episode takes us to a new land filled with new lore. Specifically, that of cats having nine lives, how they grow wiser with each cycle, and how rumors spread easily by them. I know that the land of Ulthar is based on work by H.P Lovecraft, and so that obviously ties into the mystery behind Mina and Matthew, along with why the cats don’t like sorcerers. There’s also the notion of kegare, which is when something is filthy down to a spiritual level.
More of Chise’s doubts also surface in this episode, as she wonders just how much faith Elias has in her and if he’ll be rid of her if she fails. Made worse was the fact that Renfred tells Chise about her short-lifespan. Though she envied the dead for a moment with Nevin, hearing that her own life was running short still caught her by surprise given the look on her face.
Elias himself also got some subtle hints dropped in terms of his actual thoughts when Chise turned his question of whether or not he loved the world onto him. He hesitated for a very long pause and only said “sure”, rather than something more defined. And he does identify himself as at least part-fae, considering he stated that they detest lies, so why does he live among the humans?
Then there was the current King of Cats, Molly. She’s rather soft-spoken and regal, but also motherly to the extent that she’s willing to lay down her life for her adopted human daughter. I really liked her.
Last was Mina and Matthew. It’s fairly obvious both of them are long-dead by the time Chise has come around, yet somehow both still remain bound to the world of the living and became corrupted. From the story that Molly told us and Mina’s words, we can presume that Matthew was the one who eventually went on a cat-killing spree, but what drove him to be that way when his wife loved her own so dearly?
The answers will have to wait until next episode, it seems. But I’m looking forward to it.