The flower language of The Ancient Magus’ Bride Episode 1

The ink is still drying on Chise Hatori’s signature when the above line appears across the cityscape: April showers bring May flowers. Given Chise’s initial mental state in the opening moments of The Ancient Magus’ Bride, the proverb is obvious. Before reaching the point where she signs that contract, Chise has seen and lived through some horrifying things. This is her turning point.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride also uses flower language liberally throughout its first episode to set the mood, giving small hints and insight into Chise’s circumstances.

The first flowers that appear prominently in The Ancient Magus’ Bride are these poppies from the opening sequence. They come in red (the most commonly-shown color), yellow, and white. In the west, poppies are often used in remembrance or as funeral offerings.

However, in Japan, the red poppy is a symbol of someone who is fun-loving, light-hearted, or lively. Red poppies can also indicated a deep, lifelong love between two people. Yellow poppies symbolize success, and white poppies often mean rejoicing or delight. Poppies of all three colors are shown in a close-up, before a larger scene places them in a field outside of Elias Ainsworth’s house. Chise may be at her lowest point as the series opens, but these poppies offer an optimistic future.

As Chise signs the contract, she is surrounded by a variety of flower paintings. Behind her are what appear to be poinsettias along with a wreath of yellow flowers. To her right is a painting of white lilies and smaller pink/purple flowers. In front of her is a field of what looks like lavender.

Poinsettias are most well-known for being a Christmas holiday plant that’s poisonous for most household pets and small children. In the west, they’re after the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who brought them north from their native Mexico. They come in red and white, and are a celebratory flower. The Aztecs used them as dyes in rituals, and the red poinsettia was a symbol of purity.

White lilies are a common funeral flower and also symbolize purity and chastity in Japan. They’ve come to mean a rebirth or renewal, which is why they appear so often at funerals. Finally, lavender means faithfulness and devotion. It is also associated with cleansing or spiritual healing and often used in aromatherapy as a calming scent.

Put together in this specific context, the flower language adds to our viewing unease, especially when the following scene shows Chise being sold at auction. This is effectively her death and rebirth. She signs away her life, without knowing her own future. This is somewhat celebrated — poinsettias, lilies — but since her future is unknown, it also appears as a death. The lavender showing up behind the man in front of her with the contract is a final hint that Chise is on the path to healing, despite the fact that we know very little of her past, and her immediate future is bleak.

While we’re learning of Chise’s powers, Elias tells her that she’s fortunate. Chise has flashbacks of misfortune brought on by her special abilities, including family that wouldn’t take her in, presumably because of her odd powers. In these memories, we see a small Chise with a fistful of daisy-like flowers that could be daisies or, more likely, aster flowers. Asters are used in remembrance, and when placed on a grave often carry a message of wishing that circumstances were different. This suits the tone of this scene very well, especially since they’re somewhat wilted in Chise’s hand while the hand of an undead spirit reaches up towards her. The fact that she’s at a funeral herself and surrounded by family, likely means that it was the funeral of a family member or friend.

Once at Elias’ home, we see the poppies again, along with gardens and fields of other flowers that are organized around his ivy-covered house. This begins with a rose garden, which includes arches of blue roses. The entire scene is oddly grounded by these surroundings, especially in contrast to how Elias used magic to transport himself and Chise to his home, but the blue roses stand out since they don’t occur naturally. Blue roses typically mean a interest in mystery and the unknown or supernatural — fitting considering the world that Chise is about to enter, and the powers that have followed her through childhood.

Anemone flowers come in a variety of colors, and resemble the vivid pink, purple, and magenta flowers that appear around a pair of robins in a cutaway scene-establishing shot. White anemones can symbolize sincerity or even death and ill will, but these purple and pink anemones have a different meaning of a connection with the fairies or the magical realm. Additionally, they can also symbolize protection against evil or anticipation of something that is about to happen, due to how they close up at night and unfurl in the morning.

Lastly, a pond with water lilies and irises is shown. In Japan, irises carry a message of good news or joy. White water lilies, much like their more grounded counterparts, symbolize a rebirth or renewal. Again, The Ancient Magus’ Bride is reiterating over and over through flower language that this is Chise’s rebirth into the magical world.

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