Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Series Anime Review

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To Hell, if we’re not careful.

AW YES! Magi 2 is coming out in the Fall season line-up. Hell yeah! I’m excited about it and it’s definitely one of the series I’ll be watching. So I thought, why not write a review on the first season of the anime? Granted, it’s a bit hard to summarise a whole season’s anime into just one post, but I’ll try my best to do it plus give my take on what makes Magi so magical. (Har har)

On the surface, Magi is about a core group of three and the adventures they have. We have Alibaba, a street urchin, who grew up streetwise savvy, who wants lots and lots of money presumably. He wants to conquer one of these towers that have popped up around the world, because inside there’s treasure and he’ll be set for life once he gets it. By chance, he encounters Aladdin, a Magi who has a Djinn. When they enter the tower, a second group consisting of Morgiana, a slave girl, enters as well.

So, basically, at this point in the anime is where I got impatient and ran to the manga to read because the anime likes to end on a cliff-hanger. Boy, am I glad I did. The anime and manga differs in quite a few ways, some big, some small. I’m not a manga purist though. I know that manga and anime both have different constraints and different people involved in the production, so the final product is probably always going to differ, especially when the manga is still ongoing, like Magi is. This doesn’t mean that the anime is any less enjoyable though. On we go…

Spoiler City Ahoy!

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I wear a mask to hide my shame. Not to be creepy.

So, basically, they all become friends and manage to successfully conquer the place. Morgiana and ALL the slaves in the city are set free by Alibaba, who now has a Djinn of his own as well – Amon the Fire Djinn. Aladdin is, unfortunately, ejected to a far away place when they escaped the dungeon.

Here’s where the plot picked up even more and I knew things were going to be real fun. Aladdin wakes up in a nomadic village, Koga Clan, that is having strained diplomatic relations with the Kou Empire. From the clothes on the characters, there are parallels with China and Mongols. In this arc, political intrigue abound with captured slaves, and it took the intervention of a magnanimous Princess Hakuei of Kou and Aladdin’s magic to stop all out war. The Koga Clan is absorbed into the Kou Empire, but with no lives harmed except for Chagan the old lady. It’s a bittersweet ending.

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Always trust an old granny with a magical staff.

At this point, I knew I had to continue watching purely for the intelligent writing which manages to blend history, politics and magic all into one supernatural package. In fact, the whole anime and manga could be a World History lesson for its viewers. Sure, it isn’t an exact representation, but some of the ideas it presents to the viewers and ask them to take into consideration just aren’t done for this target demographic- kids. You have to admit that the cutesy art style and shounen plot is meant for early teens and younger, and yet it’s managed to draw adult viewers in with its badass characters and intricate world plot.

Case in point: We cut to what Alibaba has been up to all this time. Messing around Balbadd with his band of thieves! And yes, they mention he has forty thieves at one point.  Why has a good guy gone rogue? Well, because the Prince of the country of Balbadd has been misusing the public’s funds and trust, signing away rights to the Kou Empire! So, the only way to help the common folk is to rob from the rich and give to the poor. But having signed away all rights of his country and wanting even more money, what else is there to give? Balbadd’s people. Abhmad the Prince is about to sign his whole country into slavery to the Kou empire. Talk about outsourcing jobs.

Alibaba, in a plot twist, was actually the real Prince who had been appointed by the previous King to take over. But a bit of wine from his childhood friend and he let slip about a tunnel into the palace and there was an attack. Alibaba fled and the previous King died. Alibaba now wants to confront Abhmad.

ImageMy sword length is no indication of other lengths!

The people camp in front of the palace in peaceful protest of the law about to be signed, hoping that Alibaba confronts Abhmad successfully. Notice the architecture and clothes of this region has bearings to the Arab world.

Kassim, Alibaba’s childhood friend, has other ideas. He intends to incite a rebellion, with much bloodshed. Cue the entry of Black Rukh. Rukh, in this world, is white and looks like butterflies. It’s the magic of this world. The Black Rukh is the evil and corruptness that has the power to turn people on each other. They appear on the form of black butterflies. Judar, a Magi who has control of them enters the throng of people, inciting a riot. He even sort of kills Ugo, Aladdin’s Djinn friend. Judar is then nearly killed as well, but he is saved… by a Princess of the Kou Empire! Princess Kogyoku’s here to marry the Prince of Balbadd and strengthen diplomatic ties.

To aid in the uprising, Kassim calls on the power of the Dark Rukh and turns into a Dark Djinn. Alibaba has no choice but to kill his childhood friend.

Sinbad, a man who has control of a prosperous nation, conquered a few towers and heads the Seven Seas Alliances, has been convincing Alibaba to take up the throne instead of his ineffectual brother. But in a surprising move, Alibaba declares the royal country of Balbadd no more, thus annulling the marriage with Kou that was supposed to take place. Instead, a democratic government is installed.

And that, kids, is how you bring freedom to a people.

Well, no, not really. Alibaba, as the once Prince of Balbadd, is forcibly brought to Sindria, Sindbad’s country. He is, after all, one of the princes from the previous reign. We find out that Balbadd has been absorbed by the Kou Empire, but at least it’s people won’t be slaves. Similar to what happened to the Koga Clan. After some resting and training, the three friends, along with Prince Hakuryuu from the Kou Empire who wants it’s downfall, go together to conquer a dungeon to find an antidote for a snake bite by Dark Rukh. Meanwhile, Sindria is now being attacked by Al-Thaman, the shadowy organisation which Judar is a part of.

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I’ll spank you until you cry.

The last episode closes off with us finding out that Sinbad can control both the good and dark Rukh in his body and he uses this to repel the attacks. Sindria is safe. Alibaba and company defeat the dungeon and Aladdin reaffirms that he wants to help Alibaba become a good King of the world.

The concepts of a country’s sovereignty, democracy vs monarchy, and slavery was all touched on and presented in an easy to digest manner in this anime. It’s a very cool way to introduce younger viewers to all this and the show doesn’t take its viewers for fools in the depth it went into. It also explored societies separated by class. Watching how Morgiana was kicked around and tortured by her ex-owner was hard to see, especially given how young she was. Sadly, even today, slaves still exist, moreso at this point in history due to global population explosion. Our society is still divided into the haves, have-nots, and the have-Swiss-bank-accounts. Those that are above the law and those that are beneath it.

Sure, the show doesn’t explore the downfalls of democracy or pit a direct democracy versus a representative democracy against each other, but for what it does to explore political and social divides, it does so in an extremely engaging manner. Especially when there are real world parallels to what happens in the manga. It was surprising the number of countries I thought of which might fit Balbadd’s situation in one way or another. Which I suspect is what the mangaka had in mind as well, to get more people that read this manga or watch this anime to take more of an interest in the world’s political workings. An informed population is always better than an ignorant mass.

What I also really liked about this show are the strong female characters it had. Morgiana, Princess Hakuei, Princess Kogyoku, Yamuraiha, even Dunya all fight on par with their male counterparts. I mean, sure, we have Kogyoku fangirling over Sinbad, but in this show, the females actually affect the plot instead of acting as pretty flower vases. Even old granny Chagan was badass. This is a show where the girls are more than eye candy or fanservice. (Although Aladdin likes to bury his face in boobs.)

The agency this manga gives to young people isn’t new in the world of manga or anime, but what is refreshing is to watch the characters stumble and make mistakes. The errors that Alibaba and Morgiana made all had real world consequence. Alibaba lost his father and brought a nation close to ruin, while Morgiana nearly killed Alibaba and made herself lost like Golthas was. Not only do the younger characters make mistakes here, but so do the older ones. Even the good men of the Koga Clan were tempted by their rage to seek vengeance for the women in their clan nearly being captured and made into slaves. It doesn’t shy away from the world. But what the story tells us is that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you pick yourself up after you fall.

This carefully crafted world has such a rich history and compelling characters, and there’s even more to come judging from how they ended the last episode with nods to future characters. I’ll definitely be doing an episodic blog for season 2 of this series.

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5 responses to “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Series Anime Review”

  1. Artemis says :

    I have mixed feelings about Magi. I really liked the first half of the series but not so much the second half. Overall I enjoyed the whole thing – it felt simple and charming but without being unintelligent or preachy – but Alibaba spent a ridiculously long time being angsty in later episodes, which I got sick of pretty quickly. I also think that the show fell into some typical shounen battle-style patterns which don’t agree with me so well. When a single battle stretches out into several episodes worth of glaring, verbal taunting, and internal monologuing, I tend to mentally check out. I was much more into the action/adventure style of the first batch of episodes – although that’s all personal taste stuff, so I guess I can’t really complain too much. In any case, I’ll probably be watching at least a little of the upcoming second season of Magi to see where it goes.

    • mushireviews says :

      Yup. For a main character, Alibaba had a lot of changes in the adaptation from manga to anime. He actually didn’t have dark armor and fall in the manga. He also didn’t get bitten by the snake – Prince Hakuryuu did. By changing who got bitten, they basically left out quite a bit of character development for Hakuryuu and made Alibaba sound like he hadn’t learnt a lesson from Balbadd. Alibaba was cursed later on, but he was saved by Aladdin’s Solomon’s Wisdom. They were basically rushing to fit more chapters in an episode to get to the good parts at the end, but… some character development and story plot ended up falling at the wayside. I’m not sure if that is a good idea yet, waiting for Season 2 to find out.

      • Artemis says :

        Oh, I see. Yeah, I would have liked it if Hakuryuu had more character development – I much preferred his character over Alibaba, and things did indeed feel rather rushed in those final handful of episodes. Pacing usually ends up being my main gripe with a lot of anime, and I tend to think that shows which are more faithful to their manga counterparts go more smoothly anyway.

  2. Julz says :

    I’m fairly new to Magi, and have yet to read the manga, but I’m loving what I’ve seen of the series so far. The Arabian Nights theme is great, and I appreciate how it touches on more serious issues from the past – I agree with you that the series is a great way to introduce younger viewers to all that.

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