“Oh venerable one, your wish is my command: A vast array of riches, the power to rule over billions of stars, even eternal life if you so desire. Now then, what is it you wish for?”
Anime Reporter ventures to far-off lands to review Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic- Part 01 (episodes 1-13). The series comes from the manga of the same name, created by Shinobu Ohtaka, who also created the manga Sumomomo Momomo.
Magi takes place in a world inspired by the collection of stories, One Thousand and One Nights, also commonly known as Arabian Nights and so it’s unsurprising to find that straight off the bat, two of the main characters are Aladdin and Alibaba. The plot deals with many themes, from more typical anime-matter of adventure and overcoming great monsters and perilous dungeons, to issues such as war and slavery. The more magical aspects of the world are centred mainly on magi, great magic users whose task is to chose and prepare great king and leaders. Magi can summon dungeons, enormous towers filled with monsters and death-traps which give fantastic wealth and magical treasures to any who can successfully defeat the dungeon’s dangers. These magical aspects are grounded by the show’s use of political unrest and inequality. Social injustice is a common theme and slaves are regularly shown being beaten or even stabbed repeatedly as a form of rebuke.
Aladdin (voiced by Highschool DxD’s Kaori Ishihara in Japanese and Erica Mendez in English) is a young boy in search of answers about his own identity with his (surprise, surprise) flying carpet and djinn (genie), Ugo for company. Aladdin is a fiercely loyal friend and extremely powerful magic user, despite a naive worldview. Aside from making friends and meeting new people, Aladdin’s two great joys in life are food and breasts, both of which he tends to indulge in without shame or much regard for whom they may belong to.
Aladdin’s djinn companion Ugo (voiced by Naruto Shippuden’s Toshiyuki Morikawa in Japanese and Fairy Tail’s Patrick Seitz in English) is a wise and powerful ally to Aladdin. A blue giant, Ugo lives inside a golden flute and, when summoned, strikes an imposing figure, (admittedly hindered somewhat by his inability to remove his head from the flute).
As the series progresses, other people are found to be accompanied by djinns, which come in all manner of forms and each representing a different force of nature as well as different sides to people’s emotions.
When we first meet Alibaba (voiced by Yuki Kaji, from Blood-C: The Last Dark, in Japanese and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan’s Erik Scott Kimerer in English), he’s a young servant, working desperately to save up enough money to fund an attempt on a dungeon. He’s older and much more cynical than Aladdin and the two soon form a team to achieve both Alibaba’s quest for wealth and power from dungeons and Aladdin’s goal to find more djinns to help him understand his identity. Alibaba comes across as something of a trickster and a liar at the beginning of the series but displays more than a little depth and integrity when called for.
Morgianna (voiced by Sword art Online’s Haruka Tomatsu in Japanese and K-On’s Cristina Valenzuela in English) is a young slave-girl befriended and freed from captivity by the efforts of Aladdin and Alibaba. One of the only characters who refrains from using magic, Morgianna is nonetheless often more capable and resourceful than others, coming from a legendary warrior tribe in her own country. Her attacks and speed are incredible and she regularly takes on multiple enemies at a time. Morgianna is a terrifying foe to have but very compassionate to those in need. She has a particular sensitivity for people enslaved as she was and is eager to fight for freedom.
Keep an eye out for a charming Sinbad (voiced by Attack on Titan’s Daisuke Ono in Japanese and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan – Demon Capital’s Matthew Mercer in English), an accomplished adventurer in his own right and a character to keep a close eye on, (particularly given that he’s received his own spinoff OVA).
Battles use a combination of magical attacks, monsters and weaponry, meaning that fight scenes typically avoid repetition or cliché. The action itself is fast-paced, avoiding the unnecessarily tedious inner monologues which so often stretch a simple clash across multiple episodes.
Over the course of the thirteen episodes that make up Part 1 of the series, we’re given great insights into our principal characters, but even more so into their world. It’s very clear early on that wealth, as much as magic, is the true power of the land and that the great majority of people have barely enough to survive. Coupled with this theme is the emerging force of the mighty Kou Empire, whose armies and servants spread across other nations, swallowing them up through diplomacy, bribery or just straightforward violence. The mythology and world-building at work in this series are very well-developed and there is very much the feeling throughout Part 1 that we’re still only glimpsing the surface of what Magi has to offer.
It’s a strange dynamic that the series leans on, moving from whimsy and innocence, largely on the part of Aladdin, to violence, torture, suffering and the occasional glimpse of ecchi nudity to prevent this anime from having anything lower than 15+ age rating. The subject matter is handled well and rarely feels excessive. This contradiction in tones really speaks more to the innocence of Aladdin’s character than to a flaw in the narrative as it is typically through the eyes of other characters that gritty violence or suffering is seen.
The animation throughout the episodes can feel a little inconsistent, with bright colours and impressive effects for magic spells clashing with duller lines and less detailed rendering of characters, often in the middle of conversations. The typical cartoonish-over the top reactions of anime characters are taken to a whole new level, though we are left with the feeling that these grotesque exaggerations are intentional so it may really be up to individuals viewers to decide if you love it or hate it. Most may find the story and characters to be too enjoyable to dwell too much on any inconsistencies in animation.
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is a more complex creature than it might seem upon first glance and while its first episode might seem like the set up to a standard shonen adventure, there really is much more depth and ingenuity which become apparent very quickly. Plus it’s damned entertaining!
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Part 1 is available on DVD and Bluray from Manga Entertainment now.
Likeable Characters: 9.5
88% – Blockbuster!
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is emerging as a new force to be reckoned with. Shonen at its best and then some!