Anime as a modus of entertainment is exquisite in the way it explores a variety of themes expanding across various boundaries. The themes are often reused again in different settings but once in a while a gem shines out among the grains which is so unique it draws the viewer into its fantastical ocean and tickles their imagination. One such anime is Magi based on the manga Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic written and illustrated by Shinobu Ohtaka. The manga targets a shonen demographic and the anime might seem to be your typical shonen at first glance. But is it really so??
The question answers itself when you consider the fact that the work is based off the Arabian Nights. What you have here is the magic of the Middle East woven together with your dynamic Arabian personalities to create something which is enthralling and mesmerizing. This is clearly seen in the setting and the characters. The viewer is thrown into a world of djins, magic vessels, old kingdoms and magicians brought forth in an artistic and unique fashion. Magi draws from the Arabian Nights its setting and characters. As far as the plot is concerned, it is entirely different from what one would expect and thus refreshingly original. We have our three protagonist Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana as they travel the world in search of their true purpose unraveling its mysteries. All the supporting characters are quite dynamic and have their own unique personalities. Be it the charismatic Sinbad, the vicious Judal or the gorgeous Kougyoku, each of them add a new dimension and add up to the vast list of people you see. Each has a strong purpose and no presence is wasted. But what is it that makes Magi not your stereotypical shonen?
One can attribute it to the fact that it does not contain as much action as one would expect out of a shonen anime. Neither does it have the unrealistic power ups usually seen. Annoying main characters?? Dense heads?? No, out of the question here. Magi is more centered on magic and politics. It may not seem like it as first glance but to an intelligent viewer politics would seem to be the main focus. Slavery, kinship and kingdoms are explored and presented in quite a realistic fashion. Though you have the occasional gags shown with comical effects which reduces the seriousness, it still manages to retain its serious tone. The background music has its tinges of Arabian tunes and this serves to add to the Middle Eastern setting. The Arabic influence is also seen on the clothing of the characters.
The anime adapts the manga quite judiciously and has spawned 2 seasons with the latter ongoing and is being animated by A 1 pictures. Season 1 took its time to introduce us to the characters: Aladdin, our kawaii magi; Alibaba, his king candidate; Morgiana, slave turned bishoujo. What follows is an adventure to conquer dungeons and exploring nations like Balbadd, Sindria and the Kou Empire. The 2nd season improves upon the first in addition to continuing the plot. The art is much finer and the music more pronounced. It also has a more serious tone now that the setting and characters are established. You are introduced to the origins and wonders of magic in a more extravagant fashion. There is also a hint to an impending crisis about to follow which adds to its appeal.
The anime however has its shortcomings. The occasional gags meant for comic relief sometimes seem out of place. The music might not seem to fit with the setting and some things might seem to be filler even though they should add up in the end. The overall presentation does leave one with a sense of emptiness. There is always a nagging feeling that some scenes could have been better in one way or the other. But that is all for critics to muse over. The anime does well in its entertainment value. There is never ever a dull moment. There is always something new happening, always a new purpose, always new characters in subsequent episodes and always a sense of goofiness.
So, in the end, the question is – who would like this anime?? Well, it would appeal to any shonen fan and quite surprisingly to a lot of females too, the main reason being that Shinobu, the author of the manga, is a woman. Thus, you have brilliant art for the male characters which could be considered female fanservice. But it actually is not as the art is so vivid and enthralling, there is absolutely no question of any service bias. Shinobu very well knows how to make her girls quite charming and gorgeous. It might also appeal to a seinen demographic because of the politics involved.
One can argue that the anime is quite short to become a mainstream shonen now but it is a definite possibility in the future. The manga as of now is ranked 33rd and has over a million monthly viewers. Assuming the anime continues to adapt the manga, it definitely has the potential to go big and even has the potential to rival the big three.
“My story is of such marvel that if it were written with a needle on the corner of an eye, it would yet serve as a lesson to those who seek wisdom.”- The Arabian Nights
Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – First Impression
Anime as a modus of entertainment is exquisite in the way it explores a variety of themes expanding across various boundaries.