Anime Review: Magi – Labyrinth of Magic
Based on the manga by Shinobu Ohtaka, Magi is a 24-episode anime series currently streaming subtitled on the Crunchyroll website. It’s set in an Arabian Nights-influenced world with djinn and other trappings of the genre. Young Aladdin was raised in an isolated temple with no human contact for as long as he can remember, and is thus new to the outside world. Good thing he has a big blue genie to help him out!
In the first episode, Aladdin meets up with Ali Baba, a drifter who dreams of conquering the local “dungeon” (a mysteriously appearing building filled with traps and monsters) as it’s said anyone who survives a dungeon will gain great wealth and cool magic items. Soon, the pair is exploring the dungeon. But they’re not the only ones. The local lord (who’s cruel and a little crazy) and his slaves battle Ali Baba and Aladdin. One of the slaves, Morgiana, survives and becomes free, later joining our heroes on their adventures.
After some individual adventures, the trio reunites in Ali Baba’s hometown and the main plot kicks in. The government has become corrupt and someone’s manipulating both it and the rebels to assure that the country is thrown into chaos.
Good points: There’s plenty of cool fight scenes, the dungeons are inventive and there’s a nice variety of characters on the good guy side. Sinbad, sailor of the Seven Seas, is particularly nifty. Morgiana doesn’t get stuck with a cheerleader or damsel in distress role.
Not so good stuff: For a series taking place in a hot desert area and the main characters spending most of their time outside in the sun, the character designs are suspiciously light-skinned. Morgiana’s lack of agency in the early episodes may be off-putting for some viewers, we don’t get to see her real personality until episode 6, after which it never goes away again and she has full agency. (But be aware that episode 6 might be triggery for some viewers for abuse in her backstory.)
Also, most of the bad guys are kind of cardboardy, committing evil acts because, well, they’re evil. The big exception here is Cassim, Ali Baba’s blood brother. While he is by no measure a good person, his motivations make sense given his background and circumstances.
Fate is a big theme in the series. It’s explained that destiny is the force moving events in the direction of a better tomorrow. But it’s a general trend, and many of the characters suffer great injustice and pain in the process. The secretive organization Al-Sarmen seeks out these people to empower them to curse their fate and “reverse the flow of destiny.” However, they have no interest in easing suffering or increasing justice, they just want to return the world to formless chaos. For some reason.
Overall, the series (which has a hasty conclusion; the manga continues) was enjoyable to watch. Some of its issues might make it less watchable for certain viewers.