Many people feel that the anime genre of late has boiled down to slice of life comedies that rely heavily on teenage angst, lacking originality and creativity. Enter Magi, an anime that aims to revitalize the action genre by being a truly magical adventure.
Set in an alternate version of the Ancient Old World, Magi follows two young boys called Aladdin and Alibaba who live in a world where powerful genies have been sealed away in dungeons known as Pillars. Also in this world is the essence of life called the “Rukh”, yellow butterfly shaped streams of energy that give magical beings power. The two boys slowly become friends as they meet a wide range of characters from famous Middle Eastern folk tales. The show does an excellent job at quickly defining the world and its characters in a single episode, allowing the real story to begin almost instantly, which is great, because Magi’s story is one of the most well paced and brilliantly written Shounin anime out there.
In case you couldn’t guess from the synopsis, Magi take a great amount of influence from the Middle Eastern folk tales One Thousand and One Nights. Many characters from the tales make appearances in the show, including the incredible duo of Sinbad and Jafar. The show has fun interpreting these characters and making them less like the caricatures they originated from and more into full fledged multi-layered humans.
The show goes above and beyond crafting its characters by bending the line between good and evil, right and wrong. Character motivations are never completely evil, there is always a honest and good reason for actions, every character struggles to make an evil choice due to fear of hurting others, and it’s really interesting to watch two people argue when you know that neither one of them is really wrong (most characters are like this, some are just horrible and deserve what happens to them).
Magi likes to play around with your expectations when it comes its art. The show has a colouring book aesthetic that matches the bright and beautiful world the show is set it, and when it comes to comedy, the show will go with a redacted simplistic look where the characters are weird blobs or colourless chibi versions of themselves. The whole art style oozes the feeling you get from a child friendly anime or children’s book. But then you watch a bit more and you realize that what you’ve been lead to believe is false, and that the show is highly disturbing when it comes to adding drama. The show isn’t afraid to show slavery, child abuse, ice piercing through a body, and most interesting of all, death. The show juxtaposes with what many people would assume from the art style and toys with the viewers expectation of what will happen next. Magi doesn’t mind ruining a peaceful moment by having someone beaten to death, but it does it in a way that’s hard to see coming, and it always keeps you on the edge of your seat.
While this review is only for the first part of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, the show has already become one of my favorite anime. If the second half of the show can continue to impress me with its beautiful visuals and sharply written story, then it’s well on its way to becoming not just one of the best anime out there, but one of the finest shows to be on television.
Thanks to Manga UK for sending a review copy