This is a story about the flow of fate and the battle to keep the world on the right path. Aladdin is a boy who has set out to explore the world after being trapped in a room for most of his life. His best friend is a flute with a djinn in it named Ugo. Soon enough, Aladdin discovers he is a Magi, a magician who chooses kings, and he was born to choose kings who will follow the righteous path, battling against those who want to destroy fate. Follow his adventures as he meets others from "One Thousand and One Nights," like Ali Baba and Sinbad, and fights to keep the balance of world in check!
Magi won the 59th Shougakukan Manga Award for the shounen category in 2013.
The series has been published in English by VIZ Media under the Shonen Sunday imprint since August 13, 2013 by Shogakukan Asia since April 25, 2014; in Italian by Star Comics since September 17, 2011; in Spanish by Planeta DeAgostini/Planeta Comic since October 22, 2013; in Portuguese (Brazil) by JBC since July 2014; and in Polish by Waneko since November 3, 2016.
When I first read Magi, I assumed from the cover that it was of a cute little boy doing cute things, something to read to pass the time between weekly updates of other manga. However, Magi has been a charming surprise with the depth of its storyline and the efforts it puts into its setting. While it is, to some extent, a manga of a cute little boy doing cute things, Magi ambitiously tries to reach out on social issues such as politics and slavery while maintaining some humanity on every side of the issue.
Magi begins as an episodic story
of the individuals affected or touched by Aladdin, an enigmatic child with a headless djinn/genie and an omnipresent childlike innocence. Yet author Ohtaka Shinobu's ambitiously aims to weave the characters of these short stories together on a setting that ranges from the Middle Eastern Coast of what is clearly an allegory of the Roman Empire to Arabia, the Central Asian Steppe and as far East as the Chinese Kou/Huang empire. Characters present in each story remain present, returning to later relevance far later into the story. The main focus of the story, though, is on Aladdin and Ali Baba, a boy who starts out as a low-ranked merchant but slowly discovers his potential as Aladdin's candidate for the Heir to King Solomon. Based loosely on the Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Magi's story is primarily based in Arabia and Persia, but explores locales such as Balbadd (an allegory for India), the nomads of Central Asia and hints to later inroads into Africa and the Chinese Huang Empire, exploring issues such as imperialism, internal politics, economics and slavery. The strange thing about Magi is that many of the issues are not in fact resolved through fighting. Though many of the plot resolutions can be shounen-esque, there have only been one or two truly Shounen fight scenes, with many conflicts resolved through politics, mediation or economics, all of which play a role in the many nations of the continent. Plot strings seemingly left behind are in fact picked up later, and Magi's narrative flows smoothly and logically while providing an ample amount of humor. If there were any problem to the story, it would be simply that the mangaka seems to be either too afraid or unwilling to sometimes let go of characters, even when their death would be expedient for the plot. Overall, Magi's plot, while stereotypical in one or two instances, is gently surprising and shows a shounen manga that nevertheless does not always try to resolve every insurmountable problem with hot bloodedness and fighting.
Magi's artwork comes off as deceptively cute on the onset. The characters are drawn gently in a style that comes closer to that of a slice of life manga than an anime that seeks to confront serious issues. Yet Mangaka Shinobu has demonstrated the ability to draw out a darker tone while preserving the overall artistic integrity of the text. While Aladdin always retains his usual adorableness, the increasing grimness of characters such as Ali Baba serve to show not only their increasing maturity but also the results of the crises that they have been forced to confront. Magi's Art is endearing and charming when it wants to, but serious and grim when it needs to.
Based loosely on tales from A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, the characters of Magi are, while outwardly similar, quite different in execution. Aladdin, the cherubic "magi," comes off not as either the confused boy of the original narrative or the mildly immature man-boy of the Disney adaptation, but a talented boy whose initial lack of skill never affects his immovable faith in the goodness of humanity. Ali Baba, meanwhile, changes from a greedy boy who exploits Aladdin for his gifts to a tortured individual both haunted by the past he has left behind and inspired to improve the futures of those around him. Other characters, such as legendary hero Sinbad, stick slightly closer to their original counterparts, with Sinbad's tendency to lose whatever he gained in his last adventure sometime before his next illustrated in a comedic light. Author Ohtaka, however, bolsters her story with a host of original characters, all of which have their pasts and motivations, from Balbaddian street urchin (and Ali Baba's childhood friend) Kassim to the two aesthetically similar but ideologically divergent princesses (the highborn, idealistic pacifist Hakuei and the politically unsteady and pragmatic Kougyoku) of the Huang Empire. Furthermore, the mangaka makes an effort to humanize even those who are clearly in the wrong, keeping them from simply becoming caricatures--a slave trader is revealed to once have been a slave him/herself (I really couldn't tell); a cruel master whose innocence was once subverted by his master; the Dual Salujas, kings of the oppressed citizenry of Balbadd. Each individual in Magi's narrative comes off as their own character, with stories that the average reader can sympathize with, even a little bit.
=Enjoyment and Overall=
I was absolutely surprised by the depth of Magi's narrative and characters and liked it immensely. After reading realistic seinin manga full of grimdark suffering and gore and reading idealistic shounen stories of hotblooded (but improbable) problem resolutions, Magi's idealistic tone but realistic mindset was a welcome alternative that really allowed me to keep smiling from chapter to chapter. I do not often rate 10s for enjoyment, but Magi definitely deserves this praise. An underrated manga that is willing to confront real issues without giving up its optimism.
*Note*: I watched the first season of Magi before I got into the manga. While the anime is very good, aside from the Balbadd arc, it is very different and much more rushed than the manga. I highly recommend both, but the manga is definitely the one I prefer.
Magi Labyrinth of Magic is something unique in the popular long-running shounen manga category alongside such renowned works like One Piece, Bleach, Naruto, and Fairy Tail. None of them come anywhere near being as intellectual as Magi is. Despite not being a psychological manga, Magi still manages to look at what is right or wrong and what
is good or evil through a historical perspective. In my mind it stands alongside psychological manga and anime such as Death Note, Shinsekai Yori, and Shiki by asking the real important questions about humans and society. This is not a story about who can beat the shit out of who by becoming the strongest in the world. It uses social issues from human history such as discrimination, slavery, monarchy vs. republicanism, and many more topics. This manga does not have a clear end in sight, but it sure as hell knew what it was trying to accomplish right from the first few chapters even before the central conflict was ever mentioned.
Story – 9/10
Wait, this is a shounen/action manga with no end in sight, how can it earn a such a high rating in the story category? Magi is all about the story. Characters come together from all across the known world (and even farther) to join together in this ever-growing tale. Characters who seem to be just be there for filler end up serving a purpose and even show up later (the trio of thieves in the Balbadd arc for example).
The story of Magi begins with Aladdin, who is a Magi which is a human who can draw in the Rukh (the energy that creates everything in the world) from around him and use it as magic. Normal humans can only use the rukh from within themselves to use whatever powers they have (magic, the power of metal vessels given to them by Djinns, etc.). Aladdin meets a boy, Alibaba, who is working for an oppressive boss. Alibaba dreams of one day being able to capture a dungeon (these mysterious “buildings” that began appearing in random places all over the world a little over a decade ago) and becoming rich. But Alibaba does not want to be rich just to become rich unlike most of the people who are wealthy and greedy. He has personal reason that I won’t give away involving his home country and his childhood friend. At first Alibaba just wants to use Aladdin’s amazing Magi powers to achieve his goal, but, along with the Fanalis (red-pink haired people with incredible physical strength) Morgiana who was a slave that the two of them helped free from her sadistic master, they eventually become friends and agree to travel the world together (yeah that plan still hasn’t really happened because of a lot of stuff that gets in the way). But that stuff that gets in the way is all very interesting and is really what the story is all about: how the main characters Alibaba, Aladdin, and Morgiana come together with everyone they meet in order to protect this world that is being threatened by a mysterious group known as Al-Tharmen. Al-Tharmen is causing chaos all around the world by influencing people and helping struggling countries either by offering them weapons, money, power, or all of the above.
From there, the world unfolds and the great story that Magi has only just begun becomes a fantastic tale of rebellion, magic, war, and friendship (well it is a shounen/action manga of course it has friendship as a strong aspect).
Art – 10/10
One great thing about Magi is the emotions, whether comedic or dark. I really love the way the art portrays the characters during the humorous scenes (they get scarcer and scarcer as the story progresses though if you’re looking for a lot of comedy then try Fairy Tail not Magi). This manga (as well as the anime) really do an amazing job with the darker aspects of this story, and trust me there are a lot. This manga is actually pretty gruesome at times (Morgiana can kick straight through huge mutant animals and come out the other side). This manga has plenty of blood and the author is not afraid to show it all. The action scenes are also very well done, but of course with any action manga suffer a little in ways that the anime can portray a bit better. Still it’s not a problem at all and I am definitely not saying they are poorly drawn by any means. Most characters (especially Aladdin, Judal, Cassim, Jafar, etc.) have really great and unique characters designs. Some characters look a little similar, but mostly just because of the lack of color. The only ones I can think of (like Sinbad and Mu Alexius) have not actually appeared together so far so it does not pose a problem.
Characters – 9/10
Alibaba, Jafar, and Aladdin are my personal favorites so far, but the character cast keeps expanding and amazing characters are added into the story. Magi does have a damn large character cast, but one thing this manga does well is not focusing too much on the main trio. In fact, only a couple arcs have even had all three main characters (Alibaba, Aladdin, and Morgiana) all together. In most arcs they go their separate ways and it is their interactions with the people they meet that is really important. Do not expect Alibaba or Aladdin to be like Luffy or Natsu and just steal the show and defeat the main villain in each arc, because that’s not how this manga goes. It’s a joint effort from everyone that wins. The minor characters in this manga are great: Sinbad and his eight generals (Jafar is in them and I love how he keeps Sinbad, one of the most overpowered people in the world, in check and actually scares Sinbad), the Ren family (aside from Hakuryuu there are several other extremely powerful men and women who have all captured dungeons), and the people of the many other nations like Reim (obviously based off the Roman empire), Magnostadt, Balbadd, etc. This manga gives an equal amount of time to all of the minor characters whether they are recurring or not, allowing you to connect with all of the interesting and unique characters that this story has in its vast world.
Enjoyment – 9/10
This manga is just amazing. It’s amazing to me how it can deviate from the usual shounen/action genre and become so intellectual (it’s not deviating to the point where it becomes something like Evangelion in the mecha genre but still…). All of the characters are intelligent and unique, and the art allows the deep emotions they are feeling through loss and despair, as well as happiness and success to be shown to their fullest. Magi the Labyrinth of Magic is something I recommend to anyone who enjoys intelligent manga about society or anyone who enjoys shounen/action manga as I don’t think most people from either group will be disappointed. If you like things like Fairy Tail, One Piece, or Blue Exorcist or if you enjoy things like Shiki, Code Geass, or Shinsekai Yori, then I fully recommend Magi to you, and you may want to check out the anime as well.
It is not often that you see an adventure shonen that is brave enough to go the extremes yet provide all the enjoyment which the fans of this genre demand. Magi by Shinobu Ohtaka, is easily one of the best currently ongoing shonen manga out there.
Combining the elements of Magic and characteristics of Monarchy, Shinobu creates what is a must read manga for all the fans who want something thought provoking at their plate. Magi gives the readers what other mainstream series have failed to do in last couple of years i.e. sense of purpose.
The two core problems faced by mainstream shonen series currently are
plot and character handling. Many mangaka just bore the readers to death by introducing vague concepts and plot devices that appear to be an “escape route” rather than a planned move. That is no exception to the series involving magic. It is a convenient tool which can be successfully used by anyone against any baddie aiming for world domination. While in these cases, the fights may appear to look good, the plot and characters end up suffering a lot.
Magi gives us a world that where the class difference is at its extreme. We see the weak yet innocent getting devoured by the status quo. Racial Discrimination, Slavery, Wagging wars to obtain resources, Causing Civil Wars, Dark Justice, Famine, and Poverty are all present. We also see revenge breading more revenge and causing nothing but chaos. Dark Powers of paper money, human mentality of self-submission and dependence on others are also some interesting concepts that we rarely get to see in shonen manga. However Shinobu’s greatness lies in the fact that while playing with such extreme elements she hasn’t ignored basic shonen ingredients rather used them to great effect. So we get to see the evil organizations at work, Nakama Power, good guys bouncing back from the jaws of defeat, cool and attractive powerups, mysterious men like Urahara, revenge seeking vampires like Sasuke, great and timely dosages of comedy, bits of fan service here and there and a story which leaves a lot of room for discussion and theory making.
The only reason why I haven’t given this series is a perfect score is because it is currently ongoing and lots can happen with a shonen manga. But like many others, I’m certain that Shinobu will keep up the great work that she has been doing thus far.
So i came across Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic on accident, or maybe fate haha.
I love the quirkyness of this manga, the use of gags and comedic input is always well timed, I dont really enjoy watching anime of manga i have read, but this i just had to see! The characters work well together, and the setting of the alternate world works well. I found the story all loops in together and pieces itself together later in the manga which i quite enjoy where you start in the dark and everything makes sense in time.
Definitely under rated!
I wish I had heard about this sooner, and i hope to find more manga like this, Waiting for the next chapter!
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