Fourteen years ago, mysterious buildings called "Dungeons" started to rise in various places around the world. Within these dungeons, powerful beings called djinns rule over. When a person successfully conquers the dungeon, the djinn offers their immense strength in the form of Metal Vessels, recognizing him or her as a worthy king candidate. Adventurers from many empires and kingdoms venture into the dungeons in search of their bountiful treasures and the power of djinns. However, to travel through them is not an easy task, and only Magi—legendary magicians who choose kings and develop countries—can guide people through.
After being trapped in a room for most of his life, a young Magi named Aladdin finally sets out on a journey to explore the world along with his friend, a djinn named Ugo, who he can summon from his flute. Through a series of fateful encounters, Aladdin meets new various friends and allies, and together they begin an adventure that will change the fate of the world.
Magi won the 59th Shogakukan Manga Award for the shounen category in 2013.
The series has been published in English as Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic 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 Brazilian Portuguese by JBC since July 2014; and in Polish by Waneko since November 3, 2016.
It's frustrating when a series can be consistently good for 250 chapters goes to horse poop in the last third/quarter. How can such a beloved work, with an interesting fantasy world, with interesting characters, on top of it being shounen, drop the ball as much as Magi did? I'll tell you why, I'm gonna blame a character that has no reason to be a staple in Magi when hes a staple in his own damn Manga. No doubt the weakest link in this whole latter third of Magi is Sinbad, who has some contrived reasons for creating conflict and has really disengaging dialogue to read.
I'm more into Alibaba's style of being boisterous and naive, and Aladdin's reactions and jokes. Magi really dropped the ball after XXX kicks the bucket, because the world building, which Magi did a decent job of pretty much transitioned into something new that wasn't particularly engaging. I say that because it's so vastly different that I have to forget that old world and accept the new one, and to add to the problem, it wasn't even used to its advantage.
That’s enough about the latter third of the manga, which is the real reason why I’m making this review to begin with, but lets focus on the whole picture. Besides the sour aftertaste of finishing this manga, I would overall still recommend reading it, simply because it is one of the better overall shounen manga out there right now. The combination of good art, decent characters, enjoyable dialogue and banter, and execution makes the journey worthwhile. I also recommend watching the anime, as I feel the seiyuus used in it created a good depiction of the characters. It wouldn’t be the same without reading Alibaba’s dialogue in his stupid, nonchalant voice and Morgiana’s deadpan reactions. It’s not often you see an anime adaptation complement the manga as well as Magi does.
Magi is good, could’ve been great, but Shinobu Ohtaka rushed the ending like crazy. Instead of announcing the an arc being the final arc, it should just end whenever one can see the ending. What we ended up getting what convoluted plot with elements that came out the bootyhole and it splattered all over the first 2/3 of the manga. The art also became a lot less clear towards the end since so many things were happening. Overall, I’m glad to have finished Magi because it really is one of the best shounen manga out there. It’s one of those series where you can look back at it in retrospect and appreciate the level of detail that went into each panel.
To be fair, you have to have a high IQ to comprehend the inner workings of Egyptian culture present in this piece of art. It’s not everyday you come across luxurious fine details depicting what the middle eastern lifestyle is. I have no doubt Shinobu Ohtaka went through existential nihilist crisis whilst creating this piece of work because of the subtle references to Egyptian culture and Djinn myths. Not every scholar can follow the Quran to the letter like ol Ohtaka did, and her personal philosophy is extremely apparent, the way she can write Alibaba to symbolize every transcendent being on Earth. We also get to witness Ohtaka break barriers in terms of gender norms, creating Morgiana to be a metaphor for Cleopatra and promoting power of women. Only truly intelligent beings will be able to appreciate such detailing of Sand culture
I have been reading this manga for 8 whole years and it is my favourite manga since then but still as a devoted fan I can't be more honest when I say it has let me down.
First, the story is the base structure that makes Magi unique, seeing as it benefits from its inspiration, the Arabian Nights stories. The world Ohtaka created is marvelous, it is incredibly complex and you must pay great attention to fully understand it. The art helps on this aspect, there are panels in this manga with incredibly detailed artwork which gives the environment the arabesque feeling borrowed from original source.
Even the magic in this world is something completely new, the Djinns might have been borrowed from its Arabic counterpart but in the Magnostadt Arc we get a new look into the Magi's magic.
While the world is uniquely beautiful, the characters are the most complex part of the Magi series. Most people would concentrate on giving Alibaba, Aladdin and Morgiana (the main trio) as an example of complex characters, but I believe each and every character in this manga is complex. Ohtaka has this great ability of giving even the most minor character an ever expanding personality.
Now as I praised this series thoroughly, you might be asking yourself "but you just said you have been let down". While I have enjoyed this manga greatly and yes, I hold it to heart even now, the third part of the story is a complete disappointment, because all the strong points I have just listed completely disappeared. For some unknown reason (at least to me) the creator rushed the story by the end of the series and it started to make no sense, the characters didn't get a proper resolution and some mysteries remained unresolved.
But even so, I STRONGLY recommend the Magi series, don't let the ending (or the third part of the story) let you down, if you're here for a great journey you will get the best one you've ever seen, in a complex, beautiful world full of magic, accompanied by some of the best characters you'll ever get to know.
Arguably no genre in anime suffers more from an ill-fated combination of cliche reliance and an elementary premise than the action shounen genre. Whilst it is not inherently negative for such a show to skilfully execute well-trodden territory, for which there are plenty of shounen that do, Ohtaka’s “Magi”, true to its adventurous spirit, treads well beyond the boundaries of its genre without ever losing the heart-racing excitement that all shounen fans yearn deeply for.
An allusion to the Middle Eastern folk tales of “One Thousand and One Nights”, the world of Magi is unlike any we’ve seen that neither draws its main inspiration from the
ninjas, folklore and mythologies of Japan à la Naruto, Bleach etc. nor from the superheroes of the West. The premise is that of a world in which mysterious towers have spawned across the world, that if overcome, supposedly grants the conquerors of these life-threatening dungeons the magical powers of a djinn. If this were a typical shounen, the premise would end there and we would be promised with a small cast of characters who will inevitably face fierce rivalries, powerful friendships, slapstick comedy and visually stunning fights.
Magi guarantees you all of this, especially at the start, but as readers of the manga know, the story truly shines later, in the use of its premise as a springboard for exploring socio-political, economic and ontological issues. The conflict in the plot arcs of Magi are grounded upon one of these issues which makes for a more powerful and realistic experience but connecting each and every one of these arcs is a story about a boy whose search for his identity, beliefs and ideologies on the social and political issues in his world are constantly challenged. It frustrates me beyond belief when in shounen our protagonist has such inherently strong convictions and sense of justice that they are only “weak” in terms of their physical abilities and powers because that narrows the storyline and character development to merely the acquisition and development of their combat prowess and never truly engage with the complexities of the issues they face. Alibaba and co. are not fight bots who merely beat people up into magically agreeing with their ideology nor is he a paragon of wisdom whose words convince anyone he manages to speak to – that is more along the lines of Sinbad but even he has more depth than initially seems. Magi’s world and characters may be wonderfully supernatural but they are also a reflection of our own world and people.
My issues with Magi are only that its ambitious storytelling means that the balance between action and its politics is at times compromised and that the ending was rushed. Certain arcs can be very focused on the politics and others on the fighting. For many shounen readers, if the action is the only aspect you want to observe, then this may not be the manga for you as there will be times when you may find yourself losing interest. Magi does not achieve the absolute pinnacle of storytelling that sees a perfect transition between the two but nonetheless it still achieves this better than the vast majority of shounen. Regarding the ending, although the series concludes excellently with regards to the main issues at hand, it felt rushed and further attention to the vast cast we met along the way would've very much been appreciated.
One of the main benefits of having a manga have its premise set in Middle Eastern folklore is being able to have art that shows the dazzling designs and drawings of fantastical beings and creatures that most people have probably never come across. Where the character expressions and designs are not particularly spectacular, although certainly very competent, Magi’s art shines in its action. When our warriors fight and djinns are released, the manga often requires you to spend a couple minutes per panel just to marvel in the designs and as the series progresses, the sheer scale of the battles and wars that we observe. Combined with Ohtaka’s panelling, which excels in constructing fluidity between scenes in a medium where images are still, Magi is rarely ever a visual hassle to read.
Magi, the manga, was not what I expected after having watch the anime. Whilst certainly, Balbadd and Magnostadt arcs certainly give you a glimpse of its potential, the anime did not adapt far enough to see what Magi is truly about. If the more cerebral aspects of Magi appealed to you, I recommend reading it entirely. Even if Magi is not as surgical in its exploration of these issues as manga who dedicate themselves towards intellectual matters, the fact that it is also an equally amazing adrenaline-rushing, heart-pounding and action-filled show, should convince you to read Magi and for those aforementioned reasons, I would wholeheartedly recommend this manga to both shounen lovers and shounen-sceptics alike.
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.
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