After about a dozen romcoms and SoLs later, I finally got around to watching the source anime of one of my favorite AMVs of all time, Dayman.
Yep, you read that right, an AMV of a song from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia of all things convinced me to watch Magi: Labyrinth of Magic.
Just a quick summary:
Dispersed around the world, there are several bizarre labyrinths hiding incredible treasures within them. These mysterious places, known as “Dungeons,” are said to be the work of Magi, a class of rare magicians, who also help people build their empires by guiding them to a dungeon. Djinns, supernatural beings that rule over the labyrinths, grant successful conquerors access to their immense power and choose them as potential king candidates to rule the world.
Having spent life in isolation, Aladdin, a kind and young magician, is eager to explore the world upon finally leaving his home behind. He begins his journey only accompanied by his mentor Ugo—a djinn that Aladdin can summon with his flute. However, Aladdin soon becomes friends with the courageous Alibaba Saluja after causing the destruction of a local merchant’s supply cart. In order to pay for the damages, Alibaba suggests that they attempt to conquer the nearest dungeon, taking the first step in an epic adventure that will decide the fate of the world itself.
With that summed up, let’s talk about Magi.
I love the world. It’s so unique and puts a wonderfully fantastical twist on the real life cultures they derive from. Magi manages to show us a living and breathing world with its own nations, cultures, religions, and even magic, and I had no trouble immersing myself in the world. Based on real life countries, and being a bit of a history nerd myself, my favorite part of Magi was just looking at the designs of the architecture, clothes, and even geographical location and guessing what nations’ they took inspiration from. Balbadd and Sindria, the two main countries we visit in the series, is inspired not by Arab culture as I first assumed, but actually very heavily inspired by India.
Magi‘s inspirations are very clearly built on Middle Eastern, Indian and Oriental culture. The very concept of djinn themselves is ripped straight from 1001 nights. Our two main characters even get their name from two very famous Arabic folktales, specifically Aladdin and the Magic Lamp and Alibaba and the 40 Thieves.
Their clothes as well are appropriately suited to the hot, desert environment of their respective countries.
As for Oriental, the Kou empire is a clear expy of Imperial China at the height of its power. I noticed this when I saw that most of the princesses were wearing from what my research tells me is called Huidi-yi, which are long and elegant robes worn by crown empresses and princesses.
Not just that, but even their lust of conquering, advancement of many technologies within their world, and the introduction of a unified paper currency point me to this conclusion. Probably a lot more I missed on first watch, so that might come in another post.
I love the main cast of Magi! They’re all relatable while still being somehow larger than life, and weirdly enough, it reminds me a lot of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. All the random little cities they visit in this new world, the adventure, and how they interact with each other, kind of evoked the same feeling within me.
Alibaba and Aladdin are a very fun dynamic duo, and their friendship feels very genuine. Alibaba is a kind of a generic “hero protagonist” template, but it is offset by his rather unique backstory and motivations. He doesn’t have an overarching motivation like “I’M GONNA BE THE STRONGEST” , his motivation varies greatly depending on the situation. First episode, he simply wants to clear a dungeon, the next fixing some past mistakes, then next some political stuff. His character develops a lot every episode, and I enjoyed watching his journey from simple worker to [spoilers for other time].
Aladdin and his djinn companion Ugo is adorably goofy while still clearly holding a lot of power. It kinda feels like when Luke first meets Yoda and Yoda is a little jackass. My only issue with Aladdin as a character is how a LOT of victories depend on his power as a Magi, even when from a narrative standpoint it’s not needed, particularly in a certain arc in the first half. His interruptions kinda cheapen some other characters who really shouldn’t have needed him.
The real standouts to me were Morgiana and Sinbad!
Sinbad is probably one of the sexiest anime characters alive. He’s a dashing rogue, a wise king, a seasoned mentor, and a hell of a diplomat rolled into tall and handsome as hell man. It seems like he’s a shounen protagonist that’s reached the endgame, which he technically is because he stars in his own prequel spinoff. My only problem with him is his hyper competence is so strong that the only things that prevent him from just solving the problem is by introducing a stronger or viciously unreasonable character, or nerfing him with some weird convoluted reason. He’s literally too good to leave unchecked.
Morgiana is my favorite character by far. She is a barefoot and barehanded brawler, and her fighting style is an absolute treat to watch. All of her action scenes are the best in the season, with some great choreography and brutal knockouts. Her backstory as a slave from a warrior tribe in a far away country is super interesting, and I actually found it easy to believe how slavery cam be programmed so much into a person that even though they are much stronger than their captors, they simply cannot attack them due to primal fear.
Her development to breaking out of that programming was engaging and made you want to cheer her on, and continue to do so for the rest of the series. Her seemingly icy personality being slowly melted away by a blazing warmth to protect her friends is probably also the most fleshed out motivation in the series. Every conflict she is in, she never worries about herself or her inability to protect her friends in the heat of the moments, she just attacks. I love the simpleness yet honesty of such a character.
I actually plan to do a separate character post of her, so I’ll leave it at that.
I thought most of them sucked, to be honest. They were cliche, stupid, or obnoxiously evil, and I didn’t like it whenever they were onscreen and rambling generic bad guy things.
Master Jamil was a psycho slave-owner, and he fucked up my cinnamon roll Morgiana, so I at least hate him. Otherwise, he just feels like something for our heroes to fight against, not a legitimately challenging moral or physical threat to our heroes at all. Bland.
Kassim was a frustrating “villain” though. I don’t like him, but nor do I completely hate him. He seemed like less a villain, and more a viciously selfish and stupid person who got a lot of people killed with his short-sighted decisions and impulsiveness. I might need to give him a rewatch. His evil moments felt like dumb asspulls to drive the story forward at times, though, and I hate it when stupidness drives a story forward.
His dreads are sick though, so A+ character design.
Judal is boring. I have literally seen his character a dozen times before in other,better anime, and I find the character type boring in those too.
- Complete opposite of the hero (Aladdin) in every way personality-wise
- Appearance is a distorted version of the hero
- Arrogant asshole with almost zero redeeming qualities
- Bland brand of “craziness”
- Annoyingly edgy to “mere mortals”
He’s like an MCU villain. He might get better with time, but right now, I just think he’s super uninteresting and cliche, existing only to fuck shit up, but in a boring way.
Al-Thamen is the Meh-luminatti so far. Their motivation of “causing evil to change the flow of destiny ” is really cool and interesting, because it’s usually the heroes who have to fight the terrible destiny set on them. Otherwise, they’re the typical vague and cryptic organization types who again, I have seen before in a dozen other anime.
I DID really empathize with Dunya’s backstory and motivations though, way more than Kassim, so props for that, you got 1 out of 5 villains right, guys!
I liked the show a lot! It’s weakest parts were the villains and the pretty meh animation in spots, but otherwise, it was a very captivating world with interesting characters and cultures, and I wasn’t able to stop watching it until the end. If an anime can make want to binge it, then it’s doing something right.
Magi: Labyrinth of Magic gets a 3. 5 out of 5. I am now using the 5 out of 5 scale because I think it gives a much clearer picture of what I thought an anime was like. Magi had a great and unique setting, as well as a strong main cast, but it had too many cliches and really subpar villains, so I find it hard to rate it any higher than slightly above-average.
I’m excited to watch S2, and my friends tell me it is much better than S1, so watch out for my review of that sometime next month!
Until next time!