I really love this manga, and i just began reading it two weeks ago. What turned me onto the series, despite having chosen to wait for the anime, was a forum, the point of which seemed to be that the anime, despite all the hype, was quite seriously flawed and didn’t meet the standards of the manga.
Sufficing to say i do not regret turning my attention to the Magi manga because it is AMAZING and in some ways much better than the anime. I began reading the manga at chapter 90, just after the Balbad arc which is where the anime diverges from the manga story, with everything that happened with Sinbad and Alibaba becoming poisoned by black rukh not actually happening until after the group’s second dungeon adventure, and even then occuring in a different order for different purposes and far from the reason Aladdin and company chose to conquer the dungeon.
If you have watched the anime then i suggest you make the leap to the manga. And if you haven’t watched the anime, well, you can start with the anime i guess, but making plans to jump to the clearly superior manga.
This series follows the story of a different sort of Aladdin from the original tales, undertaking a different sort of adventure.
The events of the world flow according to the purposes of fate, as they always have in times past. Yet an enemy alien to the earth has emerged, bearing nefarious intentions and acting under a grudge that has survived the wars and eventual destruction of an entire world. Al-Tharmen will not stop until the world has been dyed black with the corruption of the black Rukh.
Aladdin is a young boy exploring the wonders of the world after an unspecified period of incarceration in an unspecified location. Swayed by his perversions and the excitement of exploration, Aladdin, along with Alibaba, poor merchant, and Morgiana, slave and member of the lost red haired battle hardened tribe the Fanalis, undertakes a great adventure to answer the great mysteries and questions of his world; who is he? Where does he come from? What are the mysterious magi who have the power to consort with the rukh and the great white flow? What purpose do the dungeons serve and the Djinn contained within?
Along this journey, and contentions with the mysterious Al-Tharmen organization and their desperation/obsession to find manipulate or crush the thing that they call ‘Solomon’s wisdom’, Aladdin learns of the fate placed upon him as a Magi, to find a worthy human, make him or her king and guide them to greatness, as all Magi’s were born to do.
For it will be in the hands of the great Magi and the great kings they will create that the fate of the world rests…
Seriously though, if you haven’t yet read magi, what the heck are you waiting for. Nothing about this manga reads like any shonen i have come across (except for Full metal alchemist), dealing, as expected with friendship, loyalty and adventure like most other shonen, yet so much darker and more complex than you would expect.
Magi is a story about a young boy with a past as mysterious to himself as it is to everyone, who cannot recall where he lived beforehand and thus cannot help but express wonder at the every day marvels of this world. Along his journey with his giant djinn Ugo he comes to know the jaded Alibaba, enslaved Morgiana and together they venture beyond their comfort zones to explore new lands and meet new people.
It’s that simple, a story of three friends that choose to explore the world, yet it manages to be so much more.
Magi plays out like a basic shonen story initially, with Aladdin, a lonely boy reaching out to make connections with new people and choosing to walk in step with lesser humanity to learn about the wide world. There is magic, lots of it, monsters, treasure, even a mysterious organization out to drape a shadow over the civilized world. What Magi does better than almost all other shonen is the complexity it injects into its plots, tackling issues and situations from slavery to corruption to politics, taking a rather bleak yet realistic view of the depravity of human kind.
Magi is a deep story and it can get incredibly dark and sad, unafraid to explore the sorts of territories most manga choose to avoid, somehow weaving a complex web around some of the more basic issues of society.
Magi looks at history through the eyes of fiction, at how civilization would have progressed if magic were an important variable in the equation. Where a story like One piece will choose to overly simplify the troubles of a given plot and the solution to a complex situation, basically going the obvious and(somewhat) predictable route, Magi isn’t afraid to raise its hands and simply say ‘I do not know’.
There are no easy solution to any of these stories; it isn’t a matter of simply being the strongest or most steel willed, as there are problems that not even the hardest earth shattering punch can solve. That is why you should read Magi, because it will sometimes put you in the driving seat and leave you wondering what you would do if ever placed in the situation. Where in One piece you might easily cheer Luffy on to do what you expect him to do, knock the living daylights out of a villain, Magi will leave you wondering how right a certain character was for taking a certain action.
The plot is always constantly morphing and events will sway you from one side to another with each new chapter, that is how engrossing this story can be, when it engages you so deeply and morally as to question the uprightness of some of the primary characters (i am looking at you Sinbad).
You will love the characters in Magi, mostly because for one thing they are not always in your face. Think back to all those shonen series that will flaunt a massive cast that they rarely use. Magi will surprise you with the amount of time it assigns to secondary characters. Think back to one piece where most of the story revolves around the primary group of characters, the straw hat pirates. With Magi you would be surprised to find a considerable number of arcs and stories devoted to one of several secondary characters.
Magi has a tendency to split up its primary cast, not in the one piece style where some random event throws the straw hats away from each other only for them to work there way back towards each other later on; rather the main cast, Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana are developed in the manga each with their own personal plot and story to follow, plots that will constantly draw them away to pursue one adventure or another, each time expanding the magi universe.
Basically you will not find any contrived plots to conveniently draw the characters away from each other for the express purpose of drawing out an arc. But beyond these three, magi has a cast that is continuously expanding with each new arc. What impresses me is how the series will introduce what you will initially assume to be filler characters, who will then later prove to be central to the plot, continuing to play a role in the future of the story.
I might have already read this manga but i am still looking forward to the anime, so long as it stays true to the manga.
And that is because of how ballistic the action in this series is, especially as the story progresses further in the area of djinn equip. The action scenes are both tactically intriguing while growing increasingly epic with time. The nature of magic is exposited upon, allowing the series to develop an interesting structure for its use, actually helping to expound on the circular symbols that a created with the casting of each magic.
But the madness doesn’t kick off action wise until we enter the realm of Extreme magic. Actually every Djinn equip beyond the Magnoshuttat arc is nothing short of mind blowing, the scale of battles rising with the stakes. You will enjoy the sheer ingenuity displayed in the action scenes in these later chapters. I am still reeling over the appearance of the Kou Empire’s dungeon conquerors. You have not scene epic battle scenes until you see someone teleport an ENTIRE MOUNTAIN and drop it onto of another. It is that crazy.
The Art:> If i have a complaint about this manga, it is the art. Magi has great art. I had issues with it at the start, problems following the actions in the panels, but i grew to love it and the detail injected in the scenes. My problem lies with the battle scenes. There are times when things become ridiculously confusing, especially when Al-Tharmen plays its hand in more recent chapters.
IN the last ten chapters of the manga, there were so many major characters on the battle field during the battle with the medium, from Kouen and his brothers and sisters to Sinbad and his house that i couldn’t tell who was who. Everything blurred together, with their Djinn equip forms the only thing allowing me to differentiate among them.
And this isn’t the first time things got confusing. The art will fluctuate once in a while, especially during large scale battles, such as the Riem Empire invasion.
VERDICT: This is a great manga that i highly recommend to anyone, shonen fan or otherwise, to read. It doesn't matter what your presumptions of the series might be, your expectations will be blown out of the water. Magi has a pretty intriguing mythology, a mystery that the manga takes great effort to constantly unwrap with each new arc, yet there is always so much more still left to understand. The stories are dark, with underlying tones about politics, slavery discrimination, and the like.
Do not expect any clichéd endings or conclusions, as the manga will make difficult choices when it has to without pause. It can be bloody at times, not gory, but simply more than willing to show blood or more violence than other series show when it has to. It can be tragic at times, yet none the less very entertaining. It will hook you immediately. The moment you get into an arc, you will not stop reading until you wrap it up. Magi is that good.
You will just love watching Aladdin, the great Magi, struggle with trying to figure out what the right thing is in a situation, more than determined to defend and maintain his values, yet constantly tested in his resolve to unyieldingly do what is right, especially when what is right isn’t so clear cut.
RATING:> A perfect 10/10 for me. This series is a must read. There is no one arc where i can fault it. And yes the manga is far better than the anime.
Favorite characters:> Morgiana just endears herself to me, though right now my favorite character is Titus Alexius.
Highlights: Extreme magic, saying more than that would involve revealing spoilers; Titus and Aladdin’s battle, Hakuryuu’s trial in the Aum Madaura arc, revelation about Gokuen’s true nature, THE MOUNTAIN, i just can’t get over it.
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is an ongoing manga illustrated by Shinobu Ohtaka and which has been published in Weekly Shonen Sunday since June 2009. With 18 volumes so far, Magi was adapted into an anime in 2012 by A-1 Pictures, with a second season, Magi: The Kingdom of Magic expected to air in 2013.