OP: 「V.I.P」 by SID
「第一夜 アラジンとアリババ」 (Dai ichi-yo Arajin to Aribaba)
“First Night: Aladdin and Ali Baba”
The topic of Arabian folklore and mythology doesn’t appear much in anime, does it? Norse, Greek, Japanese, Egyptian, and even Lovecraft mythology pops up more often than the magical sands of Arabia, making Magi a gem in the sands.
Magi is a show that loosely takes elements of Middle Eastern and Asian folklore and models an alternate story using those elements. This contrasts with mythology placed in a modern context such as Fate/Zero, or an alternate retelling of history as told by Oda Nobuna no Yabou. Instead, the setting is more in-line with series such as Hakuouki, where the setting is historical, the characters have historical basis, but the plot drives in a non-historical manner. While there may be slight nods at the original plots, most of the references mostly refer to the mythological legacy and legends of the characters involved.
Although I haven’t had the chance to delve much into the history and depth that is the ridiculous compilation of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights which Magi draws on for source material, upon researching Aladdin and Ali Baba’s stories…little of their actual folklore is retained, at least for this episode. Although Aladdin (Ishihara Kaori) is portrayed being in control of a Djinn and Ali Baba (Kaji Yuuki) an impoverished individual…the similarities stop there. Ali Baba was an honest individual who had no desires for conquest, and Aladdin began as a far more ambitious than altruistic individual.
Those of you who followed my coverage of Oda Nobuna no Yabou last season know how much I love comparing history in anime, but this time it looks like we’ll be in for a different treat. Putting aside the attention to the actual folklore, Magi is a show that so far, is utilizing and developing its unique setting well.
When it comes to specifically talking about the first episode, there isn’t much to say. The standard character development whilst hinting at the side characters is in play here, though most of the time to hilarious effect. Aladdin shows off his love for any kind of breast and delicious food, while Ali Baba gets the scraps and troubles after Aladdin has his way. The slave girl, whose name has yet to be established, quickly, yet subtly shows her true abilities and character. The mythology of the universe is established, with Djiinns and magically appearing dungeons being key to driving the plot forward. The first antagonists have reared their heads, foreshadowing the immediate conflict of the first few episodes.
What the first episode does besides plot setup is set the tone for the entire series. For those of you who didn’t already know, Magi is classified as shounen, and its shounen elements definitely show. The main protagonist has an almost naive, yet admirable dedication to his values, which causes everyone else to follow his dream. The jokes tend to be very exaggerated, both in content and art style (making chibi Aladdin the cutest thing ever, no?). The development of the characters this episode were not surprises or groundbreaking, but it paves the way to what shounen does best: making redeeming heroes out of the cast, via an epic adventure throughout the land.
Graphically, this adventure has been animated fairly well according to shounen practice. The jokes are well animated and deformed to hilarious effect, and the backgrounds are rich with warm colors that truly represent a Middle Eastern feel. Although sand and stone dominate the backgrounds, a colorful and warm diversity still makes its way in. The character designs are simple yet detailed enough, giving off that shounen taste whilst not sacrificing well-drawn quality. The colors definitely contrast with the warmer orange and white backgrounds, making for a pleasing aesthetic that’s usually reserved for the stereotypical sunset scenes.
Right now, the pace for this epic adventure is taking its time, which is great for a series of this type. From what I hear, the end point in the manga the anime is trying to reach would require much more than two seasons of development, meaning we can expect a show that’ll definitely take its time throughout the chapters. Given the large cast that the manga seems to has (lots of characters to draw from Arabian Nights), this’ll give the show ample time to develop those characters, as well as the vast land of sand that they call home.
However, for some, certain cast and staff members cast doubt on the ability of A-1 Pictures to adapt what’s been quite an anticipated manga adaption. Kaji Yuuki, who’s been known to voice several…beta characters, appears to voice the secondary protagonist Ali Baba. Whilst Ali Baba’s own character isn’t lacking in traits that man up, some may dislike the connotations Kaji’s voice has on the character. Yoshino Hiroyuki, whose work with Guilty Crown and Fractale have been received shakily may also cast doubts on the quality of the show’s flow. However, with his work with Sora no Woto and Accel World being received more positively, the series composition’s quality is still up in the air. Director Matsunari Koji is fairly inexperienced, with Magi being his most ambitious work yet. His previous works come range from 2002-2005, with his most recent work showing in a movie in 2010. Whether or not he has improved since then will reveal itself here. (Edit: I missed Kamichu. My bad!)
Despite the staff, I still have high hopes for this show and the staff’s ability to do it justice. From what I’ve been told, the manga does justice to developing its setting and plots, touching on various issues of the day, with one of the main ones being slavery. The story seems to be wide and vast as well as its characters, with the manga taking the time to develop said characters and keep them around. Although I said that the first episode sets up in a typical shounen manner, according to the manga, we can expect that many resolutions will be resolved in a non-shounen way that does not involve fighting. I already have taken a liking to Aladdin and the girl slave, whose simple sense of honor and friendship puts a smile to my face. I expect that Ali Baba will take a bit longer to get to their level, but such change will come in time.
Honestly, blogging Magi will be a new experience for me. I personally don’t have much experience with the shounen genre, but upon seeing the Middle Eastern setting of Magi after having covered Nobuna, I instantly wanted to try the show out. Hopefully I’ll be able to make as many mythological comparisons as I did historically with Nobuna in the long run, for it looks like I’ll be sticking with this show for a long while! I feel this’ll be a show that gains steam as it moves forward–let’s hope the next few episodes stir things up, away from the stiffness of initial exposition!
So begins the epic adventure of Aladdin and Ali Baba to conquer every dungeon
and breast throughout the land…
ED: 「指望遠鏡」 (Yubi Bouenkyou) by 乃木坂４６ (Nogizaka46)