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Sunday, March 29, 2015

It Took 10 Volumes For Me To Warm To The Magi Manga

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. (Source: MU)

I'm kind of tired of people telling me that mediocre manga "gets better" the further you get into it. I don't have a lot of time to invest in lower quality storytelling and art when I already read a lot of good-and-above manga series. Magi, for the longest time it seems, was one of those titles. However, the person telling me this about Magi is one of my best friends, so for him, I persevered, as sempai often do for their kohai.

Well, kohai, I am here to report that ten volumes into Magi (I follow the Viz releases, so sue me) I have not fallen in love with the series but it is so much of a bearable story than it was at the beginning.

Nearly a hundred chapters into Shinbo Ohtaka's manga breakout hit, I find myself actually looking forward to what will happen next. I want to see more Morgiana and Alibaba and Aladdin, I want to learn more about how magi and djinn work, and I am in desperate need for more information on the series' big baddie group that keeps popping up and giving our main trio trouble.

I'm not impressed by the artwork. It tends to get sloppy during action scenes, which are pivotal moments during the series. However, the comedic turns and facial expressions are pretty great. I love the looks of horror and disbelief that the characters' get during the more humorous moments. I'm not sure how accurate the costumes and architecture is but Ohtaka puts enough detail into it that I don't mind.

As for characters, the main trio consists of the only characters I really care about. I want to care about Sinbad and Ja'far and the rest of their crew, but I've found Sinbad to be a rather dry version of the typical shonen alpha male, both competent and bumbling but never losing his cool in the face of battle or in front of his peers. The only times he seems human is when he's around Ja'far, his personal foil, which luckily happens enough to save Sinbad from being completely boring.

Cassim, Alibaba's childhood friend from the slums, had so much potential but in the end he was thwarted by some mysterious black magic and became angst material for Alibaba. I'm not saying dude was fridged but - nah, dude was totally fridged for Ali's benefit. I'd complain about women being fridged in Magi but outside of Morgiana and the two female members of Sinbad's crew, there aren't really any significant female characters in this series to worry about.

Honestly, Morgiana is the most interesting character so far. She's an ex-slave who turns her broken shackles into a vessel for her magoi powers; she literally changes the symbol of her oppression into a weapon of justice. I want to know so much more about her and I always enjoy her battle scenes. The moment when she uses her chains to save her friends from falling into the magi's stomach pit is one of the best in the series to date. Why can't everyone be cool like Mor?

I'm also glad for Aladdin being as adorable and naive as ever but also learning how to control his magoi and his djinn, leading to maturity on his part. He's not so much a crybaby as in the beginning, although he still glomps lady bosoms when possible (another annoying remnant of when Magi was comedic first, dramatic second) and gets scared in the face of Morgiana's irritation spells. The fact that Aladdin was able to embrace and then let go of his djinn Ugo when it was necessary, however, marks a turn in his character I appreciate more than anything else.

I was told when I finished the first volume of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic that it would get better. It has although I'm not sure it will ever reach such great heights that I will mark it as one of my favorite shonen titles from the 2010-2015 years of English-translated manga. However, it's been a pleasantly fun ride so far and the fact that I have volume 11 on special order from the local library tells more than anything above about how willing I am to follow Aladdin and the rest further into their journeys.