Let Aladdin take you on a magic carpet ride with Dungeons, djinns, and royalty.
Story & Art: Shinobu Ohtaka
Translation/Adaptation: John Werry
What They Say:
Deep within the deserts lie the mysterious Dungeons, vast stores of riches for the taking by anyone lucky enough to find them and brave enough to venture into the depths from where few have ever returned. Plucky young adventurer Aladdin means to find the Dungeons and their riches, but Aladdin may be just as mysterious as the treasures he seeks.
Together with the djinn Ugo and his friend Alibaba, Aladdin sets out to find his fortune in the depths of the endless dunes…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ohtaka’s Magi manga has been running in Weekly Shonen Sunday by Shogakukan since 2009, and the anime adaptation by A-1 Pictures ran in the fall of 2012. The story and characters are loosely based off of the classic story, One Thousand and One Nights (or Arabian Nights) and while I haven’t read the source material, I can only assume that Ohtaka’s comic is nothing like it. Since I watched the anime, to me, Magi has been the sort of feel-good shonen show that doesn’t try to do too much and succeeds at everything it does do.
Previously, Ohtaka published Sumomomo Momomo from 2004 to 2008 (it’s published by Yen Press here in the States and by Square Enix in Japan) which ran for 12 volumes. In addition, she’s writing Adventures of Sinbad, a spin-off of Magi about the character Sinbad. While fairly new, Ohtaka’s art and storytelling are pretty good. Good enough to run for 17 volumes of Magi and two anime adaptations (one soon to come, the other aforementioned).
Magi’s set up reminds me of Nana and Soul Eater, in that it introduces your main characters—Aladdin and Alibaba—in two separate stories (though Magi isn’t quite as disjointed as Nana and Soul Eater were with their characters). First up is Aladdin and to a lesser extent his djinn Ugo. He meets some merchants that set up in bazaars near oases and befriends them accidentally after eating their merchandise. The comedy falls flat for me—I’m not really into Ugo being so girl shy that he retreats back into his metal vessel nor am I a fan of Aladdin being a big perv—but the character of Aladdin is set up very well. We know that he can be sometimes impulsive and careless from just eating food out of a cart without even thinking of paying (and perhaps this is naiveté rather than impulsion or carelessness). But Aladdin does care for the friends he makes and this is exemplified when we get a flashback from when Aladdin and Ugo meet. In it, Ugo says he can grant Aladdin any wish, “If you so desire, you may have fortune, fame, and eternal life.” But Aladdin just asks Ugo to be his friend. Such is Aladdin and what makes their bond so strong. In just 50 pages, we learn everything we need to know about Aladdin to set up his character plus get a few fragments of the story.
Alibaba is set up as a money-grubbing dude that seemingly has no other goals BUT money. He even grovels and praises the rich just so he can get his paycheck. However, it’s found that Alibaba is more than that when a little girl falls into a carnivorous plant. Alibaba races to her rescue, proving that whatever he needs money for is driving a larger goal. Alibaba really is a caring character, he just has some deeper motives that drive him and we’re not quite made privy to yet.
The story thus far mostly stems from Alibaba saving the little girl. His employer wasn’t pleased with his actions and Alibaba now owes him 1,000 Dinars. Alibaba’s struggling to figure out what he should do and that’s when Aladdin breaks the chains of a slave girl they meet named Morgiana. It’s considered a serious crime to break the chains of a slave because it’s like stealing the slave from his/her owner and guards start chasing after Alibaba and Aladdin. After a chase, Alibaba and Aladdin run into the Dungeon to hide from their pursuers.
The Dungeon is pretty cool on the outside, reminiscent of your Middle East fantasy locales, but sort of bland on the inside so far. Alibaba and Aladdin haven’t gotten very far in the Dungeon—that comes in volume two—but it’s just been your cut-and-paste dungeon from any RPG. The monsters and fauna, however, have been rather inventive or at least very well drawn. Speaking of the art, it’s a cut above the rest of your typical shonen stuff. The character designs aren’t especially inventive, but the faces and action sequences are really great a unique. And while the comedy might not hit my funny bone, the art to express it is a great compliment and sometimes the best parts of the volume.
Magi is a good distraction from the sometimes intellectually intensive things I like to consume. I can understand why it’s taken off like it has. It’s above average, but not to the pedestal that One Piece is on. It seems a lot like this generation’s YuYu Hakusho. The art is above average, the story is above average, but that’s all it lives up to: being above average. It never takes huge risks and instead choses to be more entertaining than the rest, but not groundbreaking.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: August 13, 2013