The Kou Empire is introduced in full and Aladdin, once lost, seems to have found himself, if not his past.
Story & Art: Shinobu Ohtaka
Translation/Adaptation: John Werry
What They Say:
Aladdin finds himself among the Kouga tribe, who live deep in the desert far from Qishan. An emissary from the Kou Empire arrives offering peace, but when it turns out to be an offer they can’t refuse, things take a turn for the worse. Aladdin learns more about the legend of the Magi and the Rukh, bird-like beings of light, with whom he appears to share a deep connection…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Volume three picks up with Aladdin, who’s found himself a five-year journey away from Alibaba and Qishan. Yes, Aladdin has found himself in the Kouga Empire. They’re a group of proud people once led by the man who would unite the world. The story is from hundreds of years ago and the Kouga Empire has since weakened considerably since then. Their numbers are in the hundreds, if that.
They’ve been hurt by slavers, mostly. They take the women and force them to have babies and take the men and put them to hard labor. Slavery seems to be an ongoing theme in the early going of Magi, and is often hinted at now in the second season, showing just how different this world is to ours. Slavery is at the forefront of their minds because of how primitive the people in Magi are, as most villains want only power and will achieve it by any means necessary, which is often slavery and killing.
Herein lies one of the flaws of Magi: The villains are often just too villainous. Like, they really don’t have any redeeming factors. Lord Ryosai from this volume and Jamil from the last are evil to their core and I don’t know how we’re supposed to sympathize with them.
Not to short change the comic, as thus far it does have one good antagonist. But the antagonist, Hakuei Ren, is not a villain in the traditional sense. In the early part of her story here, she acts against them, but barely so. She’s fighting, and I use that term loosely, with the Kouga Empire to bring them into the Kou Empire peacefully. She prefers talking over fighting, as killing will only beget more killing. Which, you know, is true. The manga goes out of its way to prove it in the volume to good success. The evil General Ryosai orders his men to enslave some of the women so they can birth them more slaves. The Kouga Empire manages to save the girls, but hurt some of Ryosai’s men in the process, inciting their anger. Ryosai wants to attack the “savages,” but Hakuei will only talk. Ryosai, not so subtly, takes over full control of the army to attack.
While the last two volumes have been setting up Aladdin, Alibaba, and Morgiana, which includes the plot itself, their relationships with each other, and specifically how they interact with each other, this volume focuses almost solely on Aladdin. It’s not until the last chapter of the volume that we have any interaction with the other two main characters, and it’s only Morgiana at that.
This is the first big separation between the three characters and they’re growing immensely as a result; at least, Aladdin is growing immensely since we only visit him. At this time, Aladdin doesn’t know what a Magi is or if he even is one. But all his doubts about anything seem to fade away as he interacts with Chagan Shaman, largely referred to as Baba throughout the volume. She knows and sees the rukh like Aladdin does, but he doesn’t learn much about the rukh in his journey here. What he learns about is relationships. Over the short time he spent with her, he had fun and excitement and danger and, eventually, death. But Aladdin feels bad over crying over the loss of the loved one here because he doesn’t hold as many memories with Baba as everyone else does. He relegates himself to the corner of the room, alone, to mourn Baba by himself.
She appears, an amalgamation of rukh in her form, and gives her final lesson. Memories aren’t something that can be quantified like Aladdin is doing. Memories are the things that bring us together as a clan, as friends, and as fellow human beings. Aladdin cared for Baba just as much as the rest of the clan and he should be able to cry with them over the death.
The scene points directly at what the death means to Aladdin and the Kouga, but it’s giving Aladdin perspective on his newfound friendship with Alibaba. He wants to see him, of course, but he’s made these new friends in the Kouga Empire. It’s never stated outright, but Aladdin wants to stay there for these people. But he remembers the promise he made to Alibaba to see the world and it’s that last scene with Baba that helps him through this difficult decision.
Magi doesn’t really up the ante, so to speak, with this volume, but it does to volumes for Aladdin. He remains a big mystery up to this point and it could stay that way for all I care. What’s important right now is how Aladdin interacts with Alibaba and Morgiana and any backstory added should inform that current situation. Despite that, what we do need to know more about is what Magi are and what rukh are. We perhaps spent too much time with the Kouga Empire, but each page seemed to fly by and less might have sacrificed the emotional impact of the climax.
Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: December 10th, 2013