Story/Art: Shinobu Ohtaka
Translation & English Adaptation: John Werry
Touch-up Art & Lettering: Stephen Dutro
Editor: Mike Montesa
What They Say:
Having seized the Sacred Palace, Sinbad rewrites the world’s Rukh and thus the world’s fate. Alibaba, Aladdin, and Morgiana decide that they must take matters into their own hands. With Hakuryu and Judar’s help, they head for the Sacred Palace, where Sinbad awaits…
Inside the Sacred Palace, Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana must face the Seven Dungeons of Sinbad—strange and deadly, magical labyrinths where time flows backward and forward all at once! A confrontation with Sinbad was expected, but can they handle different versions of Sinbad at different times in his life?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Since the beginning of this time skip, this has gone from a romping adventure manga about conquering dungeons and fighting monsters and slavery is bad, but then it became a manga about economics and politics and power struggles. Now, it seems, Magi is something different, but branching, from either of those.
Magi is now a manga about philosophy, specifically about the freewill inherent within man (that is the classical, sexist use of the word man when folks like probably Plato and Descartes would use man to mean people of intelligence, completely ignoring women exist, anyway I should have just used humanity and avoided this whole parenthetical). But also about whether something like fate exists, whether gods should implore their own thoughts and feelings and will upon those lesser than him (this time I mean a literal him—Sinbad, and to a lesser extend Solomon).
What I love about Magi, and what has elevated it above a lot of other shonen action series, is when it continually evolves like this. It makes its stories more complex as it goes along, understanding that the readers that picked it up from chapter one have matured as well. It also understands the inherent power creep that’s problematic in most shonen manga, and it deals with it pretty deftly. At this point, Aladdin and Alibaba are fighting against a literal god, but it never feels like it’s a given they’re going to win or lose. They’re just in the normal fight that they’ve been in since the beginning, just with way more power now. It helps that Aladdin seems very close to a god himself, but still.
Ohtaka even frames these latest fights around philosophy, having each layer of this fight against Sinbad be one fight against Sinbad at the time he captured the djinn and each asking some sort of question. Each of these is named some sort of trial as well. Bael—the trial of wrath and heroism—should you yield to an unjust fate, or use force to destroy it? Valefor—the trial of falsehood and faith—in an unjust world, what should you doubt and what should you believe? Zepar—the trial of spirit and control—in an unfair world, should people make their own choices, or should others lead them? Furfur—the trial of insanity and gloom—where I guess they just fight and then whoever wins gets their choice of thing to happen. It’s like the great philosopher Doflamingo says, “Whoever wins this war will become justice!”
But the interesting thing about these binary questions is that its never truly one or the other. Life is much more complicated than that, and Magi recognizes that. In Bael’s trial, Judar decisively declares that he will destroy an unjust fate, but the answer is far more complicated than yield or destroy. He doesn’t yield because he is so certain in his own personhood, while the Sinbad that encountered Bael at 14 was not so certain of that. He yielded, somewhat, by default as a means of survival, as a boy who had just lost his entire life.
And so on for the rest of them. It may have been a choice, but it’s much more complicated.
I’ll get into what they’re really trying to do in the next and final double review of Magi, because I’d like to see it play out before giving a bunch of takes about it. But this is the kind of thing that I love about Magi. At its face, it was a really fun adventure manga loosely based on the 1001 Arabian Nights. But it’s become so much more than what it set out to be at its beginning (I haven’t read the 1001 Arabian Nights, so maybe its similar?). The economics stuff before was immensely fascinating to me and now, as a philosophy minor (which means I know enough to be obnoxious and intellectually curious about it, but not enough to have true substance in the matter), this arc is hitting all the buttons I just want out of any manga. It’s the same kind of thing that made me love Ghost in the Shell or Psycho-Pass, or more recently Id:Invaded. It may be my favorite shonen manga.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: February 12, 2019 and April 9, 2019
MSRP: $9.99 each