Is Magi really all that magical?
Magi sets itself apart from the competition with it’s flavor. It’s not often we get a show inspired by Middle Eastern mythology. The series follows the adventures of a enigmatic boy named Aladdin, his magic djinn friend Ugo, and a youth looking for riches, Ali Baba. They set out to explore dungeons, large towers that started appearing fourteen years ago. They are said to hold untold treasures within them. Though a question still begs to be answered. Is its flair enough to make this show worthwhile?
I’m in love with this world. Middle Eastern mythology doesn’t often get it’s fair shake in anime. For that alone it makes this setting novel. It’s not afraid to go all in on its mythos. Everything from the desserts, the djinns, the slaves and the flying carpets it makes it feel ripped straight from Arabian Nights. I feel as if the show could air in Farsi, it would. When the creators believe in their world so much, it naturally trickles into the audience. As a viewer I can buy into this universe and sojourn on an adventure with Ali Baba and Aladdin whole heartedly.
Speaking of the two, they are great characters. They don’t betray much depth to them, but they know how to have a good time. I already love spending time with them, and accomplishing that in short order is impressive. Exploring the dangerous depths of the ominous towers looks like its going to be a fun romp with the pair.
Much of the joy in watching them comes from their interactions with each other. Their unexpected encounter with one another, their rocky start, and the final blossoming of their relationship all seem ripped from another anime we’re familiar with. It’s a trope that works well and makes their story together instantly relatable and believable.
The visuals do much to help construct this fantastic world. A crisp and bright palette help highlight the wonderful details in the background. Settings shift from bustling towns and bazaars, to expansive deserts and ominous towers gilded with gold. It’s a lively world that draws as much from historical Middle East as it does from the lore of that region. I can sense a bit of influence from Aladdin, the Disney movie, which excellently used light and shadows to give the beige hues some texture and contrast. It’s expertly used here and does much to keep even the emptiest of deserts interesting.
The choice of Kaori Ishihara for the voice of Aladdin works a lot better than I thought it would on paper. While the young boy does sound like a girl, it does convey his naivety well. Yuki Kaji does a great job as Ali Baba as well. He shows the greatest amount of emotional depth in his acting which helps enhance the performances of his peers.
I don’t see the plot moving in an interesting direction. It displays the typical shounen fluff wrapped up in its unique setting. It plays on the genres most tried and trued themes, honesty and friendship. I wish it hinted at something more. Maybe my expectations are just a bit unreal. All I see now is just two guys going on an adventure to get rich.
This might not be all that bad going forward. Sometimes a deeply intricate plot takes away from a flavorful setting. If that were the case then I’d rather just enjoy Magi’s wonderful storybook world. Hopefully it can strike a balance between these two aspects to create an engrossing series.