12 Days of Anime: Day 5 – Magi and the Power of Friendship

Day 5: Magi

On the fifth day of anime my waifu gave to me,
five metal vessels!
four Riki routes…
three Jormungands…
two rockin’ Joestars…
and a chu2 from KyoAni!

First off, let me say that Ugo is totally be a studmuffin.

First off, let me say that Ugo is totally a studmuffin. Just wanted to get that off my chest.

Magi is a wonderful show I’ve quickly become quite fond of. It’s a very classic “coming of age” journey, told in a very cool style and setting. For me, it’s nice to sometimes have the simpler story with the clear thematic intentions than the gritty gray-zone epic fantasies that much of the media is enamored with today (digression about this at the end of the post), as well have a tale in the style of One Thousand and One Nights. It also reminds me of Disney’s Aladdin movie series in a way, which completes the nostalgia-inducing experience and makes me go “omg, my childhoooooodddddddd <3<3<3,” which might bias my opinions a tad. It’s nice to simply follow the characters as they learn the true meaning of friendship, exploring the world, and believing in yourself! So far I haven’t been disappointed.

So what does Magi want us to take away from it (besides the fact that Sinbad is a pimpstack of a character ? Well, the power of friendship is not a bad place to start. Appreciating the people who understand you and will be with you through thick and thin; how being part of a group is better than going it alone; how you celebrate and suffer together. It’s great stuff.

You see it with Alibaba, Aladdin, and Morgiana.

I mean, look at that solidarity! And wtf Jafar, sucker-punching a little kid.

I mean, look at that solidarity! That’s friendship right there. And wtf Judal, sucker-punching a little kid. Also, for having abs that rival Taylor Lautner’s – that’s plain unfair.

You see it with Sinbad, Masrur, and Jafar.

Look at that companionship and love! It's actually great to see what the three are like, since they parallel the younger trio very nicely.

Look at that companionship and love! It’s actually great to see what the three are like, since they parallel the younger trio very nicely and give a nice glimpse into what their relationship might look like. Masrur’s personality is also quite similar to Morgiana’s, although I’m not not if Alibaba can become as badass as Sinbad.

You can sort of see it with Alibaba and Kassim in the past.

I mean, this is nothing if not adorable! Alibaba seriously had such a great mother.

I mean, this is SO CUTE! I swear I almost had a heart attack at how adorable this scene was. Alibaba had an amazing mother.

And of course you have Aladdin and Ugo!

Awwww! I mean, when Aladdin's wish for Ugo to simply be his friend is a powerful thing.

Aladdin’s wish for Ugo to simply be his friend is a powerful thing, and that choice has clear implications throughout the show (at least so far). I mean, what is happiness, status, wealth, or influence if you have no one to share it with?

We see also see the wrath and retribution, and the hurt, that accompanies such friendships, at least where Ugo is concerned.

I was cheering when Ugo went all whoop-ass on Judal. He deserved it! And his wrath, although startling to Aladdin, was well justified.

I was cheering when Ugo went all whoop-ass on Judal. He deserved it! And his wrath, although startling to Aladdin, was well justified.

Now, going back to Kassim, we see that his character (and his friendship with Alibaba) becomes corrupted by his loss, and this actually pervades his character and becomes his destruction (or at least, I’m predicting it will be). And so another other big message here is to not be tied down by your past. Alibaba is shackled by his past, both by his heritage and by Kassim, and Aladdin and Sinbad are a huge part of him breaking out and taking responsibility (well, it’s leading up to it, if the next few episodes are any indication). Again, Kassim actually is (or will be) undone by his inability to break free of the chains of hatred that have wound themselves around him. Morgiana is originally also shackled (literally and figuratively) by hers – Aladdin even makes the acute observations that she is bound by “invisible chains” when he adventures with her the first time. And of course, Aladdin is bound by his past and responsibilities – but he isn’t held down by them (at least, not yet). So being able to deal with (and get over) your past is a big part of what the show is getting at.

Kassim's inability to break free of the past is especially noticeable in his interactions with Sinbad. His abuse of Alibaba earlier is also quite telling, and shows what type of character he's become.

Kassim’s inability to break free of the past is especially noticeable in his interactions with Sinbad. His abuse of Alibaba’s friendship earlier is also quite telling and shows what type of character he’s become.

Of course there, are the usual bad guy vs. good guy themes, the benefit of helping others and not solely of yourself, the corrupting influence of power (Judal much?), that slavery is bad, and other issues. But I feel the first two points are the core themes of the show and ultimately the key to what Morgiana, Alibaba, and Aladdin must learn in order to succeed in their quest. Plus the fact that I’m lazy and finals and stuff. And so that’s it for me today!

Of course, there's also this.

Of course, there’s also this.

Digression:
I mean, just look at all the Hollywood reboots of classic superhero tales that have tried to take on a darker tone (e.g. The Dark Knight trilogy, Superman Returns, Spiderman, etc.). While it probably is a sign that Hollywood is unoriginal and can’t think of anything new, the fact that this type of thing sells means that society as a whole has come to like this type of gray story. Even in literature, we can see this sort of transition, comparing, say, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to Martin’s (called the “modern Tolkien” by some) A Song of Ice and Fire. I mean, it definitely true that old tales where the lines were clear cut are not necessarily the most realistic, and I do like some of these reboots that try to “humanize” the protagonist, but when you’re continually submerged in a sea of grime sometimes you yearn for something a bit more idealistic. A notable exemption of this type of would be Watchmen (oh I could rave about it at great length), which I loved precisely because it demonstrates explicitly how standard superhero ideologies break through Rorschach (who’s a fascinating character in his own right), while most reboots simply introduce a flawed character in the gray zone from the beginning.

Note: I took the photos from Random Curiosity, since they were just such high quality.

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7 responses to “12 Days of Anime: Day 5 – Magi and the Power of Friendship

  1. *insert gif of Colbert totally spazzing out*

    I’m half into watching the anime (as in I still need to catch up on it) because I’ve read the manga up to the latest chapter. It’s neat stuff considering it’s shounen, and it’s certainly kept my interest thus far, and sometimes I wonder if the anime will live up to its expectations.

  2. Stories where antagonists are evil for evil’s sake just aren’t relatable to most audience members. That’s not to say you can’t have a story with clear cut lines from at least one perspective. Just because a villain has justifiable reasons for their actions doesn’t necessarily mean they’re acceptable from the protagonist’s viewpoint. I can understand and respect (to some degree) what somebody believes in, but I certainly feel no need to tolerate it.

    I definitely agree with you that literature shouldn’t be bound by realistic settings. One of the best things about literature and other forms of art is that it can afford to be idealistic. Sometimes humans just need to see good and evil as black and white even when we live in a world where that is clearly not the case. It teaches us to stand up for what we believe in even though we may doubt it ourselves at times.

  3. Rereading old Magi blog posts when I should be writing an essay. A productive use of my time!

    I remember you mentioning that the second season of Magi didn’t match up to the first. Was it because it took that turn for the darker and the story no longer matched its vibrant, colourful aesthetic? I’ve been thinking there was something “off” about that second season as well (still haven’t finished it!) and felt my motivation to keep watching wane as soon as that war started. Which is a little weird, because in terms of the overall focus and clarity of the themes, the second season has really come into its own. Reminds me a little of how I felt about the second season of Valvrave, which I also never got around to finishing.

    What do you think?

    • You heard right – I thought the second season was a little bit lackluster. But definitely not just because of darker content. And not because of the themes, because the second arc becomes a lot grander and more thematically coherent. My main gripes with it were:
      1) Pacing. Although a lot of people complained about how rushed the first season was, I found the pace to be just right. It slows down significantly in sections of Season 2 (and speeds up for no reason in others – like the Alibaba/Morgiana subplots that just totally don’t get resolved or only get 1 episode).
      2) Overuse of dialogue. I think Artemis or some other aniblogger commented at one point about how most anime just use a lot of dialogue for no real reason. Essentially, while in manga this is fine to sort of “tell” what’s going on because dialogue functions as part image, in actual anime (which owes a lot of the practice to its roots in manga adaptations) it just becomes a lot of “telling” and not “showing”. It got especially bad in the later episodes in Magnostadt, where a decent chunk of the fight turns into dramatic speeches and a lot of (over-)explaining of things that have already been made decently clear earlier in the show. It’s not as bad as Psycho-Pass, but the redundancy (and frequently really dramatic overtones) just didn’t work for me.
      3) Power scaling issues. As with every show like this, there’s a lot of issues when character’s become OP. And Magi gets it pretty bad: by the end, characters have the power to raise volcanoes, decimate entire battlefields, and essentially cause A-bomb level explosions. This leads to problems similar to those Code Geass faced in its second run, where everyone could just wipe out entire armies and you sit there going “whaaaaa??”.
      4) Bait-and-switch of thematic focus. I was originally excited because Magi took place in a very cool setting and dealt with some simple themes in a remarkably fresh manner, and I wanted to see it really explore that realm. But then in the second season, it becomes clear all the different settings are simply meant to be symbolic for different nations and parts of history and the theme shifts heavily onto power and governance. While this isn’t really a problem (it’s executed pretty well, as far as I can tell), this realization took place in the middle of the second season. So I kind of felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me for a bit, and when I finally got around to accepting that premise, the excessive and over-dramatic monologues hit.

      I think those are the main reasons in a nutshell, which turned what I originally thought was a really entertaining show with simple themes into a much less entertaining show albeit with more complicated ideas. What are your thoughts?

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