Non-Review of Magi the Magic Labyrinth

Someone asked me my half baked opinion of the anime MAGI: THE MAGIC LABYRINTH, and, unfortunately, I decided to answer.

I say unfortunately, because it is foolish of me to give an opinion on something I have not finished yet.

So the reader is warned that these opinions are subject to change as I learn more.

Also, spoiler warnings. Some of the plot twists mentioned below are clever, and I do not want anyone who has not seen the show to have them spoiled.

I do not recommend it, but I do not think it is bad. I have not seen enough to say.

So far it has not really grabbed me — but I am entertained and interested enough to keep watching.

Let me mention the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Good points first:

The soundtrack is top notch. The music director here has a good ear. He is not Joe Hisaichi, but he is good.

The conceit of the story, frankly, is brilliant: Mysterious, exo-dimensional trap-filled and monster filled labyrinths of magic have appeared inexplicably at random spots throughout the world to bestow magic superpowers and the crown of kingship on the adventurer-survivors who conquer the labyrinth. But to enter them is nearly certain death.

The hero Aladdin is a seven year old with a very appealing personality. When offered one wish from an all powerful genie, he wishes for the genie not to be his slave, but his friend. It is similar to the conceit in AH MY GODDESS but here, because it is innocent, it is sweet.

Aladdin is also an amnesiac. This is one of my favorite types of character, because the mystery of discovering one’s forgotten self is a perfect metaphor for the entire human condition.

One of the characters is secretly the bastard child of royalty, and, after the evil prince is overthrown in an early plot arc, does not take the throne, but elects to install a republic.

This, I thought, was a great idea, especially since the villain of that arc was a French-style Revolutionary and the hero was an America-style Revolutionary. The hero wanted freedom and equality, and the villain wanted revenge against the rich and powerful.

However, one plot point, early on, is simply one of the best and clearest things I have ever seen done in a story about political intrigue. A powerful empire destroys a smaller neighboring nation without drawing the sword by a treaty requiring all trade to be via a fiat currency. Gresham’s Law takes over, and the bad money replaces hard currency in circulation, and than the empire, which controls the printing presses, can create recessions and depressions in the victim nation at will, which they do in order to drive the victim into debt, whereupon the empire offers loans, knowing full well the victim nation will default, and the empire will cart off the collateral.

It is done so clearly, so simply, and so brilliantly, that I doff my cap to the writers. Considering how much nonsense has been written about economics and economic warfare over the years, this merits a salute.  (Yes, Heinlein, I am looking at you.  I read the Social Credit Theory hogwash you penned in BEYOND THIS HORIZON.)

The animation quality is good, and the characters have three dimensional personalities, but the writing is ambition, trying things and touching on themes I (at least) have not seen before attempted in anime.

Bad points:

Bad points? I don’t have any real complaints, but (so far) I also have not become infatuated with the series. I am interested enough to keep watching.

The writing, while ambitious, is uneven, and the characters, while three dimensional, are somehow bland. Not annoying, but not particularly appealing either, at least so far.

The lead character Ali Baba is a cowardly, self-doubting wimp at the beginning, who grows into an adult — but I have not seen enough episodes to see him grow yet.

So far, I just want to slap him across the face and tell him to man up — which may be exactly the reaction the writers want. I did not mind cowardly heroes at the onset of MY HERO ACADEMIA nor at the onset of KENICHI THE GREATEST DISCIPLE.

I like stories which build sympathy for the hero by having him orphaned in chapter one, such as Jommy Cross in SLAN or Harry Potter or Batman, etc. Here, Ali Baba is actually an orphan, but we do not find out until much later.

He is portrayed as hard-working, and he has a big dream: he wants to enter the death-labyrinth and become a king.

Morgiana is an Amazon who operates at an absurd level of superhuman strength. Somehow she was enslaved by a wretched, haughty and sadistic nobleman who might as well be Gollum.

At one point, she says her favorite thing to make her happy is to be in combat shoulder to shoulder with the men. Sure. Just like all teen girls.

Compare this to ONE PIECE, where the pirate girls when they have loot from their depredations on the high seas … go out shopping. If the Amazon girl wants to be in the fight to get closer to the guy she is trying to entrap into marriage, that would be a different story, and, perhaps, a better one.

Unfortunately, I have long since grown weary of young and pretty female characters portrayed as Hercules. That is no fault of the writing, but it is a conceit in a story to which I have been exposed too often.

She seems to be sweet on Ali Baba, but there is no chemistry between them at all.

She also decides to keep the chains of her slavery as a keepsake later on. I recall a similar thing in the last scene of that classic movie KRULL, where a slave warrior is so impressed by the prince that he keeps his fetters on his wrists after his manumission and elevation to royal marshal. I thought the idea awkward then, and think so here again.

Aladdin is an interesting concept for a character: he is a young child who is (perhaps) the reincarnation of Solomon, and he combines appealing traits of innocence and wisdom, which helps to inspire the other characters, but, again, so far as I have seen, there is no character arc for him, nothing he is really on screen to do, except act as a convenient deus ex machina.

The perennial problem of placing limits on what a magician can and cannot do in a story seems to have reared its head here. I cannot tell what he can and cannot do — but then again, neither does he.

Interestingly, Sinbad is a classic hero, complete with the comedic flaw that he is a lecher and a drunk, and he is so charismatic that he kind of upstages the main characters — something the characters in the story notice and remark on.

Now, it is not unheard-of to make the viewpoint character someone other than the hero — see, for example, Sherlock Holmes or BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA — but it takes a bit of skill to pull off, especially where the side character hero is not involved with the hero’s quest.

Regarding the overthrow of an evil prince to be replaced by a republic: My only complaint here is that the sudden appearance out of nowhere of republican sentiment — even the idea that anyone on the Arabian-night’s flavored fantasy planet would have such a concept — was not established beforehand, so it came out of left field.

There also seem to be an unusual number of abolitionists and anti-slavers for an Arabian-night’s flavored fantasy planet. Not that I mind — the whole point of the fantasy genre, from Beowulf to Tolkien and onward, is to put characters with modern values and viewpoints into the situations of our ancestors.

Another bad point for me is that so far, all of the villains have motives that seem to bear no relation to any human emotions I understand. That could just be me.

The ugly:

Aladdin as a seven year old has the “comedy” shtick of thrusting his underage face into the cleavage of any buxom maiden with reach, and rubbing his nose enthusiastically in the boobs. This was repellent rather than funny.

The sudden appearance in one scene, of a bare-breasted female genie, complete with pierced nipples and nipple-chains was also repellent.


Five out of ten, so far. I give MAGI a solid C, or perhaps a C plus.

I want to caution the reader that this is a tentative mid-stream review of a series I have not seen the whole of. So, take nothing here is definitive or final. This is jury deliberation, not verdict.

But I have liked what I have seen well enough to keep watching. The soundtrack alone might make it worth continuing.

But your time might be better spent watching The Ancient Magus’ Bride — watch that one first.