Friday, August 19, 2016

Manga Review: Magi (volumes 13 - 17)

Well I guess this is the once-yearly Magi post, based on when I last posted. Since I'm trying to review Magi by arc now I should note that this isn't the end of an arc, going by summaries for future volumes and accounting for my library taking a little bit of time to acquire the volumes, I worked out that if I waited until this arc was over that I wouldn't review this batch of volumes until January 2017. So, plan B, I kept looking through the summaries and this appears to be the calm before the storm of the climax of the arc and therefore the next best stopping place to talk about what is going on (I also might've forgotten to review volumes 11 and 12 in the past???). So, let's get to it!

Magi by Shinobu Ohtaka (volumes 13-17)

With the Sindria Kingdom arc wrapped up, it's time for the trio and Hakuryuu to split up and go their separate ways for a time. Morgiana is traveling to the Dark Continent to try and find her family, Hakuryuu is going back home to the Gou Empire to deal with his family, Alibaba is going to improve his fighting by training in a gladiatorial ring in the country of Reim, and Aladdin is traveling to Magnostadt to train in using magic like a normal magician. This arc is focusing mostly on Aladdin and it's good to see that the story can hold it's own that way. While Aladdin is the titular magi of the title (or at least, one of them), so far the focus of the story has always been either about the characters as a group or tilted a little more towards Alibaba (even though yes the trio has been split up before). So far Morgiana and Hakuryuu have been barely present at all and Alibaba has only made brief appearances as well, although that looks to change in the next volume. So it's been Aladdin off on his own in a strange and worrisome country.

Usually I can think of a real-world analog to the countries in Magi but I'm stumped here. We learned a few volumes ago that  the Musta'sim Kingdom was overthrown in a revolution about ten years ago and this set of volumes clarifies: it was a minority group of magicians (who were scorned and practically conscripted for their abilities) who overthrew the ruling elite, renamed the country Magnostadt, and now the magicians are in control without a single non-magician (Goi) in sight. You do get major overhauls of the class system after some revolutions (see France, or at least some of France's revolutions) but Magi goes even farther with the magicians essentially enslaving the Goi for their energy I am glad that Aladdin recognized this as completely wrong from the start, some other characters wrestle with the idea "is it okay for bread and circuses to be literally someone's only 'choice'?" I am surprised that the story hasn't yet brought up the practical implications that this will collapse in a generation just due to a lack of people, although given that they'll surely be using a lot of that magical energy in the upcoming fight against the Reim Empire I may be simply jumping the gun.

I've been talking a lot about the plot and while there is character development on Aladdin's end, honestly I just find the plot more engrossing right now. Aladdin has already been through his first round of character development so he's a little less comedic and irritating than he was at the very beginning of the manga and it's clear that he's right in the middle of another big push and I'm curious what his own personal ideologies will end up being. But Aladdin is still trying to work that out right now, he's seen things he does and doesn't agree with in all of the countries he's been too but Aladdin isn't coming up with his own ideas quite yet. Who knows what the rest of this arc will bring however, while Aladdin has met self-certain leaders before they have always been the kind of people who valued their own power over everything else. This is the first time (bar perhaps Sinbad) that Aladdin has met one who genuinely thinks they are doing the best thing for everyone and that is a different type of antagonist all together, who knows if Aladdin will be able to reason a way out of this impending conflict.

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