Thursday, April 9, 2015

Manga Review: Magi (volumes six through ten)

Funny enough, when I posted my review of the first five volumes of Magi I thought "yeah, I'd really like to read more of this" and went back to my library website where I found volumes nine and ten. I requested them and kept scrolling (my library, like every other one I've known, doesn't always have an author's work appear chronologically in searches) only to realize that nope, volume ten had only dropped the previous week but they had never gotten six through eight! I had a similar situation with Gundam The Origin some people might recall so I do plan on submitting a purchase request for everyone else who wants to read it (my library doesn't just ask for the title and author, I have to put in things like original publication date, publisher, and ISBN which seems like a safeguard against spam but a really inelegant way to do it). So, scanlations were used for those missing volumes and man I am glad for professional translations, I have known some scanlation groups who do a pretty good job but these were inferior to the Viz ones in style and word choice!

Magi by Shinobu Ohtaka

The struggle for control of Balbadd rages on and Ali Baba is growing more confident in himself but still very unsure of what simply needs to be done. Later, he, Aladdin, and Moirgana venture to Sinbad's kingdom to learn more about their new, djinn related powers and for light hearted adventure.

As I wondered when writing my last review, this is not the best way to split up my reviews. It would have been better if I had reviewed volumes one through three, four through eight, and then nine to the end of this current arc which seems to be volume twelve. Although I wouldn't want to read all of those volumes in a single go each time since that means I'd only get to do it once a year and this series really has grown on me! I'm not sure I would enjoy it reading it chapter to chapter as much, although it is a weekly series which would fit it's long style of pacing, but while this is a "battle tournament" story half of the time the fights usually don't go on too long and Ohtaka has a good sense for balancing tense events next to lighter ones to prevent reader fatigue. I was surprised to see the boob jokes and caricatures reappear once the story moved into the Sinbad arc since they had been gone for so long and, while still not funny at all there are fewer of them, I wonder if the manga-ka or the editor is responsible for that choice. 

Speaking of good choices, the conflict in Balbadd reaches a not "satisfying" conclusion for the characters but a "satisfying" one for me as a reader, Ohtaka had created a situation without an easy way out and did not suddenly provide one which I really respect. It's still not the smartest political drama (I go to Log Horizon if I want something a bit deeper) but again it's not a series where a character clearly made a wrong choice at a very exact moment and you're just aggravated at them for it. I was a bit nervous about introducing democracy into the story (since, not only is this a story about kings but as an American I am aware that just dropping democracy in a place and walking away really doesn't work) but there were a few asides about this being done in other places so I'm find with it, plus it's clear that Ali Babba will return someday for a more direct role in Balbadd's government anyway.

Moving onto the characters, Ali Babba still irritates me a bit of the time (and I'm confused why Aladdin is framed as the titular and most central character but Ali Babba is the main character, maybe it has to do with audience reliability?) but he's getting better and so is Aladdin. I'm thrilled that the story has given in and cemented Moirgana's status as the third member of their trio and I'm also really enjoying the new Kou Empire characters. While the Kou Empire itself is clearly a mid- or final-level boss in the series most of the characters so far come off as rounded people, it's the other, mysterious new organization that feels as flat and as villainous as it can. I'm rather sure that they are the final villains and will be sticking around for a while so I'm not sure if I want them to stay evil all the way through or if I really want some villain redemption as we go along, guess I'll have to badger my library for volume eleven onwards to find out!