I was both impressed and disappointed by the first episode of, MAGI – The labyrinth of magic.
I understand when a series makes the leap from one medium to another, it is acceptable for there to be differences between the two. It would only make sense to allow the production studio to grab hold of the reins and present its own liberal interpretation. After all, the demographic isn’t always the same, and a certain amount of room for changes needs to be available; if not only for different tastes but to iron out any inconsistencies from the manga. One also has to take into account time constraints, since twenty-three minutes is not enough time to properly hook viewers without plenty of action. And because I understand all this, and I respect the time and effort that is placed in the animating process; I have to excuse A-1 Pictures for completely skipping the first chapter of the manga. Oops, that’s right: Spoiler.
MAGI is one of only a few shounen titles I consider worth reading these days, and as painful as it is to see them animating this I bit my tongue and watched the first episode ready to criticize at every turn. Overall, it was not bad. They decided to trek the harder route by erasing the existence of two minor characters, and then had to rewrite the script so events from the first and second chapter intertwined. It was commendable that it worked out; but in the chopping process they had to introduce unnecessary elements like a slave carriage and a character that wasn’t supposed to be in the episode yet: Morgiana.
Wait, let’s track back and explain the plot. MAGI stars a little boy by the name of Aladdin who travels out into the world in search of friends. On his journey he meets up with Ali Baba, a cart driver with a mysterious past, whose destiny is set in motion by his chance encounter with the magi, Aladdin. It’s a very simple plot designed to be vague for growth and development. In this world there are “dungeons” that when cleared bear high rewards in the form of treasures and powerful magical creatures known as “Djinns.” In the arcs to follow, the MAGI manga deals with a multitude of topics ranging from politics and war to even darker themes such as slavery, poverty, corruption and death. At times it makes me wonder if it’s actually intended for children. Rather than summarize the whole episode I chose to describe the subtle differences between the manga and the anime via its introduction of the characters.
Ali Baba, one of the protagonists of the series, is introduced as a weak and feeble character whose hesitation is his biggest drawback. In the manga his overall persona is roughly the same, but when push came to shove he went out of his way to make the right decision with no regard to his personal well-being. This facet of his personality is what attracted Aladdin to him and serves as the groundwork for their friendship. Yet in this first episode where he is supposed to be the hero of the story, he is more of a supporting prop. During his one moment of spotlight he is out-shined by Aladdin and Morgiana. When a little girl falls into the stomach of a Desert Hyacinth, a monster found in the desert, Ali Baba is shown hesitating to rescue her and a televised minute nearly goes by featuring his inhibition to abandon his own security. Morgiana ends up being the first to attempt helping the girl, while Aladdin does most of the dirty work later on. I think the animated version of this important scene downplays Ali Baba as a key character.
Morgiana tends to stick out like a sore thumb in the anime, mostly due to her red hair. In manga, things are either black or white so she sort of faded into the background most of the time. That is nearly impossible now. I have to agree she looks much better in the anime, but that’s the only improvement from the manga. Let’s face the fact, Morgiana is an awesome badass in the manga. This first episode over-emphasizes on her femininity to a point where she becomes another weak female heroine that is in constant need of saving. She’s supposed to be one of the strongest characters in this series, and yet she falls into a Hyacinth and is unable to do anything? That doesn’t even make sense. I realize it is a ploy to fool viewers, and in the coming episode she will display an uncharacteristic explosive bout of power, but it’s retarded to attempt deceiving viewers when you have her kicking in the heads of giant tigers in the opening theme.
Aladdin is pretty much how I expected him to be, except they emphasize his perversity to a degree where I can’t help but feel betrayed. I have nothing more to comment on this character.
A-1 Pictures is not known for producing long series, so I imagine this will be cut short to a 13 or 26-episode series. The manga is still ongoing, so unless they are willing to change the entire content of the story I do not know how they plan to do this. I just hope they don’t decide to start writing their own thing and end the series prematurely with some half-assed scenario where all the bad guys get taken out in the last two episodes.
On another note, despite all that this series has going for it, I just can’t help but draw similarities between this and The Last Airbender sometimes. I wonder why. Magi just has more elements to bend.