Magi has an Arabian Nights theme, and it features Aladdin and Alibaba as the main characters.
Magi Volume One
Written by: Shinobu Ohtaka
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: August 13, 2013
The story of Magi is set in an alternate recreation of the ancient Old World with several regions and nations bearing some resemblance with their real-life counterparts from that time. This world includes several magic castles full of treasures and traps that are known as “Dungeons,” and each of them is the home of a powerful magic being called a Djinn. Those who overcome the trials of the Dungeon earn the allegiance of its Djinn and gain the ability to use its powers infused in a personal item of theirs.
A boy named Aladdin travels the world, and while on his journey, he meets a merchant named Laylah, and Sasha, the daughter of a caravan leader. They first meet when a hungry Aladdin eats up the fruit that Laylah was going to sell, and Laylah forces Aladdin to work three days for her for free to make up for it. Aladdin carries around a flute, which turns out to be the vessel for a Djinn named Ugo. When the caravan is attacked by bandits, it’s revealed that Laylah was working for them. However, we see that Laylah truly came to see Sasha as a friend and didn’t want to follow through on her mission. When the caravan leaves, Laylah knows they’re heading for a trap, and it’s up to her and Aladdin to save them.
This first story is basically here to establish the character of Aladdin, as well as the fact that he has a Djinn. It’s revealed rather quickly that while Aladdin may look like a little kid, he’s actually very perverted. He gets rather “friendly” with Sasha at one point during the story, and we also see Aladdin’s pervy side in action later in the volume.
Aladdin doesn’t stay with Laylah and Sasha for long, and he continues on his journey in a carriage being driven by Alibaba. A wealthy wine merchant, along with a woman and her daughter, are also passengers on the carriage. The carriage gets into an accident, and the merchant is more concerned about his wine than with the little girl who falls toward a carnivorous plant known as a desert hyacinth. Prior to this point, Ohtaka had already made it clear to the audience just how despicable, arrogant and annoying the wine merchant was, so it really wasn’t a surprise when he acted like this during the accident. Alibaba gives the merchant a much deserved punch, and he jumps toward the plant to save the girl. Aladdin reveals that his turban can be used as a magic carpet, which he uses to dump all of the merchant’s wine to save Alibaba and the girl. Of course, this angers the merchant, and now Alibaba has racked up a debt he has to pay off for the wine that Aladdin took.
We learn that Alibaba want to capture a Dungeon in order to claim its riches so he can pay off his debts and become wealthy. After discovering that Aladdin has a Djinn in his flute, he decides that he needs Aladdin with him in order to have access to the Djinn. However, as the volume progresses, we see that Alibaba does think of Aladdin as more than just someone to have around because of his Djinn. I don’t think you can entirely say they’re friends yet by the end of Volume One, but they seem to be heading in that direction.
The wine merchant makes another appearance in this volume, when he witnesses Aladdin using his Djinn to free a slave, which is against the law. The merchant tries to get Aladdin and Alibaba in trouble with Jamil, the lord of the oasis of Qishan. Fortunately, they manage to get away and make it into the first Dungeon. Their adventure in the dungeon is just getting going as the volume ends.
I have to admit that generally, stories with an Arabian Nights theme tends to not do much for me. However, I was surprised to find that I was enjoying what I was reading in Magi, with the exception of a couple of “fanservice” moments, such as Aladdin nuzzling himself into Sasha’s breasts and Aladdin and Alibaba’s visit to a hostess establishment. There’s no actual nudity shown in these scenes, though, so it’s not as bad of fanservice as it could have been.
When it comes to the art, though, I have to admit that there really isn’t much here to make it stand out to me. The occasional close-up panel may have a little more detail than the rest of the art in the volume, but that’s about it. It’s not that the art is bad, because it isn’t. It’s just that very little jumps out at me as being something that stands out in comparison to other manga that I’ve read.
Magi has an interesting story going for it, even with the average art, so it’s a series I’m definitely willing to try to read more of in the future. If you enjoy stories with an Arabian Nights theme or are set in an ancient Old World setting with magical elements, then you might enjoy reading the Magi manga series.
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