Title: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
Author: Shinobu Ohtaka (Sumomomo Momomo)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volumes 1 and 2, $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan, August and October 2013 by Viz
Genre: Adventure, fantasy
Imagine a land of magic, slaves, evil lords, vast deserts, caravans, tribes, and bandits. That’s not too difficult. There are plenty of fantasy settings just like that. Now throw in the sudden uprising (literally) of dozens of mysterious towering dungeons, popping up all across the land. Within each dungeon is said to be riches beyond imagining, though very few adventurers ever see the light of day again once they enter. This is the land of Magi: the Labyrinth of Magic. Enter Aladdin, a small boy (well, early teens, I’d say) wandering the land all on his own, a shining, metal flute around his neck apparently his one and only possession. It’s no ordinary flute, however, for inside it lives a magical djinn named Ugo, a massive being who pops out of the instrument when played…but is missing its head. When this djinn at his side, Aladdin has little trouble travelling the land, finding soft women to snuggle into, or digging up a good meal. This seemingly innocent boy is far more than he appears, and his carefree attitude is tossed aside when people are in trouble and need his help. The power of friendship is strong in this one. He did befriend one of the most powerful beings in existence, after all. Ugo isn’t his servant, but a friend completely willing to aid Aladdin when needed.
Eventually Aladdin comes across a caravan driver named Alibaba. Alibaba is a young man with a dream – to find and conquer every dungeon in the land! While he seems self-centered and selfish, when a person’s life is on the line, Alibaba can show a rare streak of courage, make apparent when he risks his life to save a child from a ravenous desert plant. Even using the expensive wine of his important passenger in order to rescue her. This impresses Aladdin, as does his wish to explore the dungeons, where Aladdin is hoping to find the djinn’s (specifically Ugo’s) metal vessel, which contains Ugo’s missing head. Unfortunately, destroying the merchant’s wine comes at a high price – the wine was to be delivered to the lord of the Oasis of Qishan, a man feared for his brutal temper and horrible treatment of his slaves. If Alibaba doesn’t repay the merchant, the lord will make him his slave! That’s more than enough reason for Alibaba to get off his butt and explore the nearest dungeon. Which happens to be right there in Qishan. Unfortunately, they get into some trouble along the way when Aladdin frees a slave in the middle of town, and have to rush into the dungeon without much preparation. On top of that, the town lord has heard about their quest, and Jamil has his own plans. He wants to make his own fortune instead of living off what the king gives him, and he thinks Aladdin can help him do it.
As if there weren’t enough dangers in the dungeon, like slime monsters and deadly traps, now they have Jamil and his slaves to deal with – the massive and super strong Goltas, and the small woman with powerful legs, Morgiana. Jamil also knows a secret about Aladdin – the boy is a Magi, a magician. Ten years ago, his tutor promised Jamil that a Magi would appear to proclaim the new king, and Jamil is ready for Aladdin to choose him. Jamil gets the jump on them while Aladdin is sleeping off the exertion from using Ugo too many times, and forces Alibaba to check ahead for traps. Unfortunately, Alibaba is swallowed up by a pit trap, but he didn’t vanish before playing a trick on Jamil which sends the lord off into the wrong direction in the dungeon. Alibaba finds his way back to Aladdin, and they head off on his magic turban (aka magic carpet) in the right direction, which leads them to the treasure room and Jamil into deadly danger. When Jamil finally shows up again, half-crazed and throwing his temper around, Alibaba reveals a few secrets of his own to best the man and his servants. Ultimately it’s Aladdin who saves the day, using magic to defend his friend, defeat Jamil, and awaken the Lord of the Dungeon, a djinn named Amon. Just as Aladdin is about to get some answers about his true identity, the dungeon starts to collapse through the interference of an outside force. It seems Aladdin isn’t the only Magi around.
The ending of the second volume is bitter sweet. Everyone is safe and sound, but Aladdin is nowhere to be found, leaving Alibaba bored with all his wealth and no friend around to share his new found happiness with. A new adventure is on the horizon for them both. Magi is an entertaining read. It does contain some typical adventure traits, like the dungeons and monsters, but there’s some unique things as well, like Aladdin’s magic flute. Aladdin himself is adorable and quite the charmer, a seemingly innocent boy with the hidden power of a god. Alibaba is a good foil, mature for his age (sort of), and struggling to find the courage to be a person of worth. The setting is very loosely derived from One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), the inspirations most obvious in the names of the main characters. This is an adventure in the classic sense, with dungeon exploration, treasures, and bizarre monsters to guard it. It’s well written, keeps up a steady pace, and is well drawn (especially for something that is published every week). It doesn’t do anything for me personally. I can’t pinpoint anything specifically wrong with it, so maybe it’s just not my cup of tea. Check it out for yourself; it’s at least something fresh and new.
If you don’t feel like reading the manga, you can watch the first season of the anime on Crunchyroll. It will also be airing this fall on Viz Media’s Neon Alley streaming service. The second season of the anime recently premiered on Crunchyroll, as well.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.