After finishing Magi it has become the best shounen anime of all time. Well at least in my opinion and for me is at the forefront of the traditional action shounen and should be an inspiration for all shounen to come. Dedicated plot progression without the fillers, an Imaginative yet alluring world and the power level escalation is exceptionally well passed! Well at least in my opinion.
Magi is a tale set in the Old World loosely based off both "One Thousand and One Nights" and "Ali Baba and Forty Thieves" with an anime flavoured twist. Filled with dungeons brimming with magical traps and enemies who lie in wait for adventurers who dare to conquer it, to claim the rich rewards that each dungeon guards. Mixed with magicians and political tension and that's only the surface.
Magi's world and setting is superbly crafted while still having the authors' imaginative flair that keeps us absorbed in the show. While it introduces us to the world gently and sits on the cusp of familiarity (for those who know the origins of the story), a world that we know once existed but never experienced! Rarely have I seen this done in shounen so well utilising the audience's preconceptions and knowledge to build their world. They then brilliantly introduce us the rest of the world and establish the character's personalities and provides scale to the story we are watching and I love the authors re-imagining of the setting. Magi rest its hands on our shoulders, giving us some of what we love while providing us an inspiring world. With the rising power of the Kou Empire (Imperial China) and the ever present Reim Empire (Historical Roman Empire) you have an epic just waiting to be told!! Mix in magic and powerful djinns who grant devastating power, and we've got probably the perfect shounen set-up. Blending it all together and we have something so intoxicatingly addictive and appetising show.
During the process of writing this piece, Jason Krell wrote an article earlier here about power levels in stories and how it affects the series. (Give it a read; it's got many valid points and is a good read in my opinion.) I would also like to address how Magi handles this, being a core part of most shounen. Magi establishes itself quite well already with its setting that lends a great framework for our characters (albeit Aladdin, because he's arguably questionable on how it's presented) When the story hints at growing instability in the world with expanding empires /nations, it would make sense that these empires might contain powerful warriors. As the story progresses we are introduced to all these amazing characters ranging from scarred princes, loyal generals and pretty princess all capable of laying varying degrees of waste to those who stand before them. All the while we learn about the mechanics of acquiring power and its influences of the inhabitants of the world. Our main characters are nicely handled in this aspect as they become stronger throughout the plot while never making it feel rushed, always giving them time and meaningful incentives. This is one of the many things I loved about Magi. The grand scale of the entire show is just wonderful how it unfolds itself, to us as an audience. At first it was concentrated in one small country but quickly evolves and explores beyond the horizon to neighbouring empires and things like the Seven Seas Alliance. . The speed and care that is given to introducing these characters to the story is evident and provides excellent entertainment, truly a delight to watch.
As in all shounen of this type our protagonists are faces with various hurdles they must overcome. Generally speaking these hurdles take the shape of a new antagonist leading to some form of confrontation, usually leading to fighting. This happens a lot, scaling with the length of the entire series. It's part of the package with most shounen and different series handle this aspect in their own way and a lot of the time, it's quite the stale formula, unconvincing and most of the time seemingly pointless. Magi on the other hand manages to stay fresh, absorbing and most important of all, entertaining. It accomplishes this feat by making every encounter meaningful, everything builds upon something. Magi gradually reveals its world, presenting the grand scale of the show. From the village they come from, the town they grew up in, the cities that they reside, the countries that their friends hail from to the world that holds their past and future. Collectively this lends greater meaning to every encounter, hurdle and fight. Every time there is something is at stake, and it's never tedious or fatiguing because of the carefully crafted evolution of the show. Magi shows us the poverty stricken country, the suffering orphans, the history of the people and sometime this takes in the simplest of forms. This is what drives magi forward when handling the stepping stones of progression and growth for the story and our characters. I can only applaud and love it.
I always say that what drives a story are the characters that inhibit the show (I do! I swear, I just haven't had the chance to put it in an article and I'm sure I'm not the only one either) and this stands true with magi (and that makes sense that it would right?) One of the great features these characters have is how amazing they fit into the demographic of their audience, yet still feel refreshing and likeable. In shounen it's hard not to have a reasonably generic, blank main protagonist due to the need to be rooting for our hero and therefore not hating them, hence making them plain and flat in order to remove the possibility of us not liking the protagonist. Don't get me wrong Magi have also committed this offence in places, yet most characters are dynamic and interesting. Sure Magi utilises some old character archetypes and traits you've seen before, yet how they're portrayed is as I stated before, fresh and responsive when interacting with each other. I'm going to try and dance around spoilers here in case by this stage people are already convinced they want to watch the show, or are on the fence waiting for further explanation. What I love is variety, and when watching Magi and its colourful varied cast, you get to know them, sympathize with them and understand them. That's the key part of Magi's success, in discovering and understanding the expansive cast and the proficiency with which it handles itself. While at the beginning we are shown clear distinction of what is "evil" and what is "good" , yet as our characters grow and the world progress, that line becomes all the more blurry. This stage we've found a level of understanding with these characters, pulling us into their world and all the while entertaining us is what I found brilliant. This develops into a fantastic display of conflicting ideals and growth of the cast.
If we could become gentle without making anyone cry
I wonder if we could become heroes without making anyone the villain
- Eden by Aqua Timez (Ending theme for Magi)
I honestly fell in love with the motif of innocence I interpreted throughout the early stages of Magi. What better theme to have in a shounen right? We're shown that, once we were young like these characters, blindly and unknowingly doing what WE thought was right for our ideas and beliefs. Never understanding the real situation and the consequence of our actions, only to later grow and become aware of the people around us. The very nature of innocence is then developed when our characters search for forgiveness, find acceptance or value their friendship (it's a shounen, what did you expect?) For that shounen demographic, innocence is something I would highly rate as a key ingredient at their stage in life, I mean, hell, it's a trait we still might have later in life and all humans can relate to and it's a core value in our lives as we grow and mature. One more theme which I resonate with is that somehow every character is trying to find to their place or leave a mark in this crazy world, from a boy finding the origin of his reason of existence, to realizing a long, lost forgotten dream, forging a future for the people of their country and uncovering the secrets of the world. At the very basic level these things are surly something I'm sure we've experienced to a degree or know someone else who has, which just connects the audience on an even higher plane. I only have kudos for the show.
For everything I've said above, I want to state that this isn't the best anime ever. I just wanted to project my thoughts of why I believe Magi is the best shounen I've seen (probably isn't that hard) and that it does something very rare. It raises the bar in the genre, even if only slightly though. In a medium that's saturated in a genre already dominated by established series. Magi is a shining example of how others should consider adaptation and change. Maybe I've over analysed, or am stupidly wrong about everything, but what I can certainly say with all my heart that it was entertaining. Something that kept me interested week by week, season after season (literally, since there's only 2 seasons)
Big special thanks to my companion and editor who always slapped my hand for being silly, and refraining from being really offensive to your favourite anime