This series premiered in 2013 and the first season showed up on Netflix, seemingly, immediately. I put off watching it for a while, but I finally decided to give in and watch Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. I was going to just do a write-up of the entire series, but the story is so heavily partitioned that I thought it best to do this one season at a time.
Like many anime, the story of Magi is broken up into several story arcs. However, this show seems to try to cram a bunch of them into their own small spaces. As a result, each season contains several story arcs, many of which are only given a few episodes to run. In season one, those arcs are:
- Dungeon Arc (episodes 1-3)
- Kouga Arc (episodes 4-5)
- Morgiana Arc (episode 6)
- Balbadd Arc (episode 7-17)
- Sindria Arc (episode 18-20)
- Zagan Arc (episode 21-25)
The story begins with a flashback to the day that Aladdin made a request of the djinn, Ugo. Aladdin seems to have no idea of who/what he is and it seems like the djinn is obligated not to tell him. However, Ugo does agree to become his friend and accompanies him inside of a magical flute. While scavenging for food, Aladdin meets an indentured servant named Alibaba, who explains the lay of the land to him. Part of that includes explaining that some people in the land are slaves after they meet a girl with shackles on her feet named Morgiana. Aladdin displays Ugo’s power when Morgiana is abused by her master but Alibaba implores him to let it go. After seeing the power, Alibaba gets the idea to have Aladdin help him capture a dungeon, a magical structure that contains treasure and a Djinn.
Alibaba and Aladdin head into the dungeon and Aladdin has to use a lot of his power early on to keep Alibaba safe. They are followed by a cruel young royal named Jamil. Jamil also happens to be the one who owns Morgiana. Seeing an opportunity, Jamil enlists the help of Aladdin and Alibaba once they are inside the dungeon. Because Aladdin is already weakened, Alibaba agrees to go along with Jamil, but he soon figures out that the man is cruel, violent and crazy; not a great combination. Because Jamil looks down on him, it is easy for Alibaba to trick him and find the secrets of the dungeon himself. Through the adventure Alibaba reveals that he is well educated and that he knows royal swordplay. This drives Jamil crazy. Alibaba is able to defeat Jamil pretty easily and capture the dungeon. When Amon, the Djinn of the dungeon, appears he recognizes Alibaba as the person that Aladdin has chosen as his “kings candidate”. Even though Aladdin hasn’t consciously done this, and doesn’t know what it means, it’s his belief in Alibaba as a person that Amon is reading. He gives Alibaba the riches of the dungeon as well as access to his power, by binding himself to Alibaba’s sword. That turns Alibaba’s sword into what’s known as a “Metal Vessel” As the dungeon collapses around them, Alibaba and Aladdin are able to convince Morgiana to leave Jamil behind and come with them.
After capturing the dungeon Alibaba and Aladdin are separated…because magic. Aladdin ends up in a very far off land where he is picked up by the Kouga Clan. The Kouga clan is led by an old woman named Baba. She explains that the yellow bird-like energy that Aladdin often sees are called the “Rukh”. She explains to him that Rukh is the home of souls. It is the place that the energy of a soul returns to when the body dies. The guidance of the Rukh is also called “Fate” and it is the kind of guiding energy of the world as well as being the source of Magoi (magical energy). Baba quickly adopts the lost Aladdin as her own child and notices that he is favored by the Rukh.
However, the Kouga Clan is soon beset upon by the Kou Empire. They are visited by Hakuei Ren, a princess of the Kou Empire. Hakuei is also a general of one of their armies and a Dungeon Capturer herself. Hakuei wants the Kouga clan to become a part of the Kou Empire and hopes that she can negotiate with them peacefully. However, the Kouga are on edge and some of the other Kou soldiers have ulterior motives. Led by a soldier named Ryosai, some of Hakuei’s forces attempt to stage a revolt by the Kouga. They shoot Baba, mortally wounding her in order to bait her clan into a fight. Despite this, Baba urges her children not to fight back. Ultimately, it’s Aladdin and Hakuei who defeat the Kou soldiers after the plot is revealed. When Baba passes away, her spirit visits Aladdin as part of the Rukh, offering him comfort and a better understanding of it. Aladdin then leaves the Kouga to find Alibaba.
After her ordeal in the dungeon, Morgiana is still haunted by dreams and memories of Jamil brutally abusing her and breaking her spirit. In her dream she also sees her former fellow slave, Goltas, who sacrificed himself in the dungeon so that she could escape. He urges her to return home in order to fully experience her freedom. Because Alibaba used his riches to free all the slaves in Balbadd (partially to honor Aladdin), Morgiana is free to do as she wishes. Morgiana joins up with a caravan to head back to Balbad. During the journey she spends time contemplating freedom and slavery and the physical and mental wounds she’s sustained over her life. As you’d expect, the caravan runs into trouble. They are attacked by a band of thieves and slavetraders. After being poisoned, Morgiana is also captured.
Fatima, the leader of the thieves identifies Morgiana as a member of the Fanalis Warrior Tribe. The Fanalis are noted for having exceptional physical abilities and usually have muscular bodies and red hair, with piercing red eyes. Not yet feeling like she deserved to be free, Morgiana endures another turn as a slave. That is until Fatima refuses to help her friend because, well, she’s a slave. Morgiana gets fed up and realizes that she can use her physical gifts to free these slaves and to fight for (and with) others. She single-handedly destroys a bunch of wild animals that Fatima sicks on her before freeing the other slaves. To her surprise, she finds Aladdin among the slaves and he uses his powers to aid the escape. Once the dust clears, Aladdin and Morgiana head to Balbadd together.
Aladdin and Morgiana meet a man named Sinbad as they travel back to Balbadd. They are surprised to find out that he is the ruler of another kingdom, Sindria, who has come to find out why trade between Balbadd and Sindria has been broken. Sinbad is also the conqueror of 7 Dungeons and is accompanied by two of his generals: Ja’Far, his advisor and Masrur, a Fanalis. They are informed that the reason for the trade break is a group called the Fog Troupe. To Aladdin’s surprise, the Fog Troupe is led by Alibaba, who’s become one of Balbad’s most wanted. After an initial run in with Alibaba and the Fog Troupe, Morgiana abducts Alibaba and forces him to talk to Aladdin. Alibaba reveals that the Fog Troupe is actually being led by his childhood friend Kassim. Alibaba and Kassim had grown up in the slums together but grew apart when Alibaba discovered that his father was actually the king. Because the King favored his mother, Alibaba was taken to the palace and trained as prince even though he would occasionally go back to the slums and reconnect with Kassim. When he came back to Balbadd as an adult and found it in terrible shape and it’s people oppressed, he was convinced to join the Fog Troupe and to use his position as a prince to help spark a rebellion.
When Sinbad comes face to face with Alibaba, he surprises everyone by offering to join the Fog Troupe. He believes that Alibaba can use his position as a prince to affect actual change by going and confronting his half brothers who are in power. That plan doesn’t go well and Alibaba feels like he failed the people of Balbad because he couldn’t convince his brothers to change. While that meeting takes place, Aladdin runs into another Magi, Judar. Judar works for the Kou empire, who has had representatives show up at the palace as well. He tells Sinbad that what he’s really interested in is war and starts a fight with Aladdin after finding out that he’s a Magi. A huge fight ensues, during which Ugo is badly wounded and Aladdin is soundly beaten. There’s a lot of fallout of the battle and Aladdin takes a while to recover from using so much of his magoi in the fight. He loses the ability to travel with Ugo, but he is granted another power called “Solomon’s Wisdom”. While he’s recovering Alibaba discovers that his brother, Ahbmad has planned to sell the human rights of the Balbadd citizens in exchange for wealth. With his determination rekindled, he asks Sinbad for help in learning to use his Metal Vessel.
After some time training and getting his confidence back, Alibaba goes back to the palace alone. However, things quickly deteriorate into an all out war with Alibaba at the center of it. He uses his Djinn’s power effectively and has a lot of help from Morgiana. He makes his way into the throne room and, after a rousing speech, usurps control from his brother. Things are complicated because the Kou princess, Kougyoku Ren has arrived to marry Balbad’s king. Aladdin then employs a gambit to get Balbadd out of the mess it’s in. He dissolves the monarchy and removes the status of the nobility. He emplores Kougyoku to go along with this and ask the Kou royalty to accept it. As crazy as it is, his plan seems to work. Sinbad arrives at the palace, with his plan to install Alibaba as king being ruined by Alibaba’s brash actions. Still, Alibaba’s plan seems to have worked. However, Judar uses his dark Rukh and Kassim to insight resistance from the people. This leads to a final showdown between Kassim and Alibaba. As the two friend’s battle escalates, Judar gets involved. Kassim uses a dark metal vessel and transforms himself into a Dark Djinn. Just when Alibaba is in trouble, Aladdin returns with his new power. Together, the two are able to stop Kassim (after a lot of other stuff goes on). With Kassim dead, Judar retreats along with his accomplice. However, the accomplice is ambushed by Sinbad and his generals. Recognizing that this mystery man is the one pulling the strings, Sinbad goes all out for a brief time in order to take the guy out.
Immediately following the battle in Balbadd, Alibaba is eagerly working to convert the country to a republic with Sinbad’s help. However, the Kou Empire has sent a fleet to occupy the country. Fearing that the Kou will try to eliminate the remnants of the Balbadd royalty, Sinbad abducts Alibaba and takes him to Sindria. Months pass with Alibaba helplessly detained against his will. On Alibaba’s behalf, Sinbad goes on a diplomatic mission to keep the Kou from completely taking over Balbadd. He’s able to keep the people from losing their human rights and the people are allowed to run their own country. However, Balbadd itself is still occupied by the Kou and is, technically, still under the Kou’s rule. In addition, Sinbad is forced to accept one of the Kou Empire’s princes, Hakuryuu Ren, as a student in Sindria. Sinbad realizes that this is all a scheme being manipulated by the organization that’s running the Kou Empire. They are known to Sinbad as Al-Thamen or “the Organization”, and they have been the mysterious group that’s been behind the problems in Balbadd.
Sinbad returns to Sindria and informs Alibaba of all of this. Sinbad also introduces Alibaba to his 8 generals. Three of the eight generals become tutors for Alibaba, Aladdin and Morgiana. Through their time in Sindria, the three become stronger and are equipped with new tools. Alibaba learns sword fighting and gets some tips about how to use his Djinn equip from Sharrkan. Alibaba learns how to use magic from Yamraiha, a water magician. Morgiana is tutored in fighting by Masrur, a fellow Fanalis. Morgiana is also equipped with a household vessel by Sinbad. He informs them that Alibaba has the ability to bestow household vessels to those close to him, which gives them the ability to tap into the powers of his djinn. She re-purposes the shackles that she wore as a slave into gauntlets and uses those as her household vessel. Alibaba is also given a new metal vessel; a sword that was given to Sinbad by Alibaba’s father.
When Hakuryuu and his sister Kougyoku arrive in Sindria, there’s a bit of a mix-up between Sinbad and Kougyoku. Apparently, she found herself in bed with a naked Sinbad when he went to visit the Kou Empire. However, that turned out to be the plot of a royal adviser, who was immediately dealt with. Afterwards, Hakuryuu reveals his intentions to tear down the Kou Empire. Sinbad tells him to follow Alibaba and learn before he makes such a decision. When Hakuryuu finally meets him, Alibaba is overtaken by a strong desire to kill him. It turns out to be the influence of Ithnan, the Al-Thamen magician that Sinbad tried to kill back in Balbadd. He places a curse on Alibaba that will turn his Rukh black and make him a servant of Al-Thamen (or kill him if he refuses). Sinbad also allows himself to be cursed and tells the young adventurers that they might be cured if they can capture the Dungeon of Zagan, who can heal any ailment.
Along with Hakuryuu, Alibaba, Alladin and Morgiana head into the dungeon in search of the djinn, Zagan. Alibaba and Hakuryuu aren’t getting along and Alibaba is concerned that his true feelings are that he wants to kill Hakuryuu. However, as they move through the dungeon the entire group starts to realize that the true problem is that they’re too much alike. When they get into the dungeon they’re confronted by the Djinn Zagan, who is delighting in tormenting people and turning them into some kind of beasts. However, Aladdin figures out that it isn’t Zagan at all, but a monster made in his image.
Morgiana is able to destroy the monster by tapping into her household vessel and summoning the power of Amon’s familiar, Amol Selseila. She discovers her ability to manipulate her chains and channel fire through them. Doing so causes her to deplete her magoi and fall unconscious. When Alibaba and the others enter the dungeon’s treasure room, they are greeted by members of the Organization, who are there to kill Alibaba and Aladdin. This is all part of a plan by the Organization to invade Sindria and take out the two young adventurers that have caused them problems. The attack starts when Judar appears in Sindria and confronts Sinbad. Soon, everyone in Sindria finds themselves in the midst of an all out battle with Al-Thamen. During the battle, Alibaba figures out how to optimize his Djinn Equip for his style, but their opponents are powerful and hard to kill. They are pushed into a corner and Hakuryuu ends up losing his arm trying to help Alibaba in the fight. Likewise, the 8 generals have their hands full dealing with the dark metal vessels of the invaders. Apparently, all of these people have the ability to use something called “extreme magic”.
Eventually, the generals are able to defeat the invaders by using their household vessels. Alibaba and Aladdin are also able to overcome their opponents, but they find out that they were only pawns of the Organization. The truth about the situation causes Alibaba becomes enraged and starts to slip farther into the darkness. He sees the tragic memories of his opponents and it stirs memories of Cassim. Like Cassim the girl that they were fighting cursed her own fate. Being attuned to her feelings, Alibaba starts to fall as well. When Ithnan reveals that he’s been the one behind everything that’s happened so far. That’s enought o push Alibaba to kill him. Once he does, the curse overtakes him and Alibaba is reborn as a dark king. By this time, Morgiana has recovered enough to confront Alibaba. Hakuryuu also reveals that he’s been selected by the djinn, Zagan. He finally asks Zagan for help and the djinn restores his arm with a magical wooden prosthetic. The two attack Dark Alibaba while Aladdin uses Solomon’s Wisdom on Alibaba to try to bring him back. Aladdin is able to get through to his friend and the two extinguish the nucleus of the curse controlling Alibaba.Sinbad also confronts Ithnan and reveals that the curse actually has no effect on him because he is already cursed. He immediately kills the sorcerer. Kougyoku also helps out by destroying the giant entity that the Organization had sent to destroy Sindria. With all the danger passed and the dungeon cleared, Aladdin and Alibaba collect the treasure and are transported out of the dungeon. During their journey out, Alibaba and Aladin take a moment to reminisce about how far they’ve come and to recommit themselves to the goal of Alibaba becoming a great king.
A lot really does go on in this first half of the Magi series. I was surprised by how many different story arcs were squeezed into 25 episodes. Unfortunately, the story arcs don’t really flow together very well, especially the first 4. The show just feels like it’s constantly starting and then starting over again. It’s not until you get to the Balbadd arc that the show feels like it has a really significant story line. Even after the show gets through the longer Balbadd arc, it feels like it hits the reset button again when it goes to Sindria. By that time, there’s so much stuff happening and so many new characters that it can feel a little bit overwhelming. I guess that’s the real downfall of the show for me. Every time there’s another story arc there are more characters added to what’s actually a pretty sizeable cast. It just to be hard to try to keep track of everything, even if you’re binge watching the show. The show is decently animated and has some very picturesque scenes. There are also some fun moments, like when Morgiana gets so happy that she breaks out into spontaneous dance. There just aren’t enough of these strong moments or enough of a consistent story to really draw me in.
The more I think about it, the more this show does seem like the kind of thing that I’d like. It just seems to slightly miss the base for me at a lot of different spots. The story is plenty complex but manages to not be engrossing. I don’t find Aladdin off-putting as a main character, but I don’t find him particularly compelling. You could also argue that Alibaba is actually the main character of this story as he spends just as much time at the forefront of the plot. Neither one of them are as interesting to me as the character of Sinbad. Sinbad kind of feels like a character that’s playing a bit part in a spin-off of his own show. Like, he’s really the most powerful and interesting person there, but he’s purposely taking a back seat so we can watch Aladdin and Alibaba develop. Unfortunately, their development is nowhere near complete after 25 episodes and I don’t think I really saw anything that makes me want to watch another 20+ episodes to see where things end up.