Type: Arabian Nights starring Jake Gyllenhall!?
Synopsis: In a time long ago before, there was a movie franchise of movie franchises called Aladdin, of Studio Disney. So popular was the story that it sprang forth two direct to video sequels, a cartoon show, and some pretty good video games. It’s also the reason why this wasn’t just called the “Adventures of Aladdin” or something. Copyright is a scary thing. Anyway, this stars a little magician called “Aladdin” with a non-talking Genie and “Alibaba,” a thoroughly not old woodcutter. Oh, and sometimes it also has a slave girl named Morgiana, but according to the show, she’s not super important.
Pros: I’ve said this before, but I always find anime adaptations of non-Japanese stories really fascinating. In this case, the anime borrows heavily from One Thousand and One Nights, one of the definitive bedrocks of modern fiction. Having never read the collected works (It’s on my list), I can’t really speak that much about the allusions the anime uses. What I can say is that the Magi anime itself is pretty good. It sets itself up as an adventure story, but quickly becomes a sociopolitical tale with social inequality as it’s main topic. The villains used in this are often drunk on other own power, either because of owning slaves, or holding titles, or simply being powerful. A lot are simply bullies, which irritated my a lot, meaning that they work as villains (because you’re not suppose to like the villains!). And because most of the story arcs boil down to the harshness of inequality, something that has stayed consistent throughout history, the plots often pack an emotional punch. Just look at Morgiana, a slave from early childhood with the mental scars to prove it. The use of the colorful world was a great juxtaposition with the ugly actions of some of it’s inhabitants, as well as the power source of the true antagonists being hatred and negativity. I should also mention that the openings for this anime are really good. Not artsy, as they mostly use scenes from the upcoming episodes, but they were really fun to watch.
Cons: A story set in the Middle-East, and you couldn’t give one character a tan? For reals!? Hollywood gets a lot of flack for white washing its films (deservedly so), but anime ain’t exactly innocent of this either. Like, why is Morgiana of the “Dark Continent” (cough Old 1800’s Racist English Name for the continent Africa cough) a pale girl with red hair? Why does Alibaba have Blonde Hair and Blue Eyes? This is almost as bad a Gods of Egypt, which I’m sure will stay a topical reference…Anyway, there are other problems. For a story whose opening sells itself as an adventure series, Aladdin and crew don’t really do a lot of traveling together. And despite all this talk of Dungeons, you only get 2 in the show. A lot of the story arcs just have them hanging out in one city at a time. You never see them hit the road as a group, which would have been fun. Speaking of groups, I feel that Morgiana gets short changed, probably because she’s “the girl.” The anime is more of the Aladdin and Alibaba story. Spefically, Alibaba’s hero’s journey with Aladdin as his wizard advisor. Morgiana’s just there for the ride. Story wise, this is a meaty anime. Some arcs drag, like the Balbadd story. Ultimately, my biggest problem with this anime is that I feel that it sells itself as a fun adventure story, but the levity never arrives outside of a few boob jokes. It’s really more like a disingenuous Fullmetal Alchemist.
Watch it?: Yeeeeah, but do realize it does feel long. (4/5)
Always has the best fights
Best Episode: Ep6 “Warrior Tribe Fanalis” (showcase of the anime’s story structure)