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Its that time again, and I am back with another OWLS post. For those who don’t know, OWLS stands for Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect. OWLS is a group of bloggers dedicated to ideals of acceptance of all people no matter their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Each month, The OWLS Bloggers crew chooses a topic to write about, and this month that topic is “Journey.”
We have all heard this saying in some shape or form: “Life is a journey.” We travel down a path in hope that we reach a goal or destination, but the travel in getting there isn’t always easy. Along the way, we encounter some personal struggles. It is in those moments where we must overcome an adversity to complete our journey or take a different route or path instead. In this month’s OWLS post, we will be discussing the personal journeys of pop culture creators, icons, and characters. We will explore the journeys that these characters went through, discuss the process and experiences they had on their journeys, what they discover about themselves, or share our own personal journeys.
For my own post this month, I decided to focus on an old favorite of mine: Magi: The Magic of the Labyrinth, a show that I feel like has one of the most awesome journeys in all of anime.
Also, be sure to check out yesterday’s OWLS post by Moonid about what a journey is, to begin with. Now, without further ado, let’s get started.
In almost every anime, even in much of the slice of life genre, the characters almost always go on a journey. Whether it be a one-off side character episode where they take a walk to someone else’s house or start from nothing and rise up to become the most important figure in a revolutionary army, journeys are as much a staple of storytelling as settings and a climax.
One show in particular, though, has what is one of the most epic and engaging journeys that anime has to offer. That show is Magi, and for this month’s OWLS post, I thought I would take a look at the elements that make up that epic journey, while also analyzing some of the admittedly weaker points.
In his book How to Read Literature like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster points out that in the quest format of storytelling, every journey begins with an initial motivation that sends the characters on the start of their journey. Alibaba, who the show opens on, wants to return to Balbadd, the country in which he grew up so that he can right his past wrongs. However, having no money and no power, Alibaba is forced to work in the small town of Quishan. In the short term, Alibaba wants to concur the Dungeon in Quishan, giving him access to money and power. Alibaba’s motivation doesn’t really change at all throughout the first half of the show, but it becomes forever affected by his introduction to Aladdin.
It’s easy to tell, even from when the two first meet that Alibaba is much more cynical, whereas Aladdin is extremely idealistic, and admittedly a lot more carefree, and that’s reflected in his initial motivation. Given that he ignorant as to most of the world and how it works, Aladdin wants to journey the earth and gain the knowledge he didn’t have before. As their journeys continue on and on, the two find out more about themselves. Alibaba confronts his ghosts, in the form of Cassim, in one of the major arcs of the first season after he, Aladdin, and Morgiana get separated. Alibaba initially joins Cassim’s group known as the Fog Troop in order to help alleviate the extreme poverty in the country of Balbadd, his home. Alibaba wants to help them but isn’t really sure if what he’s doing is the right answer, especially after Aladdin show up to find him.
Alibaba’s struggle in the first season not only sets him up to be a much more interesting character than he otherwise would have been but wanting to solve the problems of his home country is something that I think many can relate to, especially given the current political and socio-economic climate.
It wouldn’t be a shounen manga without some kind of extraordinary powers to back up the already ridiculous fights. Even with magic being an already played out concept, though, Magi definitely works to make it more interesting. In the world of Magi, the world is made up of Rukh, or what is essentially the essence of every living thing. Rukh contains Magoi, which allows humans to perform feats of magic, including being able to use the power of Djinns found in Dungeons. Magi have unlimited access to Rukh because they can use other living being’s as well as their own.
It should be noted that most of the lore of Magi is loosely based on the stories in 1001 Arabian Nights, a collection of middle eastern folk tales about varying individuals, including Alibaba and Sinbad. Since I haven’t read the stories for myself, I can’t really determine how much of the story of the show is based on those original stories. What I can say is that the Magi as a concept makes the show that much cooler. Having an all-powerful being at the center of the story makes for a much more exciting journey. Not necessarily because it is expected that Aladdin will face a lot of challenges, although he does do that. It is more because 1) how he solves his problems, and 2) how solving those problems affects his growth.
An interesting part of the story in which this process plays out is right at the beginning, just after the three leads are separated and scattered across the continent. Aladdin gets sent to a small native village in the territory of the Kou Empire, known as the Kouga Clan. He comes to learn quickly that despite once being a force to be reckoned with, the clan has certainly seen better days. Shortly after Aladdin arrives, Hakuei, representing the Kou Empire, comes to the Kouga Clan in order to offer the empire’s protection. Even despite the attempted kidnapping of multiple female clan members, the murder of their clan leader, and an attempted invasion by the Kou army, the Kouga Clan, and Aladdin, came together, and as a family, they got through it. Aladdin’s safety during the arc was never really in question, but his ability to find out who he really is was. Self-doubt and an inability to figure out what he needed/wanted to do could have kept him stranded on the journey of life, but he got through it.
No, I’m not talking about the 19th-century philosophy used as a backdrop by political leaders to encourage illegal settlement westward as a justification to start wars over land and natural resources while also treating Native Americans terribly, although there is a lot to talk about there. When I say Manifest Destiny, I mean it in a much more literal sense, as in one of Magi’s core themes is the ability to manifest your own destiny.
Many of the show’s main cast, as well as a lot of the side characters, are caught up in an ideological battle of letting nature run its course vs cursing fate and changing destiny altogether, which is represented in the show as more or less a contest of good vs evil, dark vs light. Those who wish to see destiny play out naturally, like Aladdin, have normal colored Rukh. On the other hand, those who do not wish to take their given path and who curse fate are known as the “Fallen,” and have black Rukh.
What Magi does in the final moments of its first season is break this false dichotomy, as Aladdin, after rescuing Alibaba when he became fallen, tells him that while it is important to recognize the place we have been given in life, it is also important to forge our own path and make our own decisions. Even before the last episode though, Alibaba seems to recognize this idea when he proposes that the newly reborn Balbadd should relinquish the power of its monarchy in favor of a Representative Republic.
I wasn’t expecting this to be the three M’s of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, but that is what it has turned into. In all seriousness though, Magi is a prime example not only of a great journey but also of the purpose of a journey in the first place: self-discovery. Whether it be going to school abroad or simply heading to a new part of town to enjoy a night out with friends, journeys are at the core of what makes us human, and they are important parts of growing as people.
What’s your guys take on journeys? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you want to support The Aniwriter through donations or are just feeling generous, consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Otherwise, thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos!