Black and White Dragons: Of Children and Evil Mothers in Magi: The Kingdom of Magic

On the ninth day of anime, an anime studio sent to me…

…nine dashing Sindrian warriors.

By the way, SID is an awesome J-rock band. Check them out!
By the way, SID is an awesome J-rock band. Check them out!

(All right, this one was a bit of a stretch, considering that this post will feature intensive coverage of a member outside of this party.)

And now onto, Magi: The Kingdom of Magic, the sequel to Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, which aired earlier as part of the Fall 2012-Winter 2013 line-up.

Given that A-1 Pictures opted for an anime-only ending to “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic,” (an ending that received a polarized, though mostly negative reaction from fans and manga-followers), it was surprising to hear the studio’s announcement of the sequel. While sequels tend to be hit or miss (tending towards the “miss” option more often than not), The Kingdom of Magic, seems to be following the vein of other sequel seasons this year–surpassing their predecessors in refreshing ways (I’m looking at you, Kuroko no Basket and Valvrave the Liberator). 

Our three main protagonists: Alibaba, Aladdin, and Morgiana.
Our three main protagonists: Alibaba, Aladdin, and Morgiana.

While Magi still bears many of the trappings that stick it in generic shonen-land (which is not necessarily a bad place to be), I would argue that it surpasses its generic counterparts through its subtler and consistent characterization. While it never compromises the action and adventure components of the story, it gracefully integrates character development into the action, rather than making the two mutually exclusive (i.e. a la the tug and pull of Naruto-verse, adrenaline-rush battles punctuated by long philosophical (and sometimes utterly redundant tirades) [1].

One story arc that particularly impressed me was the recent Pirates arc where Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana, and Hakuryuu are sailing away from Sindria, all ready to set off on their own respective journeys. Only to be besieged by pirates.

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There’s something disturbing about these pirates. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re kids and they have no trouble hurting innocent sailors. Maybe it’s their slavish devotion to their beloved “mother,” who is one of the vilest monsters ever constructed. Taking over the world by brainwashing future world leaders into loving her as their mother–that’s evil at its brilliance.

Ren Hakuryuu, the Kou Empire's Fourth Prince. Kindly, loyal and rocking an awesome wooden prosthetic arm.
Ren Hakuryuu, the Kou Empire’s Fourth Prince. Kindly, loyal and rocking an awesome wooden prosthetic arm.

It’s also during this arc that Hakuryuu’s characterization receives some evolution. From Season 1, Hakuryuu has presented himself as a surprisingly reliable and compassionate guy, despite his political ties with the imperialistic Kou Empire. Despite being a prince, he’s humble and even has an inferiority complex, and takes the opinions of others very seriously. He proves to be a stalwart companion and capable fighter skilled both with weapons and magoi manipulation.

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Hakuryuu’s given name and won metal vessel were well chosen. Hakuryuu literally means “white dragon.” White dragons, according to Chinese mythology, are known for their virtuous nature and spiritual purity. Similarly, Hakuryuu’s courtly manners, strong sense of honor and strong bond with his sister, Ren Hakuei, echo these qualities. Similarly his Djinn, Zagan, is the Djinn of Loyalty and Purity, a kindly, nurturing spirit that brings life to plants.

What is life without death? Umm Madaura, the evil witch that bewitches children with her Holy Mother Halon Fan represents the perversion of motherhood, the distorted nurturing of life. In other words, the very opposite of Zagan.

Hakuryuu in half-Djinn form with Zagan.
Hakuryuu in half-Djinn form with Zagan.

Purity untempered is fragile–Hakuryuu’s traumatic past is proof of that. It’s not surprising to see him so acutely affected by Madaura’s enchantment. Unlike the others, he feels no nurture or love from his mother and returns only unadulterated hatred. Like a furious dragon passing judgment from above, he cruelly decapitates Umm Madaura right before the children’s eyes. Though Madaura is a character deserving of little sympathy, we can’t help but be shocked by the Kou prince’s brutality.

Umm Madaura shamelessly pleads for Hakuryuu to defend her.
Umm Madaura shamelessly pleads for Hakuryuu to defend her.
An angelic smile...
An angelic smile…
Warning: Children traumatization imminent.
Warning: Children traumatization imminent.

For all Hakuryuu’s bluster and worldliness, his black-and-white philosophy betrays his childishness. Hakuryuu sees the world in extremes–people who are extremely good and people who are extremely evil. He loves and hates fiercely, two volatile emotions that don’t mix well at all. Morgiana’s rejection of his offer to make her his queen brings him a cold slap of reality–that his ideals (and plan for vengeance) don’t match up with his companions’ moral systems.

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Hakuryuu’s not ready to be a man, let alone a king. Until he can find peace within himself, to dissolve the hatred of his mother that has replaced his heart, he still remains but a child. Because even if he claims to reject his mother (who actually turns out to be quite the b**ch),  the hatred, rather than freeing him from her influence, only binds him more tightly to her.

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 Without the anchor of his friends to point him in the right direction, Hakuryuu’s solo journey hints only of darkness. But perhaps if he can remember our young magi’s words, he can find light in the shades of grey.

Though our young dragon has found light
Though our young dragon has found light
and warmth among friends...
and warmth among friends…
darkness lies ahead, but there is hope.
…darkness lies ahead, but there is hope.

[1] Not that I don’t like Naruto. I actually enjoy the series a lot. But the neverending fillers kill me.

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