vlcsnap-2014-03-09-11h28m55s244

And now for something completely different…

As Magi: The Kingdom of Magic heads into its final story arc for season 2, I can look back on both seasons as a whole and say with confidence that Magi is a thoughtfully entertaining anime. Though long-time anime fans may pass up Magi as another copycat shonen fantasy in the vein of popular franchises like Fairy Tail and Fullmetal Alchemist, I argue that Magi is an example of good shonen and in general, just competent storytelling.  Magi shows that fusing over-the-top shonen action does not mean cutting corners with exploring deeper philosophical thoughts such as human sovereignty. What does it mean to be a good king? What is a king? How does one rule over one’s people, one’s country, responsibly? Is it possible to be a good king while avoiding war? Is war an inevitable “fate” of humanity?

Ugo’s interpretative dance for an answer

The venues for analysis are many for Magi but the one I’ll be taking is looking at the theme of kingship, specifically the qualities of king candidates and the show’s portrayal of their attempts (successes or failures) at sovereignty. At the end, I hope to arrive at a clearer idea of what Magi’s trying to answer. Does the “king and magi” system really work? What are the political and philosophical implications for this kind of system?

In order to spare readers the monstrosity of a paper I’ve got mapped out for this project, I’ll be splitting up “What Makes a King” Magi posts into several posts. The posts will be as follows:

Part I: “Why Balbadd Failed: Negotiating Empathy and Difference” will focus on Aladdin’s King’s Vessel, Prince Alibaba Saluja, and his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to revive Balbadd.

Part II: “Kou and Empire: The Squalor of Imperialism” will focus primarily on the disturbing consequences of Prince Kouen’s “world is one” treatise as well as Princess Hakuei’s subjugation of the Kouga Empire.

Part III: “Disenchanted Magic: Racism and Persecution in Magnostadt” will focus on Headmaster Mogamett’s prejudices towards non-magicians and the meritocratic traps built into Magnostadt’s school system.

Part IV: The Maternal King: Scheherazade’s Rearing of Reim will focus on the implications of a largely absent king and the case of a Magi, rather than a king, ruling a country.

Part V: “Shadows in Sindria: Sinbad’s Art of Political Warfare” will focus on the interesting case of King Sinbad, who is not a King’s Vessel but has captured seven dungeons and is arguably the strongest king in the anime. Described by the Magi, Yunan, as being “too ideal of a king,” all Magi treat him with wariness and this post will tackle the subject of whether or not Sinbad is a good king and why he is so dangerous.

Now off to watch Aladdin and co kick some Dark Djinn butt~

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11 thoughts on “What Makes a King: Monarchical Representations in Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic (Introduction)

  1. I’ve been thinking along much of the same lines, actually. While much of what originally drew me to Magi as a great shounen (the unique setting, the fast pace, the lack of bullshit stalling, etc.) has been less prominent for me in this 2nd season, I still find many of the questions Magi is raising concerning ideas of governance, humanity, etc. (I was having a field day with Mogamett and Magnostadt) to be quite cool. And notably a step up from more typical shounen which skirt some of the heavier philosophical stuff. Magi isn’t afraid to go big!

    I’ll look forward to reading the rest of these as they come out 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the comment! Shonen sometimes gets a bad rep because it can be bland, predictable and doesn’t make philosophical arguments the core of the story, but Magi definitely isn’t your run-of-the-mill shonen. While it’s by no means a perfect show, it’s refreshingly entertaining and makes you think. Character based stories tend to help give more room for introspection.

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  2. I’ve been thinking that writing about those King Candidates would really make a great post! I saw in a forum somewhere that they compared all the djinn vessel holders and talk about who is the best king among them. I’m also interested in that one and seeing this post made me happy. Although I see that you’re not going to talk about them one by one (the King Candidates, I mean), I’m still excited to read your stuffs! 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the comment! Magi’s a great show and I’m happy to write about it. While the posts won’t talk about all of the King Candidates, they will mention many of them. The Kou Empire piece will focus a lot on Kouen, Hakuei, and Koumei, who are all King Candidates. But the idea that kings are selected by a higher power is an interesting and very historically rich tradition and something I hope to discuss more generally in future posts to come.

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  3. I’ve nearly finished this show, and despite a big part of the setting being based off of the middle east in the freaking dessert, somehow there are only like 3 dark skinned characters in the entire show. THREE! Everyone else looks like what Hollywood fantasizes about white people making money.

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    1. You bring up a good point. Racial representation in anime’s a tricky thing…Japan’s population is very homogenous so this might be a contributing factor…I imagine most Japanese don’t have a lot of exposure to ethnically diverse people other than what they see in media and pop culture.

      I’ve heard the observation that anime look like “white people” but keep in mind, this is a Westerner’s perspective. Westerners are primed to see white people as the “default race” so when we see pale-skinned anime characters, we think “Wow, they look so white.” However, for the Japanese audience, they don’t see white people, they see Japanese.

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