Sometimes the best way to attract a large number of readers is to take something many people are familiar with, such as names and people from famous tales, and putting your own spin on things. Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic may have drawn people to it thanks to certain character names but since then Shinobu Ohtaka has managed to create a world and story that keeps readers coming back. With the events that readers were left with in Volume 4, how will things unfold in Volume 5?
Back in Volume 4 after such a long time apart, Aladdin had finally met Morgiana again and by traveling with a man revealed as Sinbad, the group arrived in the city of Balbadd. Upon arriving Sinbad went about trying to work out a deal with the king of the town while Aladdin learned that the name Alibaba has become synonymous with a band of thieves called the Fog Troop that is led by a man named Alibaba.
When Sinbad is tasked with defending the rich of the city from any more raids by the Fog Troop, Aladdin realizes that their leader is in fact his old friend Alibaba. After facing off with one another, the volume ended with Morgiana bringing Alibaba and Aladdin face to face again so Alibaba can explain his side of the story and that is where volume 5 picks up from.
This volume begins with a long flashback as Alibaba explains his past to Aladdin and how Cassim, the true leader of the Fog Troop, was once his childhood friend before a certain event that changed his life forever. However after seeing the cruel reality that the people of Balbadd now suffer, Alibaba chose to leave the past behind and join up with Cassim and the Fog Troop to try and ease the people’s suffering.
Things begin to escalate quickly however as Aladdin and Alibaba’s peaceful discussion is brought to an abrupt end when the Fog Troop attacks and Sinbad and his men retaliate, culminating in a face off that sees the true nature of the Balbadd king revealed, a dark empire moving behind the scenes and attempting to take over the world, and a battle against a villainous Magi named Judar who seems to be delighted in causing chaos and will cause destruction wherever he goes simply because it is fun for him which is a nice contrast from previous enemies in the series that were corrupt simply because they wanted power or riches.
Volume 5 might start out a bit slow thanks to spending the better part of three chapters spent in a flashback but this was something that is necessary since not only do readers gain knowledge about Alibaba’s mysterious past but also why he is suddenly working with a gang of thieves when he previously planned to go dungeon conquering with Aladdin.
From then on however things begin to move very quickly as the action ramps up considerably for a few chapters as we see Sinbad’s men step up to the plate and fight for real. From then on this volume is nicely paced in that regard, as every piece of character development or revelation is broken up by an impressive battle, especially when the volume comes to a close as readers are treated to a battle that shows what Magi can truly be capable of when they know how to properly use the rukh and their magoi to fight.
One of the best aspects of Shinobu Ohtaka’s artwork is how unique the Arabic setting of Magi is and how this plays into each of the character’s clothing and the design of most buildings in the manga. Throughout this volume the artwork remains impressive with crisp looking drawings that are great looking whenever a fight begins. The battle between Judar and Aladdin with Ugo is an impressive looking one, especially in regards to the ice spear attack, but the smaller scale fighting earlier in on the volume remain nicely drawn and don’t suffer from any shortcuts.
That being said, there are a large number of panels with blank or basic looking backgrounds which is disappointing considering how impressive most of the actual backgrounds in the series are and the basic villains in this volume continue to be quite obvious as Ohtaka has continued to draw corrupt politicians with a specific style since the beginning.Thankfully none of the artwork has been damaged or whited out by the translation so this is always a nice plus.
Unfortunately Magi Volume 5 does not contain any extra content in the way of author notes or additional illustrations, outside of a very tiny note and mini illustration of Judar from Shinobu Ohtaka after the final chapter in this volume. This is then followed by a number of full page advertisements for other Viz products, the anime adaptation of Magi, and an ad for Case Closed.
Volume 5 of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is heavy with action and plot development and while it starts out with a large amount of backstory that slows things down, it adds much needed character depth to Alibaba and then settles into a nice pace that results in a number of plot developments spaced out nicely by battles before finishing up with yet another revelation and a clash of Magi that will leave readers with yet another question concerning Aladdin’s past.
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