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Magi is an anime you don't see very often, and that what makes it stand out from the pack. I just hope my knowledge of the manga doesn't stop my enjoyment of the series.
My inability to enjoy anime adaptations of long running manga is something of a cure. The most common case is that I start watching a long-running series and switch to the manga once I'm caught up, not the other way round. My history has not allowed me on many occasions to watch an anime for a series I've been reading for a long time, and it's times like this when I'm most conflicted.
The first episode of Magi was a semi-faithful adaptation of the first few chapters of the manga. I don't plan to discuss the differences and complain - that's weak - but there was an undeniable confusion with what the anime presented in this first episode.
There was no clear explanation about Aladdin and Ali Baba's relationship and we mostly saw them acting in an unfriendly manner which would only confuse things further. A-1 Pictures are essentially re-writing the story a little bit, and this means the original encounter between the two makes some of the source material redundant, and may also signal a shorter adaptation than what I was anticipating.
Minor grievances aside, I think the first episode did a good job in capturing the essence of the manga. I didn't get the same feeling of adventure that I got from the manga, but that should be fixed as the story progresses and the combination of humour and darkness was well done also. Many would think Magi would fall into the typical shonen genre but as you can tell from the first episode, it's already dealing with much darker themes such as greed and slavery.
The dark themes aren't limited to just the villainous characters but also one of our main protagonists, Ali Baba, who himself is trying to exploit Aladdin. Again because of the introduction being semi-original, this doesn't make as much sense to me as it should have but the general idea is solid. Ali Baba is less of saint regardless, and this comes across later on in the episode when he is tested and conflicted by the act of saving a human being.
It was a nice start to the series, though a little confusing for me who has read the manga because the adapted script doesn't make as much sense. The artwork is very accurate - moe parts - to what's in the manga which is interesting to see. I'm disappointed in Morgianna's (the slave girl) new role in this, which I won't divulge in order to keep this spoiler-free. I'd personally recommend the manga because it did a better job at sucking me into the story from the beginning.