Magi – 3

One concern moving forward with Magi is that of the antagonists.  Though Jamil proved to play the part according, his character fell surprisingly short of what we should expect a ‘good’ or even ‘decent’ villain to be.  His glaring lack of depth and uncomplicated personality made his character feel thin and one-dimensional.  Hopefully, he’s the last antagonist we see in this anime with such a simple and straightforward structure, because if not, the story and conflicts of Magi will undoubtedly suffer.

Though I find considerable fault with Jamil’s character, he assumed the role of villain quite well and seemed to be an appropriate antagonist to start the series.  The purpose of this role is to provide the protagonists with an initial challenge, one that could test their character and that be used as a way to reveal or showcase the characters as they already are.  Jamil was able to do that.  Additionally, as a ‘true’ villain, Jamil needs to be someone that we, as the audience, want to see bested.  A ‘true’ villain like Jamil (and unlike Morgiana) is someone who needs to be defeated or to lose in some capacity and to allow our protagonists to triumph (though this can vary depending on the perspective and the story and the audience watching).  And Jamil was able to accomplish that, seeing as everyone, both the characters present and the audience watching, hated his very guts.  But after that, there’s nothing.  It’s like Jamil was built to fit those two parts, the role of the antagonists, but nothing more.  As a result, Jamil’s character felt empty, like a shell of a human or a robot designed to only accomplish the minimal amount of tasks.

Why Jamil’s character ultimately failed is because he lacked depth and his personality was beyond simplified.  From what we could tell, Jamil’s character was evil… because he was raised evil.  Yeah.  That’s it.  Yeah, he grew up spoiled in royalty and treated slaves like they were cattle and… that’s it.  That’s the reason why he constantly picked on and physically abused Morgiana, threatened our heroes like garbage, and showed zero concern over the death of his slaves, his very own property.  And all that, just from growing up ‘in a royal family’ and being the chief of Qishan.  Why this is a fault on the character and why it’s a problem for the story is because it doesn’t really mean anything to the audience.  “Okay, cool, he’s evil… so what?”  The fact that his backstory was so easy and minimal really makes his character negligible and his actions meaningless.  It’s like Magi wanted this character to be evil for no reason other than to be evil, and that’s a pitiful way to design a character.  What would’ve improved his character would be to expand his character and to explain what makes him this level of evil.  There should’ve been more of a narration on his past where it shows him being corrected on questioning human feelings (learning that you need not concern yourself on the emotions of slaves) or having the slaves accept being treated like that (like sacrificing themselves for Jamil or smiling after being beaten, as if they’ve been trained like that).  This would further enhance the characters secondary to him, enriching the two slaves and detailing why Morgiana and Goltas behaved like they did.  There really was no explanation besides a few flashbacks that did nothing to answer or augment the character that we saw before us.  There needed to be more on Jamil’s character to make him feel like a character and make the victory of him feel much more rewarding and satisfying.  However, with a character as simple and straightforward as Jamil, it does no good for the anime as a whole.

So why do the antagonists and villains need to have some character to their characters?  What truly makes a hero’s triumph worthwhile are the challenges they’re given.  When a character must struggle, change, and spend all their efforts and energy, defeating something considered more powerful or whatnot, the end result has a higher reward for the characters and the audience who supports them.  What further enhances it is understanding the antagonist or villain and what makes them function.  By developing the villain, explaining their motivations, and showing us why they need to be defeated is something that has a significant impact on the story and the anime as a whole.  What concerns me about Jamil (and Budel for that matter) is that their characters were simplified to the point that they were personified clichés and that defeating them meant nothing.  If we knew more about their motives, personality, and backstory, it’d help show the level of detail in the writing and the strength of the story.  But here, with these two, there was little to gain than watching good triumph over evil for the millionth time.  Hopefully the trend can reverse itself and develop its villains like it does it heroes, to further enrich the story and enhance the experience of this anime.

If Amon is indicative to all the dungeons across the land, then all these final rooms are just littered with jewelry and gold and weapons and sorcery and whatnot.  So, like, who put them there or why are they there to begin with?  It’s not like they’re serving any purpose or some ancient civilization hid all their treasure there or some insanely rich sorcerer was using them as their safe vault.  I really wonder how and why there’s all this loot in the final rooms of the dungeon when there really is no meaningful purpose for it to be there besides applying dated RPG logic.  Maybe there’ll be an explanation to this when we learn more about the Magi, the djinn, and these dungeons, but for now, I guess we should consider these dungeons to be video game-like in nature.

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  1. #1 by windyturnip on October 30, 2012 - 12:58 PM

    It’s not enough to understand why a villain does something. The audience has to be able to empathize with the antagonist. The antagonist should be the second most important character in any medium (right behind the protagonist), but too often they are completely ignored.

    In the case of someone like Jamil who is arguably an extreme on the good-evil scale there needs to be even more development. Keep in mind that the antagonist is in opposition to the protagonist which isn’t necessarily synonymous with evil. The more evil an antagonist is, the more difficult it becomes to make them relatable.

    • #2 by avvesione on November 4, 2012 - 10:49 AM

      Yes, exactly, in order for us to actually appreciate the antagonist and for us to root against him, they need proper development. I believe that whoever the main antagonist is, likely the guy trying to seal everyone in the dungeon at the end, there will be proper development. However, it doesn’t appear though we’ll be confronting him anytime soon, so we’ll likely get a number of villains without any development like Jamil which I find troubling. If it continues like this, which it appears it will, then there’ll be problems really getting into the story and enjoying the fights and whatnot.

      As for the whole evil making it more difficult to make them relatable… eh. I don’t think so because then you could say the same thing for the heroes who have these awesome powers and unreal morals and ethics in regards to friendship and justice. Instead, I believe that the more evil, the more apparent they are at being an antagonist or protagonist or more obvious of who we want to win or lose. Just my thoughts on the matter.

      • #3 by windyturnip on November 4, 2012 - 1:23 PM

        I do say the same thing about heroes who have unreal moral and ethical standards.Either of these extremes become “inhuman” and consequently less relatable. Sometimes this is purposeful because the creator wants the character to symbolize a specific trait, but this usually isn’t the case.

        • #4 by avvesione on November 4, 2012 - 1:47 PM

          Yeah, that isn’t the case really in Magi, though who knows what might happen with Aladdin before the end. Either way, Magi has done a poor job with its villains, especially in this most recent episode. I can only hope we get to a big baddie soon and that there’s some decent characterization there… the anime could really use it.

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