An emergent theme in Magi is the importance of character trust or faith in each other. Multiple times throughout the fourth episode, trust played an essential role between the characters to guide their decisions and actions and contributed to every outcome that occurred in this episode. And though this trust was betrayed at times, the concept and application of trust was a principal aspect of this episode and continues to develop into one of the most central and imperative themes of this anime.
Let’s start with the example that best illustrates this point, the trust between Baba, or Shaman Chagan, the elder of the Kouga Clan, and Dolge (Dorji), a prominent member of the Kouga Cavalry. Toward the end of the episode, after Touya and the other women of the Kouga Clan were abducted by raiders hailing from the Kou Empire. Before Dolge and the rest of the riders set forth to rescue their family and friends, Baba mandated that they kill no one on their mission with the fear that it would provoke an unwinnable war. Tense but enraged, the spirited Dolge rode off without an acknowledgement or reply, seemingly wishing to ignore Baba’s message and satisfy his bloodlust. However, unapparent within this swift exchange was the bond of resilient trust, one that was being tested due to the weight of the ordeal. Baba trusted that Dolge would rescue the girls without spilling any blood and Dolge trusted that Baba’s advice would lead to the best outcomes for the Kouga Clan. Because they shared this trust in each other, Baba allowed Dolge to ride into combat and Dolge followed Baba’s specific and strict commands. As a result of their trust, the women were saved from their kidnappers and there was no pretense for the Kou Empire to declare war on these nomads. As a result, the trust between these two characters played an essential role in attaining the best possible outcome for the Kouga Clan. Had the level of trust between the two been less or even nonexistent, then the Kouga Clan would be up against complete annihilation due to the surrounding and aggressive Kou Empire.
Another conspicuous example of trust, one that was founded and developed throughout the episode, was that between Aladdin and Baba, which later translated to trust between Aladdin and Hakuei Ren. After Aladdin awoke to the care of Baba and they discussed various matters, including that of the perplexing and inexplicable Rukh, Aladdin began to trust Baba and the members of her Kouga Clan. Though this, Aladdin decided on his own to visit with Hakuei who had appeared earlier in the day to discuss negotiations of annexing the tribe, their people, and their land to the Kou Empire (also saved him from a startled horse, too). The purpose of Aladdin’s visit was to persuade Hakuei to stop her aggressive land-grab, to which Hakuei, in awe of Aladdin’s dungeon items and willingness to talk to her, countered that she was doing so to create a unified land where these people would be protected. Oh which, to convince Aladdin that she was telling the truth, she promised to not kill a soul, to which Aladdin founded his trust in her. Through such a simple conversation, Aladdin and Hakuei were able to find trust in each other despite being complete strangers only a few hours ago. What led to this establishment of trust is that each character saw both the good and power in each other; Aladdin possessing the flying cloth/turban and wanting to prevent any death or sadness and Hakuei in command of the regional army that would easily obliterate the nomadic Kouga Clan. And in order for both characters to find a common ground in their approaches to resolving this conflict, both needed to find a way to trust the other one in order to further their negotiations and find a peaceful solution to which every side was happy or found benefit in. Though this trust will soon be tested, it is important to see how it influenced each character’s actions and how they will further act around each other in addition to how the complexity of the relationship between these two nations will change as a result.
A final example of trust, this time in the form of betrayal and one that directly led to unfavorable outcomes, especially on the part of the one whose trust was tested and broken, is how Ryosai assaulted Touya when Hakuei was conducting her informal meeting with Baba. Ryosai and Seishun accompanied Hakuei as bodyguards during her negotiations with the Kouga Clan, a sign that she wanted to show peacefulness and civility by not marching her troops to the horizon as an intimidating factor. However, Hakuei trusted her bodyguards to do nothing more than protect her should Kouga try to assassinate her and nothing more. That trust was breeched when Ryosai attacked Touya when she offered the imposing princess some fresh milk. What resulted was provoked aggression and disdain by the Kouga Clan, one which undermined Hakuei’s progress and damaged the relations between the two nations. Here, we saw Ryosai overstep his boundaries, one that Hakuei trusted him to remain within, and directly jeopardized their mission and their lives. The reason for this destructive behavior is partly due to the fact that there is a disconnect between the two. Hakuei sees the people of the Kouga Clan as equals to herself, human beings who want to have safety and happiness, and sees that a peaceful takeover is ideal for both sides. Ryosai, on the other end of the spectrum, sees the Kouga Clan as beneath him and his princess and shows no fear in provoking the nomads. Since both characters do not see eye-to-eye, Ryosai felt the need to overstep his boundaries in order to protect his princess and their nation. However, the reason Hakuei brought him with her is because she trusted him that he would not do such unruly actions and allow her to accomplish her goal of annexing the Kouga Clan into the Kou Empire. Due to this betrayal of Hakuei’s trust, the mission is in danger of turning into war, resistance, and fostering the seeds of rebellion. It shouldn’t be surprising to see Hakuei put some sort of restriction or reassignment for Ryosai due to him breaking her trust and potentially costing them their mission. So with this example, subordination by Ryosai directly caused a negative impact and influenced the rest of the episode, requiring Aladdin to seek out Hakuei thereafter and heightening the tensions of both sides in the form of the raid and rescue missions.
Really, trust played a role in every aspect of this episode, including the beginning with Alibaba waiting for Aladdin’s return to Qishan. Due to Aladdin’s kindhearted, compassionate and naïve nature, the boy places significance in trust and friendship. His behavior and actions are largely influenced by his level of trust in others and this has been true since the very first episode. Other characters share these similar elements, too, though to a lesser or less obvious magnitude than Aladdin. Trust has played an imperative role through the first four episodes of Magi and will only continue to rise as Aladdin makes connections with more and more characters and forms more and more friendships. How this trust is used and employed throughout the anime will further dictate the direction of these stories and the behaviors of these characters, so identifying these relationships and their strength will help determine what could happen next. Of course, trust is a byproduct of personality and motivation, so there could also be false trust being constructed which can further complicate matters, too. From this point forward, however, there is sure to be a rising interest in the amount of trust in this anime, how it is used, and how it will impact the story and characters of Magi.
So I suppose that Magi takes place on a parallel Earth given a few of the geographic and historical hints provided through these first few episodes. Synthesizing this data, it appears we have three real world equivalents already established with Qishan being analogous to Arabia, Kouga and Kou being similar to Mongolia and China, and Morigana’s home of the Dark Continent being Africa. If that’s the case, which it seems to be, it is a bit curious how many other worldly alternatives we’ll see before this adventure finds its conclusion. Perhaps the most interesting will be to see how these various settings affect characters or how these settings determine the local Dungeons and whatnot. It should be interesting to see how these real world examples are applied to Magi and what details remain the same and which ones are altered to fit Magi more appropriately. Honestly, with how much I love settings in anime and how remarkable the setting of Magi is already, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us as we continue our adventure with Aladdin.