Sunday, November 15, 2015

Magi - Everything Wrong with Kou's Civil War

Oh, it's on, now! 
This post has been due for a long time. 

Let it be known, despite the title I do have some good things to say about this arc. Sorta.

The Sting of Betrayal!

Let's start with the set-up. In a surprising development, Hakuryuu killed his mother and then went on to beat Alibaba in a fight. This was one of the more unconventional (and good) developments of the manga.

We never expected for him and Judar to be such an effective pair. They took the screen-time by force and didn't let it go. 

Furthermore, Kouen vs Hakuryuu was something that had been brewing in the background for a while and we were finally going to see it. The civil war was building up to be something epic.

One Finger Away
However, Judar was gone. That was a serious downside. The Hakuryuu-Judar shows needs Judar.

While Alibaba can and does get kicked in the balls quite a bit during the manga, the author likes to present Aladdin better. Not joking here. Compare not just how they do in their respective fights but how they do in the dialogue.

While Alibaba gets shut down by Hakuryuu hard. Aladdin manages to neatly counter Judar's points. That's how you know who is really winning in shounen.

About the only real loss Aladdin suffers is that Hakuryuu manages to stun him by making him question if Black Rukh is really bad. Points to the manga here. It was something that really needed to be addressed.

Solomon sucks and going against him is not bad at all.

Anyway, back on topic, the Kou Civil War looked like it was going to be epic!

It wasn't.

It seriously wasn't. The Civil War disappointed on many levels.

Let's start with the more obvious one: The war between Reim and Magnoshutatt did the same but better. Maybe, it dragged out too much at the end, but it had cooler moments. The fight had a neat sense of escalation

We had soldiers going out into the field. Then it was Soldiers vs Magicians and Fanalis vs Magicians. Each side brought out bigger guns each time, all while the respective leaders shot cool speeches at each other, explaining their point of view.

It was a very shounen fight and it was fun because of it. 
Behold, the Jobber Corps!
This war had a similar set-up. 

We had Hakuryuu's amped soldiers, Kouen's dungeon creatures, Hakuryuu's plant monsters, Household vessel users from both sides, Al-Thamen magicians and more! 

It was going to be awesome!

Also, cool visuals. Really, really cool visuals. 

Sadly, things started going wrong pretty soon. By which I mean, everything was over before it had a chance to begin.

Part of this is on purpose. One of the themes of this arc is that Hakuryuu is alone. Other kings have loyal subjects and armies. Hakuryuu brainwashes his soldiers and forces them to do his will.

In that sense, he fails as a king.

Beast Team!
At the same time, much like with everything regarding Hakuryuu, there is some level of disconnect. 

For one, Hakuryuu and Judar are the best and most loyal pair of his manga. I look at them and think, "This is how a Magi and King are supposed to act." They are total bros.
Naturally, for this theme to work, Hakuryuu had to be separated from his best buddy.

However, even then, Hakuryuu has the two generals on his side.
Those guys aren't mind-controlled. They are people he legitimately managed to inspire loyalty in by getting them to man up and take responsibility for what a shithole Kou had become.
Don't get me wrong, Hakuryuu mind-controlling people is in no way right, but still. Mixed messages. 
Even taking the themes at play into account, the whole thing felt rushed.

This was never truly 
meant to be a fight because Hakuryuu had the back-up of the SSA all along. However, there is still a sense of discontent given how hyped up some things had been.

Forget about not getting beast armies fighting or not getting to see Hakuryuu vs Kouen (or even Kouen vs Sinbad) despite how hyped that fight was. 

We didn't even get to see the generals fight even though it had already been set-up and only got a mention of them dying afterwards. What's up with that?

Worse still is the fact that no one important died (sorry two generals, but I don't even know your names).

I mean, this is a war. We expect some level of casualties. More importantly, this is a story. We expect a level of impact and death is a part of that when we are talking about a war.

Yet no one died. Alibaba and Judar are quickly revealed to be alive before the Civil War even starts. Koumei doesn't die. Nothing happens to Kouha and even Kouen is alive at the end.

While Ohtaka was able to bring herself to kill important characters during the last war, she was not able to do so here and part of that is probably because she likes playing favorites.
Put bluntly, she really likes the Kou Characters. 
Look at Kouen. In spite of being a supposedly "grey" character, the narrative likes shining a too positive light on him. Just compare him to someone like Sinbad. 

When Sinbad does something shifty, the way the panels are framed makes it clear something is wrong. When Kouen does shifty stuff, it's treated as some sort of necessary evil for a greater purpose most of the time. 
This would not be a problem were it not for the fact that this favoritism prevented us from feeling the full impact of this war. 
But hey, let's move onto... Hakuei...

I am not going to lie. I was happy when Hakuei chose to help her brother after everything that had happened. The coronation did not end on the best note for the siblings and everything we saw afterwards hinted that they had drifted apart.
Seriously Hakuei, try to be there for your brother. If you had, maybe he wouldn't have gone all crazy and black-rukh-y.

Hakuei is a character that feels willfully ignorant. When we first meet her, she wants to absorb the Kouga Tribe without violence. She has the whole wise, all-loving princess vibe going for her.

At the same time, well, the Kou Empire is very much not nice. Not Gyokuen. Not Kouen. Yet Hakuei leans for Kouen, almost as if ignorant on what really goes on.

So yeah, I was happy to see her back her brother this time.

Then came the whole Arbakuei thing and I was not as happy.

Really not as happy.

For one thing it kind of did away (or did it?) with a development that the character really needed, because, let's be honest here, what has Hakuei actually done?

She's supposed to be a wise princess with the stats to prove it (check the databook!) but somehow that doesn't translate well.

Then we have Arba going full worship mode for Sinbad. That just rubs me the wrong way.

Partially because I ship Hakuryuu/Arba. *waves flag*

But mostly because I was expecting the opposite reaction. David pretty much hijacked God and bled him dry. Arba has been lied to the entire time. Shouldn't she be angry at that?

But nope, instead, since he is god now, Arba falls all over herself for him. Bit disappointing. 
Then there is the big one. Hakuryuu's Rukh turning white.
Deciding not to kill Kouen, I can get. Going full white? Not so much. Black and White Rukh have always been more complicated than good and evil, yet the moment Hakuryuu drops the revenge he goes white again? Really? 

In general, the whole shift in Hakuryuu's character is way too sudden in the last chapters of the arc and the Rukh change is the cherry on top. It's like the manga is going , "Yeah, look, he's cool and nice now." It is something that could have used way more development. 

On the whole, the arc feels rushed, like Ohtaka is trying to get all the way to the end as soon as possible with the end game plot she envisioned intact despite the change in circumstances.

Ultimately, the Arc had potential but fails to live up to it due to various factors.

1 comment:

  1. I was actually waiting for this, for a long time....
    I actually do agree with quite a bit that you said over here, but there are things which I think you are looking at wrongly

    1)Hakuryuu turning white is not that 'White is good and black is bad', remember the destiny that Solomon wanted for him is one where he would not live according to his revenge and since he did not want that at that time, he went black, which surprisingly allowed him to follow his revenge, no matter how empty it left him at the end, like it did at the end of this arc.

    Hakuryuu turning back, has more to do with him letting go of his revenge as he does not want to live obsessed by revenge, than it does for 'White rukh being bad', ofc not that it is a total retcon on Aladdin's development.

    2)I don't disagree that she does try to paint the Kou characters better than Sinbad, frankly for all of the Kou characters, including Hakuryuu to look good, she even retcons, Alibaba, remember part of the reason why Hakuryuu was so well loved is due to Alibaba seemingly not being able to live up to his expectations, which is not true if you have the patience to try to sympathize with him.

    Anyways, as you mentioned she does make Sinbad look more sinister for Kouen, as she makes Alibaba look like more of a loser for Hakuryuu(focus on his lack of POV and how when everytime someone insults him, we don't even get a single worded thought bubble in retort.
    Now it is not that this is particularly wrong as long as it is within bounds, but the problem is that withe the Kou crew she went overboard, wayy overboard, and completely forgot about keeping things balanced with both sides,

    The reason why she ended up doing this in the first place, is due to them being very unlikeable as a result of this actions, so she needed to use other means to get some sympathy for them.

    3)People died, only fodders though, I can understand why you are disappointed and feel cheated, especially considering how the Kou Empire has been hyped up since the beginning, you should remeber that unlike Magnostadt that it is safe to say we will never see again, we will see the Kou Empire have a major part in the Final arc and this is the reason why she could not just show their hand in this one, maybe she wanted to show them in this Final Arc, though it is just speculation at the end.