(Disclaimer: this was originally going to be a License Request post appealing for a Manga series I just recently marathoned, but only later found out it'd already been licensed by Viz a month ago. Still, my arguments in favor of it still stand.)
I didn't hold out much hope for this, since it started out with a pretty predictable formula of an optimistic rowdy youth hiding a great power, with the ever-prevalent theme of friendship being the most important value. That, and it was serialized in Shonen Sunday, which is the weak sister to Shonen Jump's Manga with their episodic stories. Not to mention that the surest way to motivate anyone was to threaten a cute little girl into a horrific situation.
|What unfeeling human would let a little girl get eaten by a monster?|
|Obviously compensating for something.|
|A face you can trust. Really. Trust me on this.|
It feels very like an ongoing RPG with ever-escalating rising challenges. No sooner do our heroes get past one threat than a new one appears. Normally, when you read such videogame adaptions, there's the sense that you're not fully invested in the storyline unless you're already familiar with the gameplay mechanics of the source, and some of the in-jokes can be lost to non-gamers or people who haven't bothered getting the console for that game. But there's no such barrier here. Each new magical element comes with their own rules and is introduced with minimal exposition and builds up on what's been shown before. The team will recuperate after a grueling battle against the dungeon boss and getting the treasure, only to be ambushed by a team of opportunist thieves taking advantage of the heroes' fatigue. After all, unlike regular dungeon raids, you don't get your health refilled upon completion. Every battle feels like a constant stream of adrenaline, leaving the reader on the verge of exhaustion, wondering whether they'll get out of this predicament or not.
However, as with any child-friendly Manga, there's bound to be problematic culture clashes. And Aladdin's compulsive habit of constantly groping any bountiful girl's breasts certainly falls in that realm. And that's not counting some of the saucier Djiins that can be found elsewhere. Clearly, this Arabia is based more on the Scheherazade tales of lore, and less on Koran religious overtones. It'd do no good to censor out Aladdin's filthy little habit, since like Goku's casual groping people's privates to determine their sex, it's a pretty important story element.
But the role of skin reveal shouldn't be that much of a deterrent for reasons that'll be outlined later below. So far, a personal fan favorite would be someone who reminds me very much of Cassandra "Batgirl" Cain; Morgiana, the straight-faced stern looking girl of the Finalist Clan, composed of the toughest warriors on the planet.
|Striking a classic heroic pose with some role reversals.|
|Are you paying attention to her movements and not her poses?|
If so, it's working!
But it's not just the action that dominates - there's still time for talking head scenes that manages to stay riveting in terms of arguments. The current arc has what's a war between two different magical nations, each with their varying policies. One believes that magicians should found their own country, taking control over the majority of the unpowered population that's more interested in lazying about and have no further ambition. The other side believes that all citizens can contribute to their nation, regardless of class. This is a gross oversimplification of the clashing viewpoints, but it serves as a worthy explanation. And the major bad guys aren't even the main instigators behind the conflict! It happened purely organically as a result of a country's agent having conflicting emotions over the side he's working for.
And much like the original Arabian Nights it takes its influence from, you're constantly left wanting to see what'll happen next. The full realm of variety and innovation makes it a contender for what could very well be the next Full Metal Alchemist.
The constant one-up-manship for rising power levels between opponents rivals One Piece in terms of imagination. It succeeds in a level of dealing with magic without emulating Fairy Tale, which is an accomplishment in itself. And the artwork and character design are closer to what would be more appealing to typical Manga fans, compared to the relatively goofy art of Eichiro Oda. Plus there's the added bonus of not that much repetitive exposition that's such a common theme in typical One Piece arcs.
I'm looking forward to it coming out in August!