The Sindria Effect 2.1.2:  Understanding the Nature and Narrative Value of Tragic Villains in Magi Through Comparative Analysis

NOTE: I strongly recommend watching this clip before reading the text below the cut. The dialogue will probably confuse most readers, but the circular logic of the villain is critical to understanding what objectively defines the antagonist as a tragic villain.

I’m posting this as a video supplemental to The Sindria Effect 2.1: an essay in which I distinguish between Elder David as Il Illah’s pawn and Zeus!Sinbad, entity borne of Sinbad, his seven djinns and Il Illah that have become a tragic villain.

This is a clip from Kara no Kyoukai: Paradox Spiral, the 5th installment of a film series based on a novel written by Kinoko Nasu. It is his first and best-written work. Full stop. While even his most avid fans will admit Nasu has numerous faults as a writer, but few of his readers or peers in the industry will challenge the notion that he’s a genius when it comes to writing tragic villains. 

So, what are the criterion for a well-written “tragic villain,” and which antagonists in Magi meet them?

  1. They have a truly heartbreaking backstory. Something so Kafkaesque you wouldn’t wish it upon your worst enemy.
  2. The villain commits terrible atrocities (typically involving the mass murder of innocents) because of their own SELFISH motivations. They aren’t fighting in the name of some higher being, to eliminate an enemy of someone they care about, avenge the death of a loved one, or even an ideal. They do what they want to do out of blind ambition, curiosity, or some other principle that serves only to comfort themselves. If someone happens to benefit from their actions, it is of no consequence to the villain. They are monsters that fight for the sake of themselves alone. 
  3. The villain’s motivations are so unrelatable & logically flawed that the audience can neither justify the villain’s actions nor sympathize with their plight. This is the most important qualifier. It’s what makes Nasu’s antagonists the gold standard for tragic villains in animanga. 

If the character is written properly, the audience is unable to sympathize with the villain because their thinking has become so convoluted that even they don’t understand why they feel so motivated to do what they’re doing anymore. If they are forced to think about their motivation to it’s logical conclusion, they are confused by their own answer. There is no way to talk them out of what they are doing becuase there is no longer any logic behind what they’re doing at all. 

The villain in the clip above, Araya Souren, is Nasu’s tragic villain prototype. He was a truly benevolent Buddhist monk with magical powers. He is over 200 years old: he genuinely cannot remember how old he is. All he can honestly say is that he has been alive for more than two centuries. He’s not immortal. He could easily kill himself or just stop using the magic that keeps him alive. 

Early in his life, he desperately fought to save the lives as many innocent people in a war that took place in pre-Meiji Japan. He feels an overwhelming sense of sadness, frustration, and disgust with all of humanity because he couldn’t save everyone. Saving “as many as possible” simply wasn’t good enough. For whatever reason, he needed to save EVERY person who was in danger to maintain his sanity.

To alleviate his own vague sense of aggravation, he decides to destroy the world at some point in the late 20th Century. His method of choice involves opening a path to Akasha, a place where all of human history is recorded. By doing so, he thinks he will “give justice” to the people he could not save by ensuring their deaths are “properly” observed and recorded. But he will be the only person to see it. Then he will die. He also claims to hate all of humanity, including the people who died “without meaning,” so killing everyone in the present for the sake of those who died in the past doesn’t make much sense. His ritual also involves driving people to die meaningless deaths so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

He doesn’t even try to defend the logic behind his plan. He simply states that it is what ran through his mind. Long before this fight, he admitted that he no longer knew why he was doing what he was doing. He just knew he wanted to do it. 

Confused? GOOD. The confusion and unrelatable nature of the villain is necessary to nullify the tragic backstory. It smashes the notion of tired cliches like “a villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told.” We know his story, and nobody watching the movie or in the movie can make heads or tails of why he’s killing people left and right to reach Aksha. 


The criteria listed above explain why Elder David is no villain. He is a monster, but ultimately a pawn. It is also a useful tool for categorizing and evaluating the importance of other antagonists in Sinbad no Bouken and Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. They are the key to figuring out who the real “big bad,” is in the story. Sinbad is far and away the character that comes closest to meeting all of the criteria for the “Araya Test.” I’ll start with characters that fail the test.

  • Ithnan fails to meet criteria 2 & 3. He’s fighting to avenge Setta, serve his god, and undo damage that he feels Solomon has done. What he’s doing is morally wrong, but his motivations are logically consistent.
  • Falan fails to meet criteria 2 & 3: She’s fighting to avenge Wahid and Tess. She seems to think that creating a dark spot will allow her to reunite with Tess. She’s clearly lost some of her sanity and is obsessed with Tess. Her emotional and behavioral response is disproportionate, but again, it’s easy to understand why she’s doing what she’s doing.
  • Arba fails miserably by lacking all three. By all accounts, she lived a good life until she saw someone meddle with the god she was pre-programmed to obey. Everything she does is for HER FAAAAAATHER!!1!!!11!!!!! and no one else. It almost makes logical sense until you realize that the god she worships has no sense of what most human beings would consider right or wrong. According to Orthodox Church, Il Illah demands offerings of magoi. Even the suppression of other species was openly acknowledged as a way to offer magoi to Ill Illah. Her religion is “do stuff to feed a spaghetti monster because I was told to at some point.” Solomon is arrogant in her eyes becuase he decided to do something other than that. That’s it. 😕

Failing to meet more than one of the criteria is intentionally crafted aspect typical of minor antagonists. They may play a significant role in the narrative as a whole, but it’s fairly obvious upon meeting them that they’re not going to be the “final boss.”

Elder David is a special case that fails to meet all three.  There isn’t much to his story. He doesn’t suffer a heartbreaking loss. His only tragedy he had to face was feeling lonely because nobody could see what he could see. It’s no worse than what a child prodigy who goes to college when they would normally be in grade school goes through. 

His motivation is fairly straightforward: standing by Il Illah’s side. He has a mission. He knows what it is. He doesn’t know why he was given the mission, but he understands it well enough to deceive the world about his intentions for 800 years. His motivations aren’t particularly relatable or compelling, but they make logical sense. He gets a little confused along the way, but Sinbad quickly helps him figure out the puzzle and he moves on with a clear sense of purpose and confidence. Ironically, all that Sinbad had to do to “set him right” was explain that his mission remained the same: assisting a god in creating a new world and making it work until that god decides to destroy it and create another one.

 I can’t say that I feel much in the way of sympathy for him, but I understand why he’s done many of the things he’s done. Again, he’s a terribly written villain because he’s the villain’s pawn. He’s a red herring through and through. 

Sinbad, on the other hand, comes very close to meeting all three criteria on the level of Araya Souren. He has an entire manga dedicated to his heartbreaking backstory. By the time he decides to become a god, he admits that he’s doing what he’s doing for selfish reasons. When Neo-Sinbad is asked why he wants to return the world to the rukh, his answer is “because I want to.”

While he’s not as unrelatable as Araya Souren, Zeus!Sinbad/Neo-Sinbad’s argument that he’s trying to help the world by destroying it is pretty hard to swallow. While Araya placed a disproportionate amount of value on lives of the past, Zeus!Sinbad is obsessed with the lives of an indefinite future. 

In truth, he’s less concerned about what happens to the people in the new world he seeks to create, and more about the thrill of defeating destiny itself. A potential utopia is a “fringe benefit” he hopes will come of it. If not, he won’t be deeply disappointed or discouraged. He’ll feel exhilarated by the new challenge. Destroying that failed world and creating a new one will be another adventure to be enjoyed. He’s not a perfect analogy for Araya Souren, but that’s fine: a well written animanga villain simply needs to fit the Araya mold. Just how well written Sinbad is as a villain is pretty subjective, so I won’t try to make an argument either way. The upshot is that he manages to cross the “true tragic villain” threshold. 

I still don’t think he’s the “final boss.” Bear in mind that Sinbad is dead and gone. Zeus!Sinbad is an entity borne of Ill Illah, Sinbad, and the souls of seven chieftains of Alma Torran that somehow became the embodiment of principles that Sinbad would come to believe in. What has turned the remains of Sinbad into a villain is a mass of powerful entities that made up Il Illah’s core. 

The villains behind human the villain(s) are the rukh.

That will be the thesis of an entirely different series. The Sindria Effect 3.0 will focus on the narrative purpose of Sinbad no Bouken and finally answer the question: How will the destruction of Sindria 1.0 change Sinbad and his relationship with his subordinates?

Tag, you’re it @ivoryrosewood! That’s what you get for writing awesome response essays like this. 😜

anonymous asked:

Can you write a scenario with sinbad where he meets his s/o again after she left sindira to travel the world. (They've been friends since sinbad was 15-16 years old) fluff please ☺️☺️


Ja'far was sure something was off as his king was actually doing his work. It wasn’t as if he can ask many people about this phenomenon as not many had known the king as long as he did.

He thought for a moment and snapped his fingers as he finally thought of who to ask. He just hoped he could find quickly as Sin’s behavior was starting to scare him.

“Wait. what?”

Hinahoho nodded in confirmation. “Yep. His lover is finally coming home,” he said.

Ja'far blinked once more, “I can’t believe Y/N is coming home,” he said as he let his mind wander. Y/N had been there for him through several occasions, something he greatly appreciated. He smiled at the thought of seeing his old friend again.

His smile soon faded into one of surprise when Kikiriki slammed into him and knocked him to the ground.

“Ja'far!” He screamed happily.

“Kikiriku. Don’t tackle people like that!” Scolded Hinahoho.

Ja'far chuckled weakly, “it’s fine…”

Meanwhile, Sinbad hummed happily while doing his work for once. It was almost as if he couldn’t contain himself with how happy he was. He took a few deep breaths to try and calm down but as soon your face flashed in his mind his excitement rose.

He still remembers when he first met you.

You were walking around Reim with a hood on your head when he spotted you. He tried shuffling around to see your face but to no avail as you left into an alleyway.

Sinbad was about to dismiss it as nothing until he saw two shady looking men go in with you. He glanced back at Ja'far and saw that he was busy. Sinbad quickly took advantage of this and went to your aid.

However, as soon as he got there he noticed the two men groaning while you stood over them in a fighting stance. You held the same stance as you looked at him threateningly.

Sinbad held his hands up, “wait. Wait! I came here to help you! Promise!” He said quickly.

You rose a brow and slowly put your fists down to your side. You smiled, “okay, I’ll trust you,” you said simply before walking up to him. You scanned his face and scrunched your brows in thought, you then snapped your fingers in realization. 

“You’re Sinbad, aren’t you? The one with the tacky book, right?” You asked with a bright smile. 

Sinbad felt his soul leave his body as you said that. He certainly wasn’t expecting the meeting to go this way…

He smiled to himself and took a small look outside to see a ship just appearing over the horizon. He felt the excitement in his chest grow, “my queen is finally coming home,” he whispered to himself. 

The generals looked in shock as he paced, again and again. He seemed more nervous than anyone. They were all waiting at the dock for your ship to arrive, which was close. Yamraiha sighed and placed a hand on his shoulder causing him to flinch but soon relax as he realized who it was. “My king, please, calm down. I’m sure she’s just as excited to see you,” she said with a soft smile. 

Sinbad finally stopped pacing and turned to her, “really? Are you sure?” He asked.

Ja’far soon stepped in, “of course, Sin. After all, she did tell you she loves you numerous times before she left,” said Ja’far with a small sigh. 

Sinbad felt himself calm down with all his generals giving him reassuring glances. It would’ve lasted until Pisti made a worrying comment, “as long as she doesn’t find out that you’ve been flirting you’ll be fine,” she said cheerfully. 


Sinbad let out a small yelp at the thought you finding out about the shameless flirting he did, it didn’t mean anything but he just hoped you didn’t find out. If you did… He shivered at the thought of what might happen. Yamraiha comforted him again, “don’t worry, my king. Worse comes to worse we can just sew Pisti’s mouth shut,” Yam said firmly. 


Everyone just shot Pisti a small glare as if to say, be quiet. Pisti pouted and crossed her arms, wanting to say more until the ship finally came into the dock. Sin’s fear and nervousness washed away once he saw you, coming very close might he add. He rose a brow as you came closer and closer until he realized you had jumped off the ship and prepared to jump into his arms. 

“I’m home, my love!” You yelled. You ended up knocking him off his feet and to the ground, he chuckled and wrapped his arms around your waist. 

“I’m happy to see you again, my queen,” he said endearingly while pressing a kiss to your lips.

You returned the kiss with a smile, “I missed this,” you said wistfully.

“I missed you,” said Sinbad.

“I missed you too.”

ATF Character Development Analysis: Ja’far from Magi & Sinbad no Bouken

HOW THIS MEME WORKS: If the character in question receives more “yes” answers than “no” answers to questions on the test, they are considered “well-developed.” That’s all there is to it. 😉

WHY IS THERE NO CUT?: I’m hoping it will ward off the kind of people in the Magi fandom who whine about “walls of text.” 😒

Can you imagine the character in my own head? YES. He has a fairly ordinary look when compared to many other main characters: no impossibly long hair, rare but  feasible hair and skin color, average body proportions, etc. I can imagine running into someone who looks very much like him on the street.

Can you quickly think of three words to describe the character? Prodigy, workaholic, and denialist. 

Do you know your character’s biographical details? YES. When we are first introduced to him in Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Ja’far is Sinbad’s most trusted advisor, confidant, and highest ranking administrator in Sindria. He’s the closest thing Sinbad has to a “true” friend, something I personally believe Sinbad gave up on some time after the destruction of Sindria 1.0. He’s arguably the most important person in Sinbad’s life, and for that very reason, he’s kept at arm’s length. 

He is an incredibly devoted and hard-working subordinate, to the point that he doesn’t understand the concept of having a set of “personal” or “casual” clothing. Ja’far rules Sindria in Sinbad’s place when he’s away on a long journey. He carries out Sinbad’s orders without fail, regardless of his moral misgivings. He is a man who lives for Sinbad’s dream, and does his best to ensure Sinbad doesn’t self-sabotage or compromise his dream through heavy drinking, womanizing, doubting himself, hesitating to take whatever action needs but doesn’t want to do, and keeping him from making promises that can’t be kept. It doesn’t always work, but he always tries with all his might.

He is the only former general of Sindria who chose to directly support and follow Sinbad and his agenda after passing the Sindrian throne to Drakon. (I say directly because Yamuraiha was contributing to magic research for the Sindria Company and every general but Masrur went back to their respective homelands to rule/maintain the status quo in the former Seven Seas Alliance.)

He remained loyal & obedient after learning about Arbakuei’s presence. He remained loyal & obedient after Sinbad’s rabid dog Arbakuei attacked Aladdin. He remained loyal & obedient when Sinbad began using business tactics that made Ja’far uncomfortable, gently questioning him and offering up no retort when his concerns were waved away. He finally reached his limit and seemed to revert to the Ja’far of old who wasn’t afraid to punch the hell out of Sinbad when he lost his way in the past.

The last time we saw him, he seemed to be in a self-aware state dismayed about the secrets that Sinbad had been keeping from him and grieving over the fact that there was nothing more he could do since Sinbad had become a god. I found the panels below to be utterly heartbreaking:

…but apparently seeing the man who nursed them for 6 months in Sindria and went out of his way to protect them whenever he could in such a state wasn’t enough to convince Aladdin and Alibaba that maybe letting Sinbad force the world to commit mass suicide is a bad thing. 

This had better be a (poorly executed) parody of the shounen genre. Please let this nonsense be intentional!🙏

Do you know your character’s history and familial details? YES. He was born into the Magi world’s analog of the European Crusaders’ defamatory mythos about the Hashshashin, known in the manga as Sham Lash. Apparently Ja’far was a martial arts prodigy. Upon completion of one’s training as assassin, the clan forces the performs a ritual in which the student must kill their master or be killed themselves. He was six years old when he reached this level of skill to be required to pass this test, so the people he had to kill were his own parents. Apparently it’s not a ritual in which the mentors fight back. They agree to lay down their lives to pass the torch on to their pupil. If they hesitate, the rest of the Sham Lash clan is responsible for killing the would-be initiate. (Please correct me if you have some specific, canonical references that contradict this in the manga, encyclopedias, and/or any other official side material. No unreferenced fanon based debates, please!)

He’s erroneously described as the chief of the entire Sham Lash Clan by the age of 10 (according to the wiki at some point or something I missed in source & side material. The Sinbad no Bouken manga itself seems to portray him as the leader of a small, elite team within the clan. Either way, he has a very high ranking position for a child of his age. 

He meets Sinbad in Imuchakk when he’s sent on a mission by the Emperor of Partevia to assassinate him. He fails, is betrayed by Falan in Valefor’s dungeon, and nearly falls into depravity. Sinbad manages to save his soul with some kind of rukh manipulation with a single, djinn-equipped hand that supposedly only a magi of Alma Torran should able to do. Even the ability to partially djinn equip seems to imply a special link between Ja’far and Sinbad souls (and Sinbad’s status as a “true singularity”) that transcends the bonds Sinbad forms with any other character. A few days before the incident, Sinbad had no idea Baal could fuse with his physical body. I think (maybe) the development was intended as a sign that the two characters share a special bond. I may be reading too much into it, but I think it’s fascinating nonetheless. 

Long,-story-short, Sinbad convinces Ja’far to become one of his subordinates with a “Chekov’s gun” style oath of fealty.

…. which seems to be a red herring now that Sinbad is technically dead already. Or maybe we were all underestimating the relevance of the second panel. Whatever, who the fuck knows what’s going on anymore. ಠ_ಠ


Does your character have believable flaws? NO*** His primary flaws seem to be not calling Sinbad out when he feels that he’s truly crossed a line that undermines everything Sinbad is supposed to stand for, and failing to fully grasp what Sinbad’s true objectives are at any given time based upon what he knows to be Sinbad’s core values. I’ll forever be mystified by the fact that Ja’far was surprised that Sinbad decided to back the Fog Troupe in the first Balbadd Arc. When you see that they’re so close in Sinbad no Bouken that they practically share a telepathic link, this kind of disconnect doesn’t make sense. I’m sure the destruction of Sindria 1.0 will change their relationship for the worst, but I don’t believe Ja’far would think that Sinbad would kill off the fog troupe and return to Sindria after seeing the injustices being perpetrated by the Saluja Regime. I think that was something Ohtaka threw in to create a comedic moment, but it ultimately undercut Ja’far’s characterization right out of the gate. 

Does your character have notable traits and mannerisms? YES. He has a short temper with regard to anyone who personally insults Sinbad, and is very protective of children. He will always speak up to Sinbad if he’s concerned (rightfully or wrongfully) about his concerns about children being exploited. that seems to be the one and only issue about which he cannot stay tight-lipped.

Does your character have hopes and dreams? YES. Following Sinbad as he tries to build a world without war or poverty. 

Does your character have a life goal before the story starts? YES. Kill all of the people he was ordered to kill as an assassin and lead his subordinates with perfection. He also seemed to hate being told what to do by anyone. Deep down, he had a strong desire to be free of his Sham Lash obligations. He didn’t seem to be fighting out of loyalty to the clan. He was fighting to feel some sense of empowerment. He had to be the best at everything so he would never be at the mercy of everyone. 

Does your character have a story goal and a believable motivation to achieve that goal? YES. I think the degree to which he blindly followed Sinbad was unhealthy, but quite believable given his early childhood experiences. 

Does your character have at least one complex relationship? YES. His relationship with Sinbad is an obvious one and could (and maybe I will turn into) an essay series on its own, so I won’t go too much into it here. SinJa is a pairing that involves hero worship on Ja’far’s part, Sinbad’s trust in and need for Ja’far’s approval, Jaf’ar’s undying dedication to helping Sinbad achieve his goals without question. As I mentioned before, such devotion is crucial to the relationship as Sinbad constantly keeps him at arm’s length either out of shame or some effort to protect Ja’far.

His relationship with Rurumu is particularly complex. He’s the only true mother he’s ever known: something he didn’t have enough self-awareness to know he still wanted. There’s something about her adopting him as her own child that seems to accelerate his social and emotional maturity at breakneck speed.

Originally posted by randomyelly

 By the time the Slave Arc rolls around, all signs of Ja’far seeking out actively seeking out maternal affection or approval seem to have vanished. He doesn’t refer to her as his mother, conducts himself as if he were an adult (most of the time) in the manner she taught him, and seems to have a very professional relationship with her at the company. For example, he doesn’t say in the same household as Rurumu & Hinahoho or eat dinner with them as a family. Ja’far seems to connect with her most openly by taking care of her natural born children with a great deal of pride. Throughout his adult life, it’s clear that being raised by Rurumu affects him at his very core.

Originally posted by miidoriyas

 Sinbad may be the reason he learned to be such a capable administrator, servant, and gracious host: but it was Rurumu that taught him how to be that. It was Rurumu that taught him that familial bonds can transcend bloodlines. It was Rurumu that allowed him to comprehend why he should remain loyal, well-rounded, composed, able to cook for himself, and act as a gracious host. The thought of seeing how he’ll react when Rurumu dies breaks my heart and is one of the reasons why I’ve been hesitant to write this meme. 

It’s also why I get incredibly frustrated when people use the skill his mother taught him as an excuse characterize him as un ultra-effete uke to Sinbad’s alpha seme, when he is nothing of the sort according to the material itself. Don’t get me wrong, I have enough of a sense of humor to laugh in earnest at his portrayal as a cis-het female in parodies like Magi Abridged, but this notion that he’s some exception to the notion of “a man that can do both,” grinds my gears. Especially when there are other “men that can do both” characters in the manga like Ren Hakuryuu. 

*sigh* Blah blah blah KINKSHAMER! blah blah blah STOP HATING ON MY SHIP blah blah blah STOP POINTING OUT THAT LGBT FETISHIZATION & “FUJOSHI” CULTURE DOES REAL PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSICAL HARM TO LGBTQ+ PEOPLE IN REAL LIFE!!! whine whine sob 10,000 word callout post FUCK HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES BASED ON THE IDEA THAT NORMALIZING FETISZATION IS USED AGAINST LGBTQ+ AS EVIDENCE THAT THERE IS A “GAY AGENDA” TARGETING AMERICAN CHILDREN.. omg the Grand Vizier of Sindria is such a cute little cinnamon roll, this adult male who capable of running his own country must be protected at all costs! uwu

No need to tell me that I sound negative and bitter about all of the Tumblr discourse surrounding these issues above because I am. It does a huge disservice to the character, earnest SinJa shippers, and the reputation of the SinJa ship itself. See text in all caps above with regard to the sociopolitical implications.  ಠ_ಠ


Could you describe at least one outfit or several items of clothing that your character commonly wears? YES. The standard administrative robes that everyone in the White Capricorn Tower wears. Apparently Ja’far’s robes have a special feature that strip him of his gender identity and force him into a Marilyn Monroe pose every time the wind blows. If I see another solo fanart portrait of him in this pose, I’m going to scream. I’ll be trawling pixiv for more fanart in the next 24 hours, so I will definitely spend a fair amount of time screaming.

Do you know how your character would react to good and bad news? YES. He rarely reacts to good news, since good news is what’s to be expected. In any operation he’s running, anything but “good news” is abnormal and unacceptable. He’s very emotional when it comes to bad news. If he hears of it in a situation where he must keep his composure, he might softly gasp or nervously sweat while maintaining an otherwise flat expression. In any other situation he’ll react openly with rage, exasperation, annoyance and/or snark depending on the bad news. In general, his reactions to bad news are measured, realistic and appropriate. 

Does your character have any verbal or vocal mannerisms or traits? YES. He’s prone to clicking his tongue and cracking jokes when Sinbad’s being a complete dork or getting up to juvenile shenanigans. 

Do you know what your character would order at your favorite restaurant? NO but it doesn’t count against him. He’s not the kind of person who would go to a restaurant unless he was accompanying Sinbad on official business, and I doubt he’d ever eat. He prefers cooking Sindrian food from scratch and sharing it with friends and guests. 

Does your character or their circumstances change in a meaningful way by the end of the story? YES. Even if we stick strictly to Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic being the beginning of his story, going from Sinbad’s right hand man to an employee with a very formal, distant relationship in which Ja’far seems to openly fear Sinbad is a pretty dramatic shift. 

Does your character make mistakes? YES. Which actions he takes that are mistakes are a bit subjective and highly controversial within the fandom. Final Arc & Alibaba fatigue has set in, so I’m going to leave it at that. 

Do you have some idea of what happens to your character after the story ends? Way too early to tell.

VERDICT: Ja’far very well developed if you abide by the yes/no ratio. The only “NO” answer he got had to do with (another) clumsy attempt at comic relief. I won’t say that that nullifies the rest of the “YES” responses or makes him flat, but it does make him less relatable than he could be in my eyes.