Friday, June 2, 2017

Defending the Devil: A Kickass Character Analysis of Arba

Written by: Micha

Cunt™. That’s the most accurate word to describe Arba, from Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic.

Arba is perhaps one of the most controversial characters in this manga. She is a creation of David made to babysit Solomon well into his youth but somehow ended up as an influential villain who fucked shit up even after her “death.”

I will not hide the fact that I have, on separate occasions, licked my computer screen when she came on weekly updates. But for this article, I will leave my gay feelings at the door, and briefly list  her significant contributions, the collective fandom’s opinion of her as a character, and provide my opinions and the rating at the end. It’s all very simple.

And even though many of us may not view her with great fondness, like all characters, she deserves her day in court. And I will lawyer up to defend her honor.

Except this. I can't defend this.

Contributions

I will highlight Arba’s contribution to the plot in three topics: Taking Care of Solomon, Formation of Al-Thamen, and Fucking with Hakuryuu.

We don’t know much about how she was created, but it’s said that David “created” her, for reasons unknown to us. Yes, it’s said she was created to be of service to Solomon, but I don’t buy it entirely. But knowing David, it’s probably something to do with “destiny” or some shit like that.

Arba took care of Solomon since he was a little nugget. She taught him swordsmanship, and always addressed him formally. This is the main reason I chose this topic as one of her significant contributions. It reveals her submissive trait, which is inkeeping of her religious nature, as well as explains how she much influence she had on Solomon.

Arba went to battle with Solomon, and cried.
Arba played a huge role in advising Solomon and was considered one his three wise Magi, right before Solomon blasphemed by overwriting the rukh.

It was at this point that she formed Al-Thamen. Going against Il-Ilah is a touchy subject for her, and will do everything in her power to oppose anyone who doesn’t fit her definition of piety. She exploited the grief of humans who died in the great war against David, and used their grief to turn them against Solomon.

Al-Thamen caused havoc everywhere. Their goal was to make everyone fall into depravity; essentially fall into Il-Ilah’s will. This is how much Arba loved her God.

It wasn’t enough that she was sealed into another dimension by Solomon, quite frankly banished from the Solomon’s world, but she found a way to manifest herself and establish herself in a royal family.

This is probably when shit really started go down. Arba “possessed” Gyokuen, the wife of Kou Emperor, and began to fuck shit up behind the stage. Two prominent people were on the receiving end of her sociopathic tendencies: Hakuryuu and Judar.  

In fact, Arba was such a bitch to her son and left him so traumatizd to the point killing her became an ambition of his. You have to be an asshole of a grand scale if someone made it their life's mission to kill you.

What's interesting is that she was really anticipating to get killed. In her battle against Hakuryuu, she repeatedly asked happily if he really desires to murder her. This, I found, strangely reminiscent of David Vs Solomon, where David anticipated to be defeated by his son as well. It's wonderful.

And while Arba was "defeated", she didn't die. She came back later to suck Sinbad's dick because she believed she would be directly working under Il-Ilah. Crazy woman. 

Fandom's Opinion

Why would I need to present the collective fandom opinion in my own article, you ask? Because it matters. I have fewer friends than I can count with my fingers, to influence my opinion of a character and fill in for my blindspots.

So I do not want to be living in an echo chamber, hearing only my own thoughts. As much as I’m fond of Arba, she’s one of the most controversial and most hated characters in the fandom I’ve come across. So naturally I had find out why. What was I not seeing that most do?

From what people have told me, I’ve found out that a lot of people find her robotic. Her obsession with “Father” and God Il-Ilah is unappealing and outdated. In short, she reminds you of every fundamentalist, religious bigot you’ve met or will meet in the future who tells you everything you do is sinful and unholy and disgraceful in the face of God.

Another issue people take with her is her “rushed progression into a villain” that did not make any sense to them. How does one person follow Solomon into battles one day and try to oppose him the next? This comes from a dear friend of mine, whose judgment I trust when it comes to fiction interpretation. But I disagree with this narrative, because I believe her progression into a villain was done right, and you would pick up on that IF YOU PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL. I will elaborate on this further in the next section.

This point is almost always paired with the issue that Arba keeps switching sides. At some point, she was with David until she wasn’t. And then with Solomon and his friends. And then for a while with Al-Thamen (considering that she founded it). And briefly on the side of Sinbad, and nowadays she spends her time tour guiding Alibaba in the Sacred Palace, so how about that? I will also address this issue in the next section as well.

My Opinion

Buckle up.

To say the Magi fandom dislikes Arba might be an understatement. But I’m a minority subset of this population. Because I don’t not only tolerate her but I find her brilliant. I find her brilliant because she is realistic.

Arba is a reflection of many people who, in real life, have found meaning through a higher power and completely devote their existence to that one Cause. You don’t find good representation of that in fiction these days.

And whether you think people of that nature are just or unjust is completely subjective and irrelevant to this article.

You don’t hate her because she is badly written. You hate her because she has done wrong to all characters you hold dear. Arba is the reason for a lot of chaos. She’s the reason your favorite characters are in pain. Whether it be Solomon or Judar or Hakuryuu or Aladdin or Sheba.

My argument is that she is a brilliantly written character precisely because she has done all of that. She creates CONFLICT. She’s the reason you’re on your toes. She’s the reason this manga is interesting.

The reason most people hate Arba is because they’re overprotective of their favorite character to the point they’re blind and unappreciative of anything else. That’s not cute. Quite frankly, it’s childish and cult-like.


Arba turning heads.
And it’s important to remember that while she plays a huge part in the trajectory of the plot, she remains, respectfully, a grade A asshole. That’s undeniable. Hold on, she’s one of my favorite characters and I can say this about her? What a foreign concept, huh? Jesus.

Another thing I love about Arba is the fact that her character progression into madness was subtle, yet very revealing. This is not what most people believe, as I’ve mentioned above that most feel like it was rushed and random.

Her progression was not rushed, the Alma Torran arc was rushed. It was a story, after all. But given the short time span of the arc, her development was inkeeping of its pace.

For instance, you can pinpoint moments amongst the panels where you can say with certainty that she was definitely not normal. Her cutting off pseudo-David’s head once she got into the tower is one big example. Look at her face. That’s the face of a sadistic person who had been waiting impatiently to kill David.


She regrets nothing.
The biggest telling of them all is her faith. This ties in with the supposed convolution of her loyalties to random ass people that most people find unstable and unreliable about her. In fact, many find her difficult to understand precisely because of this. But does she really have pointless loyalties with people?

The most  fundamental thing about Arba is that her loyalty lies with one person: Il-Ilah.

That’s it. That’s all you need to know.

Keep that in mind and everything will fall into place. If you are trying to figure her out, or wonder why the fuck this woman chooses to be all over the plot, knowing this very basic foundation of her character will bring order to all of those thoughts.

Arba’s primary goal always have been serving and revering Il-Ilah. Everything else is secondary to her. She joined Solomon? Yeah, because she believed David was being a dick to Il-Ilah. She later betrayed Solomon and killed Sheba? Yeah, because Solomon overthrew Il-Ilah, which she considered blasphemous. And in the most recent chapters, she’s dragging her depressed ass and playing tour guide to Alibaba? Yeah, because she cannot seem to “hear” him anymore.

Her motivation has always been this God of hers who speaks to her. I’m not sure if that’s actually the truth or if it’s symptomatic of early onset dementia. It wouldn’t surprise me if she can actually hear him. We know very little of how she was “created”.

"Crawl into a hole and die, of course. Silly kids asking silly questions."

And that’s another thing.

I do not see her as a bigot. I see her as a victim of David.

This is how she was programmed to be. At least, that’s my theory on that. It could also explain the reason why Sheba, who adored Il-Ilah (courtesy to being brainwashed), corrected her opinion of Il-Ilah after getting to know Solomon. But Arba never did that. She held her ground with her beliefs because that’s the blueprint of her personality. It’s how David wanted her to be.

In conclusion, I get it. Arba is a real bitch. But she’s not furniture. It’s undeniable how much she has contributed to the plot. I’m a strong believer of appreciating characters that make great contributions to the plot: great contributions including conflict and violence. Of course, appreciation does not imply that you must root for them either. That’s ridiculous.

Character rating: 4.5

Adopt me, Arba.


Bonus panel:

What's the point of even raising someone if you can't scare the shit out of them?




Micha: [Co-founder]
Micha doesn't have much going on in her life, which is why she does this shit every once in a while.  If you want to befriend her, talk to her on her skype: michasucks. Or approach her on her tumblr, but do it gently because she scares easy. You can also harass her by sending hate-filled emails to michamichamicha@live.com. She loves that.

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