Magic, also called sorcery, is a limitless form of natural energy in the Guilty Gear series. First introduced in the original Guilty Gear, it is the source of the combatants' manifested powers and the abnormalities that occur in the world. While its discovery solved the energy crisis that humanity faced in the 21st century, it is also a primary cause of turmoil in the series.
Magic has always existed, as it is simply the materialization of the pure natural energy of the Backyard into the world, and awareness of ki—one of magic's five context—by Eastern cultures likely dates as far back as 500 BC.
It wasn't until sometime in the late 20th century that knowledge of the phenomenon was formalized. The man known as The Original discovered the Backyard's existence and laid the foundation for what would become the study of magic, the Theory of Magical Science. However, he made the mistake of creating the Universal Will. Realizing the entity's dark intentions, The Original suddenly began to tell anyone who would listen that the world had to abandon its reliance on electronics or face dire consequences, but he was met with disappointment and then embarrassment by the scientific community that once respected him.
Only a few listened to him, and four of his five disciples made preparations for a technology-free world. Then in the year 1999, the Dawn of Revival occurred, and the Universal Will attempted to manifest itself through electronic circuitry. The UN banned all such devices, but with the technology that had supported society now gone, the world quickly devolved into chaos. Less than a year later, the Original and disciples set to work restoring human civilization, becoming "the saviors of humankind".
Earning thousands of followers with their efficient relief, they helped the world adapt to magic. In the early stages of magic research, mages had difficulty controlling feedback from the Backyard, which resulted in frequent misfires and explosions, with more than a few people dead or injured as a result. Nevertheless, the Apostles continued to push forward, expanding human knowledge of magic very quickly, and bringing about the Age of Magic.
As the Apostles' magical expertise grew, so did their influence. In 2008, they formed the Sanctus Populi, and their discipless began to travel the world, spreading their teachings. In 2010, the United Nations declared sorcery and magic the new standard, and science and industry, sources of environmental pollution and weapons of mass destruction, were outlawed. Only a few organizations, like Zepp, attempted to keep the old sciences and cultures alive. Around this time, the Apostles reformed into the Conclave, and The Original parted this world to stop the Universal Will's rampage, leaving the "seeds" of the Absolute World to That Man, his fifth disciple.
The introduction of magic shifted the world's production balance greatly, and while technologically it took several steps back, more value was placed on cultural advancements. Nonetheless, political and economic power became synonymous with zeal and instroments, and given that the UN and Vatican oversaw the process, a large gap appeared between Europe and the Americas by 2042. A figurative war thus erupted, fueled by rapidly developing magical theory, that saw the birth of Gears—powerful biological weapons produced by fusing human and animal DNA with magic—, and led to the century-long Crusades, which began in 2074 and concluded in 2175 with the Sealing of Justice.
Despite the fact that magic currently exists almost everywhere in common life, very few people know how it actually functions. After the end of the war, with the world going into restoration mode, the UN's standardized curriculum was thus revised to include the subject of Basic Magical Theory (魔法基礎理論, Mahō Kiso Riron?). Physics is also heavily linked with magic, appearing as "Magic Physics".
The practical application of magic theory is called a spell (法術, Hōjutsu?), of which there are 666 known ones. A spell is derived from formulas that draw energy from another plane—the Backyard—and convert it into more useful and familiar forms, which some consider similar to alchemy. The tuning (調律, Chūningu?), i.e. inscription or transmission of magical energy, requires a language hierarchy known as the Divine Steps (法階, Hōkai?), twelve perceivable words that are, apparently, arranged into a chord (コード, Kōdo?). There are several "local" rules that must also be respected in order to cast a spell.
The effect and strength of magic is determined by how many words are lined up, recited simultaneously, and how they are arranged. The practitioner must memorize their order and recite them accordingly; these twelve words are complicated, but there are infinite possibilities of wordings. Spells that produce nearly identical results can be inscribed in significantly different ways. If a spell works on a deeper level than what the caster is able to interpret, they will be unable to cast it. It is possible to optimize magic beyond the Divine Steps, as demonstrated by the Vizuel, Dr. Paradigm, and Izuna, which renders common spells useless unless given a unique blessing.
Creating magic is a highly involved process: the writer (or programmer), who must have a state-mandated license to hold such a position, writes the necessary programmatic language to cause magic to occur, and logs it in a score (スコア, Sukoa?), also called note or program, in the appropriate format. Primary recording mediums include zeal or paper, and based on what the score says (e.g. "cause fire" or "fly"), the person activating the spell is able to cause a desired effect.
Finally, a sequencer is a catalyst required to play the score. Depending on the sequencer type or score, the final effect will vary greatly. The sequencer can be:
- A hardware sequencer (instroment), which is a physical device that will load a score and play it back, but it cannot alter the score's contents. "Pods" are a combination of a score and sequencer to be used in common households; they are designed for a specific purpose—e.g. lighting or as an engine—, and cannot perform complex tasks. A physical sequencer of better quality, like the Sacred Treasures, is likely to have a wider range of applications, and even enable to adjust output as desired.
- A software sequencer, which is the act of tapping directly into the Backyard to cause spells that produce similar or desired effects. Altering the score's contents is possible this way, but rigorous training is required to reach this skill level.
The reason for using a physical sequencer is the issue in processing speed, but also makes spells much safer and stable. With a software sequencer there is no guarantee that the desired effect will occur every time, and the casting process is very long and tedious. Still, practitioners of this caliber can find professional work as "engineers", editing scores and arrange the perfect desired output for a given scenario or situation. "Sorcerers", for their part, can wield magic without any external catalysts with short casting times, although they focus more in R&D. Both are hired by the government or massive corporations, but obtaining a license is extremely dreary.
Magic works according to the so-called five element configuration (五大元素の構成, godai genso no kōsei?). There are five basic types of magical energy: Fire, Lightning, Water, Wind, and Ki. Every form of magic is inevitably made up of at least one of these attributes. Generally, magic users adhere to a singular element, and it is rare for someone to command more than one. It is unknown how some high-level magic—e.g. Faust's displacement and spatial abilities, I-No and Axl's time travel, May and Testament's summons, or the Soul Sinker—fits into this categorization system, or even if they are part of it at all.
- Fire (火, Hi?) - The destructive power of Fire magic appears to be rather common, as many characters show the power the use flames during their attacks, perhaps being the easiest to use. The Fireseal is able to concentrate and amplify Fire magic used by its wielder. Character who use the Fire element are: Sol Badguy, Axl Low, and presumably, Dizzy, Jam Kuradoberi and Justice.
- Lightning (雷, Kaminari?) - Said to be the most difficult attribute to master,[source needed] Lightning yields destructive potency that rivals Fire-type spells. The Thunderseal is able to concentrate and amplify Lightning magic used by its wielder. Character who use the Lightning element are: Ky Kiske, Robo-Ky, Sin Kiske, and presumably, Justice.
- Water (水, Mizu?) - No users of this element are known, however, May's summons—hinted by the present water effects—could imply that she uses Water-type magic, in addition to Ki. Dizzy's spells, via Undine, also seem to be Water-elemental in nature.
- Wind (風, Kaze?) - Very little information has been given about Wind-type magic. The Zessen concentrates and amplify Wind magic used by its wielder. The only known user is Anji Mito, owner of the aforementioned weapon. Johnny's Mist Finer[note 1] and I-No's attacks could possibly involve Wind magic as well.
- Ki (気, Ki; also said as "Qi/Chi" in a Chinese context?) - It is the least understood of all elemental components, unique in that it can oppose or amplify the other four elements. Researchers and theorists have worked hard to understand the inner workings of ki, but thus far they have met with little success. Unlike the other elements, every person has some ki, even without specific training, as it is a part of nature and exists within every living thing. It often responds to powerful emotions. There have been recorded cases of children manipulating ki but losing the ability to do so as they grow older, likely due to a greater emotional stability. It is a rare ability, however: not many people can see the flow of ki, let alone wield it. Users include Chipp Zanuff, Tsuyoshi, Kliff Undersn, Mizuha, Jam Kuradoberi, Kum Haehyun, and presumably, May, Baiken, and Anji Mito.
Ki is heavily linked to the spirituality of Eastern cultures, who were the most adept at harnessing it. Some conspiracy theorists believe that this is exactly why they were obliterated by Justice, though for certain only the Kum family was cornered into extinction by the Gear commander because of it. Throughout the series, the Post-War Administration Bureau expresses interest in obtaining and further studying the power, having to do so by capturing those of Japanese descent, as they are all able to manipulate ki. Unique to them is the Ki Overflow Syndrome.
An additional element has been mentioned—Light (光, Hikari?), which is known to manifest via the Flashing Fang, but it is unknown if it is simply made up of the aforementioned elements, or if it is a separate one altogether.
- The categorization into five known base principles could be inspired by the song "Five Magics" by Megadeth (itself based on Hardy's Master of The Five Magics), but the idea of five elements has existed since ancient times.
- Even though Axl comes from the 20th century, where magic has yet to be recognized or utilized, he somehow mastered the ability to manipulate Fire magic.
- Although his battou/iai skills are of Japanese origin, he has never been targeted by the P.W.A.B. for using Ki, unlike with Chipp.
- Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- script § "Opening"
- [GGWorld - "The Original"]
- [GGWorld - "Theory of Magical Science"]
- Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator- script § "Cause A"
- Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- script § "Philosopher B"
- [GGWorld - "Apostle"]
- Guilty Gear manual, pg.4
- [GGWorld - "State of Affairs Following Magic"]
- Guilty Gear Complete Bible, pg.97-98
- [GGWorld - "Basic Magical Theory"]
- [GGWorld - "Culture and Education 2"]
- Guilty Gear 2 -Overture- Lore § "Magic/Magic Spell"
- [GGWorld - "Spell"]
- Guilty Gear 2 -Overture- script § "The Alarm Always Rings Unexpectedly"
- [GGWorld - "Divine Steps"]
- Guilty Gear 2 -Overture- Lore § "Divine Steps"
- Guilty Gear 2 -Overture- script § "Underworld Hill"
- Guilty Gear 2 -Overture- script § "A Cell Called Paradise"
- Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- script § "Philosopher A"
- [GGWorld - "Components of Magic Production"]
- [GGWorld - "Magic"]
- [GGWorld - "Attributes"]
- Guilty Gear Codex, pg.51
- [GGWorld - "Fireseal"]
- Guilty Gear XX Λ Core Plus script § "Record ♯5470"
- [GGWorld - "Thunderseal"]
- [GGWorld - "Zessen"]
- [GGWorld - "Ki"]
- Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator- script § "Identify A"
- Guilty Gear XX script § "Report ♯5236"
- [GGWorld - "Kliff Undersn"]
- Guilty Gear Xtra Chapter ?
- Guilty Gear XX script § "Report ♯7403"
- [GGWorld - "Kum Haehyun"]
- [GGWorld - "Ki Overflow Syndrome"]
- [GGWorld - "Flashing Fang"]