Recap: As Alibaba, Morgiana and the others battle desperately against the monstrous Kassim, Judal and Aladdin return to the field.
Dragonzigg’s Thoughts: An extremely frustrating episode, one which is packed full of what should be great battles and cool twists, but suffers from alarmingly sloppy pacing, writing and directing If you just summarise this episode, it should be amazing, but it’s an objective lesson in how important the quality of the execution is in the animated form. For the first time the manga roots of Magi showed through and that was a real disappointment.
It’s mostly evident in the bizarre structuring of this episode. One of the most pleasant things about Magi thus far has been the way the events have flowed naturally from action to action, never needing unnecessary embellishment or clarification. For the most part it’s obeyed the universal rule of ‘show, don’t tell’ faithfully and avoided the massive expodumps that many shonen shows resort to.
That all sort of goes out of the window here, where there has to be a conversation or a monologue between every action, and there’s a curious disconnect between each subsequent action. Entirely unprompted, I thought of individual panels in a comic book, which is of course exactly the problem here. Kassim initally seems pretty feeble for a supposed horrible monster, and too much of the fight against him involves that old chestnut of standing around shouting about his weaknesses. There’s a lack of motion and gristle to the fight, almost like you’re watching a slideshow instead of actual animation, and far too much random dialogue about his abilities and weaknesses.
The episode is also not helped by poor animation. It’s not just the off model shots (that’s practically a tradition in Magi now) but limited movement and poor choreography that conspire to make what should be epic battles something of a damp squib. The giant demonic Kassim never really feels like a threat and occasionally looks alarming pathetic, such as the sequence where he’s trapped by soldiers. There’s occasionally a flash of viscerality, most notable when Morgiana is thrown across town into a wall, but overall I’m left pining for some of the epic work A1 did with boss monsters in Sword Art Online.
The other major plot point in this episode is of course the return of Aladdin, which is handled in exactly the way I feared – as a massive deus ex machina. Aladdin’s reappearance is marked by some notably poor dialogue (though it’s helped by Kaori Iaahihara’s constantly excellent voicework) and given his massivley increased powers are not explained within this episode, we get an awful lot of the people standing around telling us what is happening, further leeching any excitement out of the scene. There is at least plenty of flash and thunder visually here, presumably where the money went for this episode, though again it’s all little confusing. I do like Aladdin’s ‘We’re all in this together speech’ which is a hoary old cliche but also an effective one, delivered briskly and at the right moment.
Magi had to stumble at one point, and the show has done so much good work building our interest in the characters and ongoing plot that it’s relatively easy to shrug this off as a blip. Nevertheless, it’s a disappointing stage for the show to falter at, and my fingers will be crossed next week will get us back on track as we surely must approach the end of the Balbadd arc.
- The Masked Man addresses Judal as ‘Magi’ which would seem to indicate he isn’t one himself.
- There’s a notable tendency in this episode to cut to extremely detailed still frames before reverting to rougher animation. I have to assume that these are images taken directly from the manga (Dragon Ball often displayed a similar effect for that reason)
- Aladdin’s powering up is dangerously close to super cliche, especially the pose.
- Surely when the giant rukh-bird appeared I wasn’t the only one who thought ‘Batman?’
- The ending theme has grown on me, though I still don’t think it’s as good as the first. Unrelatedly, I did not realise it was by Supercell until this episode.
- Where did Aladdin’s turban go?