Recap: Aladdin uses the Wisdom of Solomon to try to reach Alibaba, while Sinbad and his Generals battle to defeat the force of Al-Thamen.
Zigg’s Thoughts: Ugh. This one really was a bit half-assed wasn’t it? The major problem with this episode is how awfully flimsy and rushed it feels. Every problem is solved nearly instantly, there’s a bunch of ass pulls to justify the need for an ending and overall it just feels like it was jotted down on the back of a notepad five minutes before deadline. It’s a rather damp squib to end on and I can’t help but feel there might at some point have been an extra episode in here, so off does the pacing feel.
So let’s check off the list of crimes then. We’ve got the completely random deus ex machinas, such as Zagan suddenly cropping up. Since he’s been the objective of this entire quest you’d think that his appearance would be a big deal but instead he shows up for less than 60 seconds, having apparently decided to lend his power to Hakuryu entirely offscreen. It’s also possible he healed Morgiana, but again, it’s not something we’re told and as a result she just sort of appears, somehow recovered from her horrific injuries. Now, I’ll never complain about more Morgiana but it’s all so sudden, and while she pays some lip service to having only recovered some of her magoi she really does come off as just a magic solution to the problem.
Speaking of the problem, the evil Alibaba gets maybe five minutes of screentime before he’s a total non-issue. It’s the same problem Dunya and Isaac had – we get so little time to know them it’s difficult to take them seriously as bad guys. At least those two got tragic backstories, here evil Alibaba is basically just the equivalent of a palette swap. Oh and speaking of Dunya, she’s alive? I was under the impression giant scythes through the chest were considerably more fatal than that. We do get some nice dialogue bits with Aladdin and Alibaba inside the dreamscape, which are well written and well acted, but the issue here is that we’ve seen all this before – this is the third nervous breakdown Alibaba’s had in the series and it’s getting old quite frankly.
The other story thread, the battle for Sindria, is handled competently but unremarkably. Kougyoku saving the day is a decent wrinkle and there’s some nice stuff here with seeing all of the Generals work together, but as I said before, we never really feel much as at stake and thus it’s difficult to feel at all invested. Also, wheelchair guy is a rubbish, rubbish villain.
Really, this episode seems much more interested in setting up stuff that’s going to be in the now confirmed second season. I don’t mind this, but it’s so obvious here that it intrudes into the structure of the story they’re currently telling. A scene like the death of Ithnan should be a powerful moment, but instead we’re distracted by all of the backstory that’s being teased. It’s also poorly presented, making it pretty unclear what’s going on anyway. And then there’s Sinbad’s power, the history of Solomon, the Kou princes…too many words are spent on stuff that won’t be relevant for months and months.
Ultimately this conclusion feels like what it is – a hastily whipped up original story shoehorned awkwardly into a larger narrative. It works on a basic level and it isn’t without its strong moments, but it’s ultimately something of a damp squib to end a fine series on.
- I’m not going to offer speculation here because there’s simply too much, but it’s worth pointing out that we see both of the other Magi, and that Sinbad has the symbol of Solomon on his palms in his Djinn Equip form.
- Gotta love that giant space elevator
- Did we really need the fanservice from Yamuraiha? Silly question I guess.
- I do like the brief cameo from Kassim, reminding us he’s with Alibaba even from beyond the grave.
Lifesong’s Thoughts: Magi started strong only to fizzle out half way through. In the beginning we were promised adventure with Aladdin and Alibaba and for a little while we got some of that. Somewhere before the mid-point of this anime, Aladdin becomes less important and Alibaba is played up as the protagonist. Alibaba is the whiny shonen protagonist that plagues 95% of shonen anime ever made. I don’t even feel honest calling his character bad, but it is tiresome how cliche his character building is. There are many interesting characters with strong themes, but they are all held back by the mediocrity that is Alibaba.
The atmosphere of Magi follows the same path as the story. Somewhere during Magi’s run the Arabian Nights themed music is thrown away and replaced by odd musical choices that are often out of place. I found myself laughing at scenes that were nearly ruined by the musical selection and other times I was simply puzzled by the odd choices. I respect that A-1’s team tried something different, but frankly, it didn’t work out.
Despite my complaints, there was quite a bit of good in Magi, whenever Alibaba didn’t manage to drain the life out of it. Sinbad and Aladdin both made for interesting characters who had well thought out motivations, strengths and weaknesses. Morgiana brought no-nonsense awesome to the cast and is one of my favorite female characters in recent memory. While the overall plot tapers off into a generic shonen power struggle, these characters managed to remain interesting enough to keep me watching.
Ultimately, I am disappointed by Magi for becoming a generic shonen adaptation, the source material clearly left room for more.
Dragonzigg‘s Thoughts: While I agree with Life that Magi‘s strength waned as it went on, I feel that the overall quality remained high enough to make it a distinct cut above your standard shonen show. So much about it sparkled, be it the cool setting, interesting characters, well constructed plotlines and a general willingness to look a little deeper than the action.
Let’s begin with those characters then. Alibaba is definitely the weak link, but that doesn’t make him rubbish. He’s largely inoffensive, but definitely suffers from genial blandness and a tendency to lose his shit far too easily. The first time it was endearing and the second time made a lot of sense because he was facing down the demons of his past. But ultimately we just saw too much of him moping and not enough of him being our hero and kicking ass. When he was motivated to do so he was pretty great, but I’d like to see a little more evidence of the future king and less of the haunted child.
In contrast Aladdin has little angst and almost no backstory, but that doesn’t matter because he’s meant to represent the hope and life of the team. There’s no deep character to be uncovered but he’s constantly peppy and upbeat without falling into annoying child territory, and his combination of naiveté and vast potential make him an appealing tagalong, with his still mysterious origins giving plenty of tantalising story to be mined later on.
Morgiana benefits from not only the most fleshed out and interesting backstory but also the most kickass action scenes and as a result is the clear standout of the three. Her character arc, growing from a broken slave to flashes of a strong, independent and confident woman is a refreshing (and sadly rare) one for anime in general and she was very much a highlight of the show. What’s most important is that they work well as a trio, complementing each other and providing ample support and chances to reveal aspects of the others personality. There’s clear chemistry between the leads, which really helped me enjoy the time we spent in their company.
One of the most encouraging signs in the early and middle parts of Magi was that it was willing to take its time and unravel its world and characters slowly and effectively rather than rush headlong from arc to arc. It gave the characters a chance to endear themselves to the viewer and for plot points to seep in organically – think for example of Aladdin’s adventure on the plains, how it shapes him as a person and how it’s able to introduce the Kou Empire as an integral part of the sub plot. The plots also showed a gratifying amount of complexity – not everyone may have liked the intense political wrangling of the Balbadd arc (and it might have gone on an episode too long) but I appreciated the show taking the time to lay out all the sides of the debate and not railroad us into a straight heroes/villains setup.
The show definitely flagged towards the end however, and I feel the vast majority of the post-Balbadd episodes, while usually decent, failed to match up to the strong, nuanced plots of the early arcs. There was an increased focus on (usually poor) action, a loss of the willingness to explore the issues and bland and uninteresting villains. The quality of the artistry has also been a fluctuating problem across the run – at its best this can be a very pretty show but there’s a lot of places where it’s far less than that and I’d hope an injection of budget could be found so that the excellent design work could be better served by stronger animation.
Ultimately any sort of roundup is semi-redundant considering it’s been confirmed a season 2 is only six or so months away. but I do feel these 25 episodes have shown me more than enough to remain excited, despite a somewhat underwhelming ending. Magi has struggled at times but when it’s been good it’s proved that you can still make an old-fashioned shonen adventure that keeps the freewheeling spirit but goes beyond the shallow characterisation and simple plots that the genre has become associated with, instead making you think about the action and feel for the characters. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but Magi was a polished, clever and very enjoyable romp. I’ll be back for more in the autumn. Thank you all for reading, and I hope to see you again then.