Don’t let the shounen jump-esque animation fool you. Behind a bit of silliness is an excellent take of the Arabian Nights mythos, adding general drama, tragedy, magic, mystery and action with some likeable characters into what could develop into quite the tale.
What They Say :
In a fantastic middle-age world where slavery is very common, there are mysterious tall towers named Dungeon which mysteriously appeared out of nowhere fourteen years before the story line. Someone who conquers a Dungeon becomes very powerful and wealthy. Our hero Ali Baba is a teenager who works for merchants to support himself. He dreams for conquering a lot of Dungeons and becoming a very rich person. One day, he comes across with a strange young boy named Aladdin who carries a mystical flute with supernatural powers in it. Ali Baba and Aladdin agree to travel their first Dungeon together.
Set in 2.0 Stereo in English, Japanese and French, there is a Dolby Surround release on the English track but isn’t show obviously on the menu (had to access it manually) so it is strange on that, but on the plus side, this is the first time I’ve done a release with a third language, and all three tracks are definitely better than expected (the English being the strongest, but I didn’t have to raise the volume on the French or Japanese track either) with no issues regarding delays to lip flaps or transition to subtitles. Video wise, colours were clear and quite beautiful, and no issues in terms of video to audio on a 16:9 aspect ratio, no problems video wise with subtitles synching, no video freezing or any slack animation when pausing the show, so overall a quality release.
Menu is really nice looking, set on an Arabian palace background with sky overshadowing, each menu has a shot of Alibaba and Aladdin on the middle to right hand side with some Arabian Nights style music overheard. There are no submenus bar extras on the first disc, everything is selectable on the main menu (Play All, Audio – Original With Subtitles/English though as previously mentioned there is a Dolby Surround option but you have to do it whilst watching the show, as is the French option for language which again isn’t shown immediately on the main menu and have to select it manually) so whilst it is easy to navigate, a few of the options you would need to do yourself if you wanted to set up to stereo or change the language to French, so it does fall because of that.
The only extras were the clean opening and ending.
I hadn’t heard much about this series – only a few of my friends seemed to have seen it, and never asked anything about it, and the initial look, with a Fairy Tail/Bleach style look – whilst the animation was colourful, I wasn’t sure what type of series was getting into.
Turns out I was very pleasantly surprised.
We see our exposition scene as we meet Aladdin, here portrayed as a young boy, who is asking a genie for a wish. We immediately see this is a scene in the past as we cut to our other main male lead Ali Baba, here as a handsome blonde young adult. He is trying to be a dungeon conqueror and collect the treasures within. After a few mishaps, Aladdin and Ali Baba meet up, as Ali Baba sees that Aladdin has some unique secret powers. Immediately, a unique twist hits as whilst Aladdin has powers they aren’t fulfilled until his wish is granted…which is to make a friend. This results in Ali Baba and Aladdin travelling together to conquer dungeons.
They made issues with Aladdin, whilst a bit of a pervy kid, has a good sense of justice, attacking slave traders which Ali Baba gets involved with via proxy, as it is clear Ali Baba’s journey is from a rogue to someone more good, and when they are being tracked by an upper class man named Jamil, the two team up with magic, sword play and indeed word play, as one of the slaves they had inadvertently helped in Morgiana, a very powerful young woman – which causes another genie to emerge named Amon. Aladdin is confirmed as someone called a Magi, someone with huge potential magic power. Amon resides himself in Ali Baba’s sword, and Morgianna turns traitor against her master and escapes the dungeon, whilst Aladdin and Ali Baba separate…
Thanks to the treasure from the dungeon, Morgianna now is free and has freed many of the slaves but Aladdin wants to find Ali Baba. We get some side stories which eventually do tie into the main plot, for example we get the first hearing of the Ko Empire, who seem to be the world conquerors of the Arabian Nights setting, in this case for a clan known as the Kogas which Aladdin attempts to sort peacefully, but then the Ko Empire’s shaman is shot, and it appears to be from an arrow of the Kogas. However the shaman Chagan, her spirit notices Aladdin’s Magi status, and we continue to see his genie powers, able to form a huge body which is powered by Aladdin’s spiritual energy – learning of King’s Candidates, people appointed by Magi in the Ko Empire. Time continues to pass as 6 months pass as we alternate to Morgiana, as she deals with a group who are also slaves, and seeing this girl snap with memories of how she was treated is a truly scary sight – it leads to Morgianna and Aladdin reuniting and looking for Ali Baba in the city of Balbadd.
This is where the story begins to fully take shape as we are introduced to the character of Sinbad, a roguish well meaning but absent minded apparent drifter…who is actually the king of Sindria. Sinbad has come to Balbadd to convince their rulers to reopen trade with Sindria, but they claim to have their hands full dealing with a group of thieves known as the Fog Troupe who is now being led by no other than Ali Baba. It leads to a reunion between Aladdin and Ali Baba but it seems it is as enemies. Morgiana subdues him and the two have a talk about what has happened over the time whilst Sinbad figures out the Kou Empire is pressuring Balbadd into adopting their currency, making them more in control.
What was great was when Alibaba reveals to Aladdin and Morgiana his back-story of how he was raised in the slums along Kassim, the leader of the Fog Troupe and after his mother’s death, he was taken in by his father, the King of Balbadd. On his deathbed, the King recognized Alibaba’s capacity and asked him to assume Balbadd’s throne, but while considering his offer, Alibaba sneaked out of the castle and met Cassim who made use of the tunnels used by Alibaba to infiltrate it with his fellow bandits, basically a riches to rags tale but with deep regrets because of it causing him to flee the country, and because of Aladdin, wanted to take responsibility. And especially as the current king Abhmad is a complete aristocratic slime ball, who only cares for himself…fortunately Sinbad was listening in, so when the Fog Troupe attacks, Sinbad and his crew (including a warrior similar to Morgianna, and a good mage amusingly named Jafar considering the obvious Disney ideas in my head with Aladdin) defeat them, until an oracle of the Ko Empire named Judar interrupts the proceedings and reveals to himself as an overconfident Magi – he has business with Abhmad and with negotiations in the Ko Empire’s favour, both Sinbad and Ali Baba seem to have failed. But Judar recognizes Aladdin’s power and in a selfish rage, he believes there are too many Magi and just attacks him. After a close fight, Aladdin’s genie Ugo appears to go a bit berserk and despite many wounds, defeats Judar. However more Ko Empire forces arrives including one of their princesses who also has a genie – but they avoid death thanks to Sinbad and his quick talking. With Aladdin drained and Ali Baba learning more information (specifically Abhmad using his own people as currency in the form of slaves for the Ko Empire), Morgianna understandably convinces him to take a stand.
The last couple of episodes are basically a siege upon the palace, with Ali Baba trying to convince Abhmad to step down, the princess from before potentially having to marry him, Sinbad teaching Ali Baba how to use his genie, and Ali Baba wishes to change the politics of the country, and whilst it looks like they succeed, the show ends in a cliffhanger as Cassim now approaches with Ali Baba pretty much now cutting ties with the Fog Troupe, this can only end in tears…
The story is surprisingly in depth, considering the initial episode was basically a bit of perverted comedy then immediately a mood whiplash with seeing Morgianna and the slave traders – and despite the colourful animation, it really goes in depth in developing Ali Babas’ character in particular. At first, he appears to be a cheerful rogue who wants to do it all but his dreams maybe a little too big. Instead, he develops into an atoner, someone who could have had the lifestyle of a prince, but instead changed his mind and went about it his own way, not without regrets, but not the regrets of taking the throne, rather of what happened afterwards with his country. Aladdin on the other hand, is a lot more mysterious in that his wish was basically granted in making a friend, yet he gets the genie powers and the presence of his magic is only briefly explained, so there is a lot more potential for explanation in that department. The characters of Sinbad and Morgiana are also well fleshed out in their appearance – Sinbad as someone who is roguish but thoughtful, and a mentor type character with lapses of clarity, whilst Morgiana is a girl who has to learn how to smile after suffering for so many years, and the fact she has been a slave has been embedded in her mind making any other mentions of slave trade her issue.
My one major issue is the fact at least initially, the series seems very rushed. It spans through 6 months very quickly, yet is just in the span of 5 episodes, and then for the remaining episodes, it is one set arc which takes place in a few days. Fortunately, the fact every episode has a point; even the ones that appear filler-ish make the whole series worth it. With the characters (ironically apart from maybe Aladdin) fleshed out well, we see the initial turmoil’s of the Ko Empire, and then how they launch into their plans later when a siege is being taken. Ahmbard is a disgusting villain which makes you easily pray for the good guys’ success, and the fact each of the characters is so different in personality means that you can’t guess how the situation is going to be resolved. Sinbad and Ali Baba are both likeable characters and Morgiana appears to be one to develop in terms of emotions. The villains are quite clear-cut, but you can tell there are potential for development in terms of the princess character in particular from the Ko Empire, and also what happens when Aladdin recovers. There is a good cliffhanger here as we set into the second half of the series, and am looking forward to it.
Magi is a series that with its bright colours and animation style could definitely be seen as a Shounen Jump style series – however whilst there are definitely action moments, the series focuses more on mystery and drama, and it delivers well in that regard. The characters are mostly fleshed out well, the story delivers and expands, it leaves on a cliffhanger and plenty more room for development in terms of the Ko Empire and the main cast, it is setting up for sail and I don’t want to miss the last boat.
Content Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Release Date: 24th Feb 2014
Running Time: 312 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.