The scale of the show changes quite a bit as a whole lot of other magical powered people begin to show u.
What They Say:
Aladdin has yet to regain consciousness from the battle with the fallen magi Judar. Meanwhile, as the third prince of Balbadd, Alibaba tries to stop his older brother King Ahbmad from turning Balbadd into a slave-exporting nation. But his plans are thwarted by none other than Cassim, his childhood friend from the slums, now transformed into a Dark Djinn by the Dark Metal Vessel. Cassim tries to strike down the royal family for causing their citizens to suffer for many years.
Cassim’s attacks crush Aibaba both physically and mentally, but he gets back up again and again. Just then, a friend reaches out a helping hand! With Aladdin’s support once again, can Alibaba rescue his country, people, and Cassim from the darkness?
Soon after, Alibaba and Aladdin will learn about Al-Tharmen, the organization that has been causing the “Abnormalities of the World”…
The audio presentation for this release is one that’s a mixed bag, though it’s a positive in that we get a bilingual release. The original Japanese language track makes out very well as we get it in stereo using the uncompressed PCM format, making for a strong forward soundstage presentation both with dialogue and the various bits of action and music. The English language track is done in stereo as well but gets the expected Dolby Digital treatment, but encoded at a lower than usual 160kbps. It’s another situation where it feels like the English dialogue track is getting less respect in a way. It’s a decent track overall but doing back and forth comparisons can show the different with a decent sound system in terms of depth, impact and general bass during some of the action scenes. Both tracks work well for the dialogue side of the show as they come across clean and clear without any problems such as dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set comes with thirteen episodes that are spread across three discs with four/four/five format. Animated by A-1 Pictures, Magi has a very appealing look with its color design, detail in the animation and it comes across well here in this standard definition release. Colors are bright and vibrant with a good solid feeling and there’s only a bit of banding in some of the sky backgrounds that comes from the source material itself. Detail holds up well with little in the way of noise around it and there’s generally a very solid feeling throughout the production. The video bit rate keeps to about 8mbps for most of it with a few minor dips here and there and with it spread across four discs, there’s not a ton of space for competition here, giving it enough room to breathe.
The packaging for this release is similar to the first in that it’s a compact piece but with a good bit of weight to it while also being tight because of what it contains. We get a standard sized clear keepcase to hold three discs and a booklet. The release comes with a slipcover that gives us a great shot on the front of the four characters that dominate the second half of the set while in Sindria. The back cover continues the cityscape design but it’s done with all the other material overlaid on it where the top third breaks down the show with a good premise that covers a lot without giving too much away. The middle breaks out the discs features, extras and the bonuses in the set itself while the bottom has the episode breakdown by number and title as well as a small technical grid that lists things out clearly.
The case itself uses a similar kind of idea but gives us Sinbad and his crew at the forefront along the bay of Sindria as the backdrop, which has a different kind of color and richness to it. That also wraps around like the slipcover does and gives us a good expansive look at the city in the distance while also bringing in more of the cast that populates that half of the season. The cover also gives us a reversible piece with artwork there where the left side has the breakdown of the bilingual cast with Sinbad and his group there while the right side has a great piece of Alibaba and Cassim together that’s quite appropriate. The set also comes with a gorgeous set of foil embossed postcards that you really want to frame up in a set as well as a small booklet that breaks down the episodes as well as some great looking artwork, a lot of which makes up the cover art as well as the menus. They’re both great inclusions but it’s practically popping open the case with how much is in there.
The menu design for this release is kept simple with static screens but benefits from having some gorgeous pieces to work with. Each menu uses a different grouping of characters from the series, tied to the episodes at hand, where they’re set against the locale that’s being dealt with. It keeps each disc fresh feeling and there’s definitely a lot of pop and mood setting as you check out each volume after the locked loading sequence. The release is easy to navigate though I dislike the way it defaults upon starting to going right into the show itself instead of to the menus so I can set my languages.
The extras for this release are pretty minimal as we get the various clean opening and ending sequences, and there’s a few different ending sequences due to the nature of the episodes at hand.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first half of the first season of Magi was definitely an interesting experience, both in simulcast form and then marathoning it later on as I did. There was a lot of uncertainty in those early episodes in trying to figure out how the world worked in the show while also simply enjoying the group that came together with Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana. As it went on and they ended up going their separate ways, we got to see more of how the world worked and the kinds of complicated situations it wanted to tackle when it comes to politics, destiny and the forward march of progress and humanity. The political side with the Kou Empire and what we got with Alibaba’s home of Balbadd was kind of stilted and awkward at times and in a lot of ways felt like it came too early in the series, without enough grounding for the fans to really get behind the cast.
This half of the series has to wrap up the events of Balbadd and it’s an interesting if complicated situation that’s dealt with in a kind of light hand way. With the deal that the king had made with the Kou empire that would basically sell its people into slavery in order to keep his life as grand as it was, it’s no surprise that Alibaba has to step in to do what he doesn’t want to, but what’s right for the country. With so many afraid of change of any kind, it’s welcome to see that he wants to move it from a kingdom to a republic and to have people represented in their interests, but it has its own complications that are glossed over in just how easily it can be done. What does get focused on is the way that there are deals that were made with the Kou empire that must be honored, and it’s up to Alibaba to figure out how to get it out of it. Lucky for him, Sinbad is in the area and that means he’s able to nudge things a little, before largely taking care of the bigger issues of policy later on behind the scenes so it can wrapped up tightly.
I like the ideas behind it, especially as we get those that are operating in the shadows about the way there is progress and the forward flow of it, but also the way some individuals can turn it back. That gets tested a bit initially with the princess from the Kou empire that’s there to wed the king, of which the country no longer has, but also those with the Black Rukh energy that want the chaos of the world more than anything else. That brings in some of those with the power that can change the nature of an area, including the arrival of Judar, who along with the others twist and prod Cassim into doing things that are very natural for him, but may not actually come to the surface without that prodding. Cassim has some very deep issues with the royalty of the nation that was just deposed and like so many, he can’t let go of the anger and hate, enough so that it starts a riot that leads to chaos. And an opportunity for the Organization to flex its muscles a bit more so that it can move the world in the darker direction it wants. There’s some larger themes to this with those that are playing to the other side of the kind of power that Aladdin is using, essentially a light and dark battle that gets drawn to individuals at times, but it’s touched upon only so far here before things get settled out in Balbadd.
The show takes an interesting approach overall with what it wants to do in this set after it resolves all of this, since there are still issues with Balbadd. Rather than get caught up in it all, Sinbad brings everyone off to Sindria to keep them out of it, and that allows some of them time to train and experience something different for a bit under the tutelage of those that Sinbad has sailed the Seven Seas with. The down time keeps them all busy, with Aladdin learning more of how to manipulate the magic he’s now been infused with that has changed his makeup, Morgiana in her taking her chains and turning them into a powerful weapon of independence and Alibaba as he realizes what kind of weapons and strength of will he has to really go forward. It’s not a reset in a way, but it’s a point where they’re able to breathe after some large events that are playing out away from them.
By taking them out of things for a bit, we do get some good if kind of standard fun material here as the group settles in, understands what happened and the changes they’ve gone through and we even get some time with a bit of a dungeon, albeit a quirky one that’s not like what we’ve seen before and challenges Aladdin to really understand his power more. All of that goes only so far though as events have to come back to Sindria since so much of what’s going on revolves there now that Sinbad has settled many things with the Kou empire – and even has an awkward marriage possibility to get out of himself. Not that his comrades help him much with that when you get down to it. It’s light and fun, but it also sets the quiet before the storm as there are those within the group that are looking to manipulate the situation to the larger advantage, especially since war and what it brings is what they’re all about, going back to that larger theme of those individuals that can push destiny out of whack, at least for awhile, and prevent the flow of progress.
Similar in a way to the end of the Balbadd arc that broke out into a fight, we get the return of Judar here as well and that brings together a whole host of minor issues that force the core group to deal with their recent growth, both in mindset and abilities, so they can try and deal with him and those around him. Part of the problem is that while it does work in the larger context, it’s the way the series feels like it leaps from piece to piece and has now gone so big that it’s so much more than it was at the start. We’ve got so many people with various abilities running around now compared to the beginning when it was just Aladdin and Ugo that it does, at times, feel more like a standard shonen fighting show with a range of powered people going at it in a big way. There’s definitely some good character material to be had in the quieter moments, but it gets kind of washed away through the onslaught of magic based fighting, quips and the larger struggle that it wants to introduce but never quite pulls together cleanly enough.
Though I find myself griping about various issues with the series, as a whole it’s one that I definitely enjoy. Part of it is that it just feels like it’s trying to do too much, too quickly, without building towards it properly or getting the time to breathe. Such is often the case with manga and anime compared to novels of course, but even noting that there are still times where I wish it would just slow down a touch, especially in introducing so many magic based people. But it also leaves me craving a serious Sinbad spinoff because the guy is simply fun and that sense of adventure feels like it would be a better fit for much of this. With our core cast, they go through a lot of changes here, a lot of loss, and a lot of understanding in order to become the better people that they truly are by the end of the season. It’s a chaotic ride at times to get there, and it’s open ended enough that you can see they can go to plenty of places in the second season, so there’s a lot of optimism to be had here with what this property can do. The release definitely hits some good points, especially in what the packaging is like, and fans of it that are in the DVD realm will be pleased by the end result.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Textless Ending, English Trailer
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.