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Magi: The Labyrinth Of Magic Collection 2 Anime DVD Review

9 min read
Magi Volume 2 DVD
Magi Volume 2 DVD

Magi continues to achieve greater and greater heights, but suffers in this second half.

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 Alibaba 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 save 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…”

Contains episodes 13-25

The Review:
Audio:
The English language track is in 2.0 and it doesn’t seem to be lacking in any way. Music is sometimes nonexistent in the more talk-y scenes, but it never overpowers the dub track.

Video:
The video isn’t the greatest here, but maybe that’s due to my watching it on a relatively large computer monitor on a computer. Mid-shots look the worst here, I think, but close ups look pretty good. You can see more grains in the mid-shots that seem to not be present in the close ups. Perhaps it’s the quality of animation. But it gets the job done.

Packaging:
The discs come in a nice, sturdy plastic thing with a slip case. The slip case has different artwork from the cover—either of its reversible covers!—and all the art is quite nice. The reverse side of the DVD case cover has the staff listed on it, which is a nice little addition.

Menu:
The menus are nicely laid out with each of the pages listed on the bottom. There’s that Arabian feel to it with the nice adornments at either side of the menu bar and stuff like the chapter menu and credits menu go all out.

Extras:
On disc extras are sparse yet again, but off disc extras are extravagant as always. You get a deluxe booklet, which summarizes each episode and has some really nice artwork on the inside. The postcards that come with it have some really fancy gold trim on the outside and features most if not all of the main characters thus far. My only complaint is that there isn’t enough Morgiana, because there is never enough Morgiana.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Magi insists on tackling some hefty issues in its narrative, the least of which are fate and monarchies in this latest arc. We’ve already seen it tackle fate somewhat in its earlier arcs, as well as slavery, which took up almost all of Morgiana’s arc.

The first part of this arc is the direct continuation from the last set, marking the return of the Third Prince of Balbadd to his country. Alibaba, being the secret prince and from the slums, is sort of shunned by this elder brothers. But he’s also seen as a beacon of hope for the people, as he was once one of them.

He’s completely turning the politics of the country over. Balbadd’s deep in debt and his brother and current king Ahbmad insists on selling the people into slavery. Magi gets what’s wrong with corrupt leaders. They forget that the country is not comprised of its people, it IS its people. Selling them off means death to the country itself and it’s something that Ahbmad doesn’t get at all. Magi almost ignores the complete moral quandaries regarding selling your people into slavery, because it doesn’t need to be spelled out that that’s wrong. What it does it try to change everything about the way the country is run.

The monarchy isn’t working. Alibaba declares that it should be abolished and replaced with a republic. The former king should thus be killed for his actions. Alibaba says that they’re going to completely rewrite the laws of the Balbadd so no blood need be shed.

So it’s telling that the very next part of the show features a lot of fighting and a lot of demon bleeding and also people bleeding. This is fate. Fate is something that the characters seemingly constantly fight against in the show, but I’m realizing something as I watch it again.

Morgiana most certainly isn’t fighting against fate. Alibaba isn’t fighting against fate. Aladdin isn’t fighting against fate. Unlike so many protagonists who want to create their own fate, Magi’s protagonists don’t seem to be doing so.

Aladdin has been a mystery since episode one, but his fate is inexplicably linked to being a Magi. He never fights against that and actively embraces it come later arcs (of course he would embrace it, doing so only leads to greater fight scenes). Alibaba’s fate is to be a king, a ruler of Balbadd or another country. With this arc, he proves that he can do that. Not only can he get the hope of the people, he HAS it. All he had to do was embrace becoming the King of Balbadd and the people would have accepted it. And poor Morgiana, who I’ve spilt many a words about, seems most like she’s fighting. But she’s fighting against a brainwashing that Jamil put into her. She’s not fighting against fate. What she’s EMBRACING is her fate, which is simply to live a normal life with her friends, Alibaba and Aladdin.

In the end, it’s Cassim who fights his fate—the villain. He wants to stand on equal footing with Alibaba, who he’s constantly felt inadequate next to. He tries with all his power to fight and to stand next to the king. But perhaps the most apt comparison is with Icarus (which I only think of because of Fullmetal Alchemist…). If Cassim were to just live a normal and happy life, he could have grown up normally and had friends and a wife and kids. And he could have had drinks with Alibaba after hours.

But no. The villain, who fights so hard against his fate, is the one who loses in the end and that is so weirdly poignant and brilliant that I can’t get it out of my mind. Magi is saying that it’s fine to be who you were born to be and to be happy as that person, even if we want so hard to fight against it.

The second half of the set starts off a new arc that introduces our fourth main character, Hakuryu. Much of the arc is bogged down by over explanations and two filler episodes, but the core of it remains.

The part I loved was, obviously, involving Morgiana. She needs a household vessel and these things have to 1. Be metal and 2. Be close to the heart of the user. She chooses, of all things, her shackles. The very shackles that kept her enslaved for much of her life. But also the very shackles that Aladdin broke and that Goltas broke again and that Alibaba tore away. She confronted her deepest, darkest fears head on and she wears that not shameful, but prideful. She has seemingly overcome (though I’d argue that some inclination is still there) a deep seeded brainwashing that she is an inferior being, with a little help from her friends. With each of her big character moments, I get more and more impressed with her.

But 18 and 19 are pretty much filler. 18 is a party episode and 19 is a lot of superfluous talking about the infidelities of Sinbad, which I could honestly care less about. The most frustrating part is that all the episode did was reveal the indiscretions of Ka Kobun to the characters, which could have been done in literally any other compelling way. It doesn’t really come back and Ka Kobun isn’t really punished for it. So I ask what the point is and receive no answer.

Magi also goes straight to the shonen habit of telling instead of showing. But they already showed what they’re telling! Aladdin comes right out and says that if you rebel against your fate, you become consumed by the black Rukh. I didn’t need rebelling against fate to be part of the magic of the world. I was fine with it being a storytelling aspect of the characters. Having them come straight out and say it kind of ruined the prior moment with Cassim.

The ending gets back at what’s simple and great with Magi. I actually ends just like it began, with Aladdin, Alibaba, and Morgiana capturing a dungeon, this time with new friend Hakuryu in tow.

It’s also very shonen-y, with promise of more things to come. It shows off some more of the Kou Empire’s family, including all of the brothers sans Hakuryu in one scene and their mother in the next. It also shows the Guardian of the Great Rift, the place between where we are now and the Dark Continent.

All in all, the show could have ended with Aladdin and Alibaba making an even bigger promise, with Aladdin formally making Alibaba his King’s Candidate.

The dub is very hit and miss. Characters like Morgiana (thankfully), Sinbad, and Hakuryu are all excellent. Christina Vee’s a little too stoic for my tastes, because I feel like Morgiana has a bit more tonality to her voice, but she otherwise gets the job done well. Matthew Mercer’s Sinbad is spot on and is perhaps the best performance of the dub. It captures both Sinbad’s weird combination of haughty and humble king all in one, and may even eclipse the Japanese performance. Darrel Guilbeau previously let me down in early episodes of Durarara!!, but he comes back here as Hakuryu strong. Some of the more emotional moments (like when he’s breaking down in the dungeon) don’t work as well, but those so rarely work even in the Japanese. His strengths are when he’s playing the fallen prince of Kou, which is most of the time. It gets straight at the demons he’s hiding and the face he’s putting up through his voice.

Unfortunately, I don’t have as much praise for the other two leads. I thought they might fall into their roles as the show went on, but it just isn’t happening. Erik Kimerer as Alibaba plays it a little too strong and there’s just something about his voice that’s just a little too gruff for the relatively innocent Alibaba. For Aladdin, filling Kaori Ishihara’s shoes is going to be a tough role to fill and Erica Mendez just doesn’t seem up to the task just yet. I see potential in her acting, but Ishihara added some flightiness to Aladdin’s voice that just isn’t present with Mendez’s performance. I believe the problem here is simply inexperience rather than acting talent, though.

In Summary:
The second half of this set was great for Hakuryu, but Aladdin and Alibaba suffered in comparison with their characterizations. Hakuryu gained a lot of confidence, as did Morgiana, as they both dealt with not being as useful as Aladdin and Alibaba were in Zagan’s dungeon. Aladdin and Alibaba ended up having a lot of the stuff from the previous arc with Cassim reinforced when it didn’t really need to be.

I’m always really impressed with Magi upon rewatching it, but I feel like that second half was the first time I wasn’t. The stuff with Cassim was fantastic and really drove home a lot of the things I love about Magi. But that second half really bummed me out.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English subtitles, Textless openings, Textless ending, 2-Sided reversible cover illustrated by Toshifumi Akai (Character design/Chief animation director), Deluxe booklet, 5 collectable foil stamped postcards

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Aniplex of America
Release Date: March 18th, 2014
MSRP: $79.98
Running Time: 325 minutes

Review Equipment:
Radeon 7850, 24” Dell UltraSharp U2410 set at 1920 x 1200, Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II

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