What They Say:
In their second year at the Academy, Aladdin, Titus, and Sphintus are granted Second Class Citizenship in Magnoshutatt and are allowed to venture outside of the campus. There, the group witnesses the harsh realities of racial inequalities and discrimination among the magicians and the humans.
Even though Aladdin is shocked to learn the bitter history between the two races that acted as a catalyst for these prejudices, he is unable to agree with the Academy’s Director Mogamett’s vision of building a “country solely for magicians.” Aladdin also concludes that the magicians at Magnoshutatt are somehow connected to Dark Magic after coming into contact with the black rukh in his class.
After learning that Titus defected to Magnoshutatt, the Leam Empire finally declares war. With the powerful Fanalis Corp. leading the attack, the Leam military begins its invasion! As Aladdin stands between the two nations to stop them with his powers as a Magi, some familiar faces come to his aid!
Now with even the Kou Empire entering the war, countless black rukh cover the skies. The clash of nations may be just the beginning of the end of this world!
The audio presentation for this release is one that’s a mixed bag just like he first season was and it’s surprising that it mirrored it. 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 2013, 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 twelve episodes that are spread across three discs evenly with four each. Animated by A-1 Pictures, Magi essentially continues on from the first season and that means it 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 it with Alibaba in his transformed mode with the flames swirling around him and his black weapon in hand, providing for some great color contrasts. The back of the slipcase gives us Aladdin himself with a big smiles while holding his flute and wearing the uniform of the academy. The colors and designs are great and with the off white background to it, they have a lot of pop that stands out. The back cover along the bottom quarter contains a breakdown of the extras and the bonuses in the set itself as well as a small technical grid that lists things out clearly.
The case itself uses a similar kind of idea and layout as the slipcover, but it doesn’t feel quite as vibrant as we get some of the new supporting characters for the arcs here that wraps around to the back.The cover also gives us a reversible piece with artwork where more of the supporting cast appear. Unlike the first season, the reverse side doesn’t contain anything about the episode titles or cast, which is nice, as it’s all about the artwork. The set also comes with a gorgeous pencil board that has the main cast from the academy arc on one side and some of the “villainous” characters on the reverse, though I’ll admit that I miss the foil embossed postcards once again. We also get a small booklet that breaks down the episodes as well as the premise on one side while the other breaks out the cast and staff. It opens up to a good two panel spread of Titus and Marga dominating while Aladdin is off to the side with a cute image overall amid the grand city.
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 a dark gray background with a touch of ornate aspects to it that gives it some weight but also a heavier atmosphere. Doing it this way with the rotating artwork 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 on the first volume and that’s it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second season of Magi is one that feels a bit more fun for me in a way because it’s an unknown. When I reviewed the first season, it had come after watching it as a simulcast, so I knew the threads of it all, but got to see it pull together differently in the half season sets. Here, it’s all new and uncertain, which makes it all the more engaging because the devil’s in the details. This half does a solid job of expanding the world that the characters inhabit, providing more moral gray areas, and plenty of dark areas too, so that you’re hard pressed to really find heroes here in a way. They’re there, and we have our innocent-ish heroes like Aladdin, but the world isn’t a black and white one with simplicity. It’s more complicated, and the more exposure you have to the real world, the more you see those complications here, even if they’re not really well explored.
The city of Magnoshutatt is one that’s certainly interesting from what we’ve seen before in how the class system works with the residents and those that come from afar to study, but it takes on a far darker tone here as it’s revealed there’s a fifth class of people that are essentially exiled underground because they have no real magical ability or purpose. This is something that Aladdin and his friends find out about and investigate, which has them discovering the squalor that exists and the way the people are treated, where if someone leaves they all end up getting punished. It’s a cruel place cut off from the rest of the world and we see how those that are guarding it for Mogamett enjoy the power they have there. But the truly dark part is that these people are essentially being mined for their magoi, their innate source of power in a sense, and that’s what’s driving the magical nature of the city itself. So you’re left wondering exactly what will go on when Aladdin and the others confront Mogamett about it in front of all the other students.
This actually leads into a decent exploration of the problems magicians have suffered in this world for a long time with the way they were/are used and abused by the ruling elite, and Mogamett in particular has suffered quite a lot. While his backstory is familiar, we see him as a positive young man that discovers the cruelties of others as they use him, destroy the lives of those close to him. It’s not a surprise that he takes this darker path and uses it in a just sense, from his point of view, to provide a refuge for others like him, and a power base to stand against the other kingdoms. It makes its own sense to be sure, but it’s also complicated because his methods are wrong in how he uses others. But from his point of view, it’s like using cattle. More evolved cattle, but cattle nonetheless. Aladdin and the others are abhorred by it, especially since Titus has taken to a young girl that is sickly and dying down below, but there’s a sense that they can push only so far, especially since so many other students seem fine with it after the director’s story.
Of course, things have to get more complicated from there as well, with the revelation that the kingdom of Leam is making its move on Magnoshutatt, since they’re viewed as an obvious threat. This brings a lot of players into the picture as it forces Aladdin and the others to take up in defense of the city, since there are so many innocents there. But it also provides for a reunion since Alibaba was with the Fanalis forces there that came over with Ren, who is intent on following through with their leader’s orders. That’s a whole strange and intriguing subplot there with her, Titus, and what it really means, but it’s more just color for the storyline overall rather than something truly integral. What we get instead is a sizable fight that gets underway between the two sides, employing creative magics in offense and defense, while Aladdin is trying to find a way to defuse it all.
Which is made harder when the Kou forces arrive to stick their fingers in the pie, since threats abound and they can’t let Magnoshutatt fall into Leam’s hands. And if that’s not enough, the manipulations going on from Gyokuen as part of her plan to bring back the Al-Thamen to true power and subjugate the world like the last world was in darkness comes into focus. It’s a standard unifying banner/enemy to fall in against, one that they do after a bit and realizing what’s at stake, and that provides for some really engaging action sequences that are beautifully animated as you get some big power players and their djinn pushing back. That Mogamett has fallen so far in how he’s been used to bring about an army of Dark Djinn to fight, using the magoi of everyone in Magnoshutatt, just adds to the craziness of the situation and the amount of plots and subplots that have to be dealt with.
But Magi: The Kingdom of Magic does it really well. There are some great teases in here about the other world, Aladdin’s role in things and that of the Magi themselves, and the nature of how mankind has to interact with each other. The core bonds are what drives it, especially since Aladdin does as Aladdin does in trying to build bridges between everyone, so we do see him easing things with Mogamett eventually, finding common ground with Leam and Kou, and generally doing the right thing that’s a touch naive, a touch idealistic, but done with a look at the bigger picture and the greater good. It’s well done, though there’s some disappointment at the reduced role of Alibaba overall, and the incredibly minimized role of Morgiana for the moment. But what we get with Aladdin and the entire arc as a whole, it’s a strong piece that really expands the world.
The end of the second season of Magi largely has me where I was at the end of the first. Want more now. The show is definitely fun and while it hews to some familiar tracks that you expect coming from a manga series adaptation, it plays on a somewhat elevated level. It’s the kind of show that definitely stands out because it’s playing in different areas, with a range of very different characters, while getting a polished and slick production that benefits from experience and some risk taking. There are a lot of complicated layers to the show that you could spend a lot of time talking about, though I get the usual feeling that they’re almost afterthoughts a lot of the time in the actual production, and it provides for some good challenges to deal with because there’s so many shades of gray involved with what the characters are doing, what they’re facing and the results of their choices. This is a great show overall and one that definitely needs to be seen, especially if you’re feeling like so much of what you see has a certain sameness about it. This breaks out of that just right.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Textless Ending,
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: May 26th, 2015
Running Time: 300 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.