What They Say:
Equipped with a charm to mask his powers as a Magi, Aladdin arrives to Magnoshutatt to study magic, with another goal—to investigate the nation’s relation with the Al-Tharmen, the power behind the “Abnormalities of the World.” While training at the academy, Aladdin meets Titus Alexius, a prodigy from the Leam Empire, who also has the same charm as Aladdin’s. An all-new adventure big enough to change the world begins now.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo using the uncompressed PCM format while the English mix gets the same, something that the DVDs didn’t get as the English dub there was a fraction of the form. With the track here largely being the same as a stereo uncompressed there isn’t a lot in the way of a noticeable upgrade but it’s definitely welcome to have it here in this form. The series is one that works some very fun action sequences throughout the run that gives the stereo design a good run but it also gives us some very well done quiet scenes where the whispers of dialogue and sound effects come through in a very good way 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 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-five episodes are spread across five discs with five episodes per disc plus a few extras. Animated by A-1 Pictures, Magi has a very appealing look with its color design, detail in the animation that had me loving it during the HD simulcast run that I saw and frustrated a bit by the SD DVDs previously. With this incarnation it’s back to where it should be, and better thanks to better compression and more space to work with, as the colors are bright and vibrant with a good solid feeling throughout that helps to smooth what little banding there was visible before. Detail in the backgrounds is definitely nicely handled with the encoding as it avoids noise or breakup during high motion sequences. This show made a big impression on me when it aired and the encoding here with the room to work it at a high bit rate brings out the quality of the source material perfectly.
The packaging for this release is something that as we noted with the first season is I haven’t seen in some time as it’s essentially a thinpak case that holds the five discs with the panels inside so you have to open it up multiple times to get to each section. The case is inside a thin slipcover with a soft cardstock that’s nice even if it dulls the colors with the artwork a bit. What we get there is a great full cast shot that’s got a good mix of seriousness and fun with lots to take in while not looking too busy. The back panel goes for something a little darker with a bit of classic elegance to it with a mix of blacks and subdued golds that holds a few shots from the show and a clean but simple look at the summary of the premise. The number of episodes is clearly listed as are the extras. We also get a clean and simple breakdown of the technical elements that makes it clear what’s available. The case inside uses different artwork that focuses on our core trio on the front while the back lets the supporting cast shine, all of which is set against a white background. Though there are no inserts included we do get material on the reverse side with a pink background with the rakh flitting about in white. The left side features a look at the episodes by number and title with what disc they’re on while the right side breaks out the production information and cast.
The menu design for this release keeps things nice and simple but with some appealing pieces to definitely engage with. Each disc works a static piece of artwork as the background that takes up the bulk of the space where they’re from the Japanese releases. These are bright and colorful or dark and threatening as related to the material with each disc but they all look great with a lot of detail and colors design that draws you in. THe logo is mostly kept to the middle with the volume numbering below it while the bottom has a consistently same strip along it that has the easy navigation points to it where it works well both as a main menu and as a pop-up menu during regular playback. Everything is smooth and easy to get around with and while the color style may be a touch hard to read in some cases when it comes to the episode sections and the like it’s not that big of a deal.
The extras for this release are pretty minimal and all kept to the first disc where we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the English language trailer for the series. There are a couple of versions of the sequences as it changes up over numerous episodes so there are a few with each disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the advantages in going into a second season of a show is that there’s not quite as much of the unknown. The basics are all setup and you know the main characters and their initial backgrounds, making it easier to just move right into the storytelling itself. This season 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 here though as 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.
Following those events, the first couple of episodes are pretty fun as they’re almost epilogue pieces blended with arc starting pieces as we see the group figuring out more of who they are and what they’re capable of, but also what they need to do to truly grow. There’s a little sadness mixed into it with a supporting character’s death, but that provides the impetus to get out into the world to search for answers and to grow their skills. The cast had grown pretty big in the back half of the first season as it added the adult layer to things, pieces from other kingdoms and a greater look at the world as it stands. With our core cast as teenagers, that meant them really learning how the world works. Of course, as teenagers they’d be more fully invested in the world, but the show plays more to a traditional modern view of age and what people do at those ages.
Understanding that there’s a lot going on in the world, the core group does make its way out with Sinbad’s blessing, and a little financial help as well, as they have their individual journeys to take but also a little travel together at first. Amusingly, it’s Alibaba that doesn’t go along at first and he sneaks on board the ship to wait for Morgiana, Aladdin and Hakuryu to realize that they miss him and wish he was there. It’s cute, especially since the trio are just having fun together and don’t even realize it, which just crushes him more. The opening arc out in the world is a complicated one though as the foursome end up helping to deal with a group of pirates under the leadership of Aum Madaura that has been stealing children from the port city of Actia. With Madaura using magic to sway the children to her side, while also giving them things they need like attention and love and square meals every day, she’s also stolen some from parents while others came as orphans from the slums. Her methods are wrong, especially since she’s using them to run as pirates in the area.
There’s some really good stuff in it as the others fall under her sway briefly and we see how she reaches out to people and touches on their own mother issues, which reveals some useful things about each of the characters and their histories. But it also sets things in a dark way for Hakuryu, because of his complicated past, so that when they do eventually deal with the pirates, he takes it to the logical extreme – and one that fits the time with the kinds of laws and justice that exists. With Magi, it’s interesting to see how it sways from cute and fun and lovely to sequences of real brutality and murder. That’s a choice that a lot of shows won’t make since often it ends up alienating one side or the other, but here it manages to work because of the time period and the nature of the cast. This event so shocks the others that it sets Hakuryu on his own to return to his kingdom, which in turn feeds his own storyline of unrest there that’s connected to events in other kingdoms.
With that event sending the rest of the group onto individual adventures, it could be a frustrating point in their being separated like this. But each arc works really well to expand the characters and the cast. Morgiana’s off on her attempt to find more Fanalis and understand who she is, and this is made all the more important after a bad encounter with Hakuryu about their feelings just destroys her in a way. So with a fresh refocus, she goes off and gets close, but also has some interesting encounters along the way that’s tinged with some real sadness. Morg’s story is ostensibly the weakest here, but it’s also one that doesn’t get as much time as the others. But what we do get is a really good reminder of just how isolated she is in some ways since few of her people are here, but also a good reminder of how close she’s gotten to people since meeting Aladdin and Alibaba.
Aladdin’s story is a very layered one here as he travels to Magnostadt in order to enroll in the academy there to try and take his magic abilities to the next level. The place is steeped in magic, and Magic Tools which is growing into a real problem with how many there are out there now, and Aladdin actually has to take a new route in order to really survive at this academy since he can’t use his abilities in the way he usually does because it would lead to problems. He makes a friend or two here, and an enemy or two, but we also get to see Aladdin growing up a bit more as he has to take his magic training more seriously than ever before, including the physical side of it as they explore some welcome things about the connection between mind, body and magic. Seeing Aladdin in this form is good as it plays to a magic academy style well, especially with the costumes, and some of the challenges that we get with it.
Alibaba’s story is one that takes him to the kingdom of Ream where he intends to take part in the gladiatorial system to improve his abilities. He’s done well so far, but he’s also struggling in being able to unlock his full potential with the weapon he has in equipping it. There’s some nice callbacks here to his original group of comrades from the first season, but the real focus is on why his body isn’t working as it should. The examination of it is interesting in how we see there’s two competing chakras of sorts within him and that’s blocking him from reaching his full potential. What’s really surprising is how violent his time in the arena gets as he goes up against a beast named Garda that pretty much is a step shy of tearing him apart. IT’s rougher than one might think in some ways with the way it goes so badly for Alibaba during a lot of it, but when we get him understanding why his body is operating as it is, and the realization of his past and its meaning when it comes to Cassim, it’s like he’s finally freed and able to move forward on his own, reenergized but also more powerful and engaged. With some smart words from the man who helped him get into the arena, Alibaba comes out of this with a new personality almost, but the core of him is still there. Since he’s the oldest of our main cast at eighteen, he definitely takes a new, calmer approach that’s really fun to watch.
The first half of the Kingdom of Magic has a lot going on with smaller subplots, politics and kingdom-oriented positioning through almost all of the storylines, but the main focus really is on the core cast themselves. And that plays well into the second half as it draws together everything and puts them squarely in the center to deal with it. The initial stories with the cast together are strong, even if a bit awkward in some ways, and when it splits them to four different storylines that you know will intersect, it’s easy to be invested in each of them to see exactly what they’re going to do. Magi’s the kind of show where it feels like it came out of nowhere and just clicked in a great way. This season reinforces that for me and has me excited about the property in general and ever hopeful for there to be more. The world feels larger, the characters are growing and the scale of what’s going on with the various political arcs and those working behind the scenes are becoming more pronounced. Very, very good stuff here all around and hugely welcome to have in high definition at long last.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Textless Openings, Textless Endings, English Version Trailer
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: June 27th, 2017
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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.