Feb 14, 2015
AlexJetski (All reviews)
Shows like Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic really catch me off guard. It's so rare nowadays to see a battle shonen that delivers a feeling of exploration without getting too caught up in itself. Is it perfect? Of course not, but if there's one thing it gets right is its sense of adventure.

Magi takes place in a vast fantasy world with a ton of tie-ins to 1001 Arabian Nights. The setting is huge, spanning across many diverse countries, which presents an enthrallingly enormous scope. Aladdin is a young boy who some call a Magi, and the story follows his journey for self-discovery alongside his friends Alibaba Saluja and Morgiana of the Fanalis, who each have responsibilities and dark pasts of their own. Dungeons have been rising around the world, and the conquerors of said dungeons gain the power of a Djinn, which is basically an elemental genie. They are risen by those called Magi, who are said to be the ones to shape the world. Only three are supposed to be around in one era, but Aladdin, for some reason or another, is seen as the fourth. Along their journey, they encounter people of many kinds, ranging from the Kou dynasty which is essentially Magi's take on China, to even such figures like Sinbad of the Seven Seas. Yes, the allusions to that old desert fairy tale book, no, not the bible, are many, but seeing such a setting in an anime is extremely refreshing and gives way for some awesome locales and set pieces.

The art, albeit mildly inconsistent, if nicely detailed, and the character designs are fitting, memorable, colourful and just generally well crafted. The palette really captures the scorching desert heat as well as the cool city nights, making for a very immersive experience. Sadly, the same cannot be said about the fight choreography. There's a very clunky feeling to a lot of the battles due to awkward shot composition and somewhat lazy animation. The only times the fights actually impress me are when Morgiana gets involved, which may be because the animators are forced to work with punches and kicks rather than actual weapons. A1 Pictures has a bad habit of using cuts to avoid animating motion, which can get quite jarring when used frequently. If you're looking for a big budget action show, then Magi may not be for you, although the aesthetics do a fantastic job of sucking you into the world.

Furthermore, many fights become very anticlimactic thanks to the overly fast pacing. Many of the villains get demolished only minutes after making their debut. This lack of tension becomes especially apparent during the final battle. Some are just downright silly, with the villains getting as laughable as an old man on a floating wheelchair, and some very out of place fanservice. There are a lot of cliches to be found in general.

Despite this however, the show isn't completely generic, and this is mainly true in the surprisingly well founded cast. On the surface, Aladdin is your typical naïve shota, but he has an exceptionally mature mentality in regards to society, and knows when to let others act rather than himself, showing a lot of wisdom. There's a lot of strong personalities in Magi, the highlights being the charismatic Sinbad, and the feeble yet lovable Hakuryuu. Judal is just the right level of crazy, and is a good contrast to Aladdin's light-hearted nature. Most of the humour will be hit or miss, relying on a lot of boob jokes, but there's a lot of heart to be found.

A big theme of Magi is fate, and what it means to accept one's destiny. While there could've been a lot more done with it, the show does a very good job of showing how one's destiny can doom them into despair, or as the show calls it, depravity. Alibaba's relationship with Cassim is not only engaging to watch, but both grow a lot over the course of the show, as does Morgiana as she works through her past as a slave.

For a shonen, Magi delves into a lot of dark themes, but they're handled in a very black and white way, making it difficult to really take something away from them. Every villain bar one is just evil for the sake of being evil, and it's hard to get behind some of the messages when they could only help out in a fairy tale. I wish that more effort was put into making things seem more realistic, but in a way, that's a part of Magi's charm. It's not trying to be a social commentary, but rather a fun adventure, with some darker overtones to appeal to an older audience.

The second opening really makes this apparent with it's sense of wonder. Overall, the soundtrack is quite good, and it brings forth a distinctive Arabic flare while utilizing a lot of modern instruments, the electric guitar in particular. A lot of battle tracks are quite memorable as well, my favourites being Valse Hot and Enfin Apparu.

In the end, Magi season one is a solid watch if you're a fan of a massive setting and well founded characters, as long as you're not looking for the most mature story ever told. There are a few plotholes here and there, but compared to others in its genre, it holds up substantially well. I give Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, a 7/10.