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Final Impressions: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

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Magi's first season ends with a promise of more to come.

The first season of the Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic anime has come and gone, and I'm left wondering what exactly happened. My experience with the series came after reading a substantial portion of the original manga in preparation of covering the anime. I figured it couldn't hurt to have a broader knowledge of the source material.

I could hardly contain my excitement; despite my overall dislike of Sword Art Online, A-1 had at least made it a lavish production. There was little doubt in my mind that Magi would get the same kind of backing. It seemed like a surefire recipe for a wonderful series.

Instead all I can do is wonder why Magi wasn't as great as it could have been.

In this past week's final episode of Magi, Alibaba has fallen into Al Thamen's trap, causing him to transform into a Dark Djinn. Incapable of breaking free from his fall into depravity, Alibaba attacks his friends, despite Aladdin's best attempts at bringing the young king back to his senses. Hakuryuu, feeling hopeless but holding on to his desire to help his new friends, is chosen by the real Zagan, who creates a new arm for the Kou Empire prince. With Mor having rejoined the battle, our heroes manage to turn the tide, creating an opening for Aladdin to dive into Alibaba's heart using the Wisdom of Solomon.

Back in Sindria, the generals pull together and begin their counter attack against Al Thamen, eradicating the enemy before they can do any significant damage to the city. Ithnan attempts to flee, satisfied with dropping Alibaba into depravity, only to be confronted by Sinbad in full Djinn Equip atmor. Despite the curse of the Black Rukh consuming his body, the king proceeds to display full control of both colors of rukh, annihilating Ithnan with his full powers. Al Thamen retreats, and Sindria is saved.

Meanwhile, deep in Alibaba's heart, Aladdin discovers that Cassim's magoi still dwells within his old friend. Together, the two manage to erase the darkness in Alibaba, eliminating the black rukh curse that had consumed him. With Ithnan's body having been destroyed by Sinbad, all that remains of him is the magoi in Alibaba's body. He tries to pressure the young king into slaying him, but to no avail. Alibaba steps back, allowing Aladdin to send the Al Thamen figurehead back to the guidance of rukh, peacefully. With their time in Zagan's dungeon having come to an end, the four warriors depart for Sindria, new adventures looming on the horizon.

Taking a good long look back at the entirety of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, I find myself questioning the logic behind some of the cuts to the source material. A-1 scrapped the first chunk of chapters of the manga to make way for a cluttered, poorly paced first episode designed to introduce all three major players at once. They then proceeded to rush through the first dungeon arc, cutting out significant bits of action, character interactions, and world lore in favor of rushing to the Balbadd arc. 

Ironically, the Balbadd arc, despite maintaining much of what made it great in the source material, was the victim of a low budget. Save for some flashes of high quality animation (mostly featuring Mor), major battle sequences ended up getting the shaft. I was stunned to find that the action scenes featuring the heroes fighting Dark Djinn Cassim were some of the weakest of the arc. 

The final arc, while the most consistent in terms of overall animation and art quality, sadly fell apart in its second half. With the series coming to an end, A-1 opted for an original ending; Alibaba's transformation into a Dark Djinn. A complete back-step in terms of the character's development, this plot twist exists purely to give the last episode a final boss battle of sorts. In a twisted bit of irony, Alibaba barely gets to do anything before Aladdin dives into his heart, rendering the change a moot point. Furthermore, Zagan stepping in to partner with Hakuryuu feels rushed, lacking any real build up. The announcement of a second season makes a lot of these odd choices all the more disappointing; these changes could have been entirely avoided.

In the end though, my biggest issue with Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic was the abysmal direction. Action scenes suffered from uninspired shot choices that poorly framed character movement. Even when a shot was entirely composed of still characters speaking to one another, the 'camera' would be positioned in a way that would make the art and animation shortcuts even more obvious. Every time I think back to the floating bodies of episode 18, I can't help but sigh to myself. Shiro Sagisu's soundtrack was solid, but I was left scratching my head over some of the odd music selections made for certain scenes.

Yet despite my harsh criticisms of this adaptation, I still enjoyed my time with Magi. A great deal of this is due to the characters. The large cast of likable heroes and their interactions with one another made it easy to want to follow them to the end. I have a lot of issues with Alibaba's anime characterization, but I still enjoyed the role he had to play in the Balbadd arc. I wish Mor had been given more time in the first dungeon arc to establish her background, but even with those minimal details, she's a great character. I'm a big fan of Aladdin in recent chapters of the manga, but unfortunately he doesn't really get the chance to do much here beyond act as a mysterious, seemingly all-knowing figure.

If nothing else, I hope fans of the this anime adaptation are inspired to seek out the source material. Shinobu Ohtaka's manga is an epic, sprawling adventure with a huge cast of interesting characters and a whole lot of heart. I may have a lot of problems with the Magi, but at the end of the day it's still a fairly solid little action series that has garnered quite the following.

I just hope A-1 sticks to the source material next time. 

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Elliot Gay
Elliot GayContributor   gamer profile

Elliot is an associate editor for Japanator and can be found contributing to Destructoid on occasion. He lives in Japan and can be found on Twitter @RyougaSaotome. more + disclosures


 


 


Also on Japanator: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic   (1)   From our database:

  • Review: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Volume 1 - Jeff Chuang
  • Final Impressions: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic - Elliot Gay
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    Filed under... #A-1 #anime #Final Impressions #japan #Japanator Original #top stories

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