While some animation errors still persisted in some of the less important scenes, this week’s episode has definitely stepped it back up, bringing a satisfying conclusion to what has been a considerably long arc. Understanding and closure pervades this episode, advancing many character developments that have given the story much depth.
Previously, in earlier arcs, I had a serious gripe about how the antagonists of the series were one-sided in their personality and intentions. However, with the Balbadd arc came some well balanced antagonists whose intentions, actions, and situations can be sympathized with better. Take Judal for example. Terrible childhood, dead family, and raised by an organization that’s intent on creating chaos. While he may be a hothead blowhorn that shoots icicles, his situation is perhaps something to be pitied, to be seen as a tragedy of fate rather than an object we should hate. If the dark and light rukh didn’t raise that conflict flag in the past, his memories should back up such ambiguities now. The Fog Troupe too suffers a similar situation, as they too have had everything stripped away from them only to have had their weak emotional states taken advantage of. Those who lost their families, their homes, and most of all their freedoms were provoked in their time of emotional instability in what seems to be retribution, but is actually just a vicious cycle desired by the darkness. Same goes for Kougyoku Ren, whose tough situation in the royal family forced her to make decisions she herself never really supported or had her full heart in…with inviting Sinbad over to the Kou Empire being an exception. The majority (if not all) of the antagonists have been “mixed” in one way or another. I’ll take a huge bet and say that most antagonists from here on out will have some sort of moral dilemma behind their “evil” faces, something much appreciated from the series now that the base character development is over.
In fact, I believe Magi has done a very good job exploring the emotional side of sensitive topics such as social classes, slavery, and the social disconnect the two create between two otherwise friendly people. While the exploration of the topic is fairly shallow as compared to shows that seriously and maturely focus on social issues, the emotional hits and the resultant sense of understanding definitely have arisen from this arc, especially so in the last half. Kassim, whom the show has painted mostly in mystery and antagonism, finally opens up his side of the world plain for us to see. While many of the actions Kassim performed against humanity are hard to excuse, his circumstances make such acts seem reasonable in a sense, in which the world lead him to no other reasonable path. His father endangered Mariam, forcing Kassim’s hand (like the authorities would do anything), while the despair of losing Mariam in the end forced Kassim to take the road of violence to quench his vengeance (since doing nothing equates to solving nothing). As an unfortunate victim of his environment, he switched from being a forgotten slumdog to becoming a pawn for chaos, though he himself was at least partially aware of his transformation. His desire to fight the upbringing he was stuck with was noble, but gone about in the wrong away. While fighting for a better future is a great thing, somewhere along the line Kassim lost sight of that future, clouded solely by his hatred for his life and those who had it better. For the more experienced, it is clear that such “villains” have a deeper side behind them, but oftentimes without seeing said side directly, it becomes hard to empathize with them prior. It is hard to hate on Kassim now that his story has finally unraveled, or anyone besides the weapons dealer for that matter. Even the recently deposed brother kings have sympathy, as they too were victims of an environment they caught themselves in.
Thankfully we have those who brave through their environment and succeed, changing what is otherwise a hard fate to turn. Ali Baba, now coming off less as a whiner and more of a humbled and truly sorry individual. There are certain emotions one can let out that come off as pathetic or unsupported, but Ali Baba’s emotions this time were not of that sort. Genuinely deep, honest, and well thought-out emotions spurred from Ali Baba, finally allowing for that connection with Kassim that unfortunately…had to be their last. At the very least Ali Baba sent off Kassim with a smile, perhaps one of the best things a friend can do in such a situation. Although their brotherhood was wrought with conflict, misunderstandings, and jealousy, in the end, for the two to end on positive terms makes their bond a strong one. While I lamented when Ali Baba constantly hesitated in stopping Kassim, the amount of respect, trust, and bonding that the two shared is hard to look down upon, for it reflects their core characters nicely.
While the weapons dealer has gotten away, Balbadd can now focus on rebuilding from rock bottom. Now likely to join the alliance that Sindria heads, it is likely that we will see our heroes travel to Sindria with Sinbad once again metal-clad to begin what is likely to be the final arc (or two) of the season. Now that Aladdin and Ali Baba have proven themselves capable of affecting their world significantly, I can’t wait to see what their travels with Morgiana will be like next.