「アリババとアラジン」 (Aribaba to Arajin)
“Alibaba and Aladdin”
Followers of the manga, I understand the pain that this episode has caused you, but that will not be the focus of this piece (until the final impressions). Seen from a pure anime standpoint, Magi delivered a pretty good ending while also hinting at the events that are yet to transpire. Yes, there is at least one plot hole (if there are more please point them out), yet the show manages to tie up many loose ends nicely, revealing key information about Aladdin’s homeland and the international conflicts that are about to arise. The animation and drawing has also taken a turn for the better, with the battle scenes (specifically, SOME battle scenes) properly illustrating how the tide of battle can be turned with ingenuity, a bit of luck, and magical objects of great and awesome power.
Some shows this season have failed to deliver proper closure, perhaps due to bad directing or in anticipation for a second season. Magi has been exempted from this group and thankfully leaves us with many of our curiosities quenched, yet teases enough at the bigger mysteries that lie ahead. The fantastical former land of Alma Toran, ruled by the legendary first king Solomon, finally reared its head this week. It seems to be the place of origin for many of the more legendary and mysterious characters in the show, including Aladdin, Ithnan, and the djinn (in human form). As a tragically destroyed paradise ravaged by a war between followers of the white and black rukh, Alma Toran’s fate foreshadows Aladdin’s ultimate goal will be: preventing the same fate from befalling the current world. We already are seeing what tactics Al-Thamen are setting up to accomplish their goal of destruction, though the people they influence are probably misguided souls like Ithnan. From the glimpses of the rest of the Kou family, which presumably includes the top general of the Kou Army and the current queen, their initial appearances do not seem malicious, but rather inspired to fight for complete unification. However, with various parts of the Kou Royal Family now in direct conflict with one another (examples being Kougyoku and Hakuryuu against the family), there is no doubt that internal conflict will be the family’s first and greatest challenge. With Judal nudging the empire to go on a full-on offensive against the Seven Seas Alliance, we can expect the second season to have a heavy focus on developing this escalating conflict.
Before that escalates, there are questions within Sindria that need be asked. First, what’s the story behind Sinbad’s conflicting rukh and what does this imply? Although it’s been long hinted that there is a well-hidden side to Sinbad that may indicate a darker presence, but the presence of actual dark rukh brings Sinbad’s intentions to an entirely different level. Since the black rukh indicates a cursing of one’s fate, does Sinbad have a grudge against his past, but have hope for the future? After all, Sinbad’s rukh shines bright white when inspiring others, which may lead us to believe that Sinbad’s dark rukh comes from a personal struggle against fate, rather than the fate of his environment. Second, what is Yamraiha’s connection with Magnostadt? Since Dunya’s entire family was massacred due to the uprising of Magnostadt, what role if any did Yamraiha play in that rebellion? If we are to believe her words of being an exceptional magician, we can guess that Yamraiha had some close connections with those in Magnostadt before moving to Sindria. With Jafar and now Yamraiha being suspect of having darker pasts, I’m getting a feeling that all the generals have some sort of dark past that was redeemed by chance encounter with Sinbad. The current trend also reveals that we’ll most likely get to see glimpses of the other countries that the generals hail from, if the epilogue spoke any truth as to the scope of the next season.
Before even all of THAT escalates further, our current team of heroes must celebrate the victory at hand. What seemed like a hopeless battle against Sindria was deflected in the nick of time, and Ithnan and Dunya, both puppets of the same organization, finally found their peace. Alibaba’s insistence on refusing to hate anyone and fighting as little as he can is a bright spot in what seems like insurmountable amounts of hopelessness. Such a stance has paid off well, as Kassim pays off the suffering he’s caused Alibaba by protecting him to the very end. Though it’s a weak explanation for why Alibaba won’t die as a result of the dark djinn transformation (he won’t, trust me), it does give some more closure to the brothers’ relationship. Now the group can rest their wounds (especially Hakuryuu and his new arm) as they prepare for the adventures that lie ahead.
Due to immediate announcements that Magi’s second season will already be airing for the fall, I will keep my final impressions short, saving a more in-depth reflection for the second season’s end. Despite that, let’s reflect a bit on how Magi has adapted itself to the animated world.
Final Impressions of the First Season
I’ll say it immediately–this adaption has me shaky on A-1’s ability to preserve consistent quality in its episodes. Overall, the material for Magi is engaging, its characters full of potential to develop, and its approach to the issues of slavery, nationalism, government, and morality have kept the plot interesting and the character developments rolling. Though I initially criticized the antagonists for being too shallow, later antagonists presented a backstory to us that was hard to not sympathize with–though their deeds are murderous, their souls are misguided and blinded, taken advantage of by those who seek to wreck havok upon a post-Solomon world. Morgiana, as well as other characters such as Hakuei and Baba, presented strong female roles that didn’t feel forced, each with their own blend of independence and caring for others. Alibaba, though initially a wimp and unable to do much, is slowly transforming into a man worthy to be king–though a long journey still awaits within Alibaba’s development, the progress he’s made so far is admirable and consistent with the values of Solomon’s rukh. For a show of this type, Magi has done a great job unveiling and portraying each character’s meaningful side, without of course losing out on the excitement and action of physical conflict.
It would’ve been great, if not for two major difficulties. First, the apparent drop in production values for certain episodes came close to ruining entire episodes because it was so terrible. Though we have much to be thankful for that the finale was properly produced and timed, the preceding episodes, beginning with the end of the Balbadd arc, came close to being completely unacceptable in terms of pacing and animation. The much awaited Morgiana dance scene was terribly done, certain fight scenes were obviously brushed off till the last minute, faces were drawn funky, and the list goes on. It was most apparent when the seiyuu sounded forced in their line delivery, where awkward pauses and poorly written lines permeated entire segments. I hope, I truly hope that they fixed many of these problems in the DVD/BD releases (PLEASE redraw Morgiana’s dance), because no one in their right mind would want to buy the episodes where what I can assume bad outsourcing options were used. For shows that feature action scenes of a graphic manner, it is inexcusable to skimp on that part of the budget.
The second difficulty, while somewhat excusable, is still pretty tragic. People have continued to express to me the various plot items that have been omitted from the adaption, and after reading some of what HAS been omitted, I’m a bit disappointed myself. As an anime-only watcher for the most part, having only read manga bits to clarify what was omitted, this adaption hasn’t been terrible, but it hasn’t been great in being faithful. Most of the material still managed to reveal itself, but some of the moments that proved to be quite popular in the original source material found themselves nonexistent (fat Aladdin). Putting this into consideration when looking at the second season…one can only hope that they do a better job in properly translating the important bits to the screen. I fully understand there are time constraints and production limits, but some of the decisions made this season are disagreeable to followers of the manga. Since this seemed to be an issue that permeated many of A-1’s productions this season, we can only cross our fingers that they’ll learn from those multiple mistakes in two seasons.
For now, Magi has ended, allowing watchers to cool down before continuing the journey in the fall. Though blogging this was outside of my comfort zone, the fairly unique premise of the Middle East and its mythology was fascinating to explore. Though little is actually based on the original thousand and one nights other than names, it was refreshing to see a setting outside of Japan. It was my pleasure to blog this and if time and schedule permits, I will continue to blog this when the series continues in the fall. Until then, thank you dear reader for following along thus far, and I hope to see you again two seasons from now!