Happy endings are worth fighting for.
After its first season, some said the Magi anime didn’t deserve the second season it was getting. If so, they made good of the chance they were given. From story to animation, character development to action, from heart-wrenching tragedy, complex villains, lots of Extreme Magic, and a climax that built on everything that came before it, the anime found redemption.
I’m prone to gushing when it comes to fantasy series, and high fantasy with plenty of magical combat is so far up my wheelhouse it’s hard to remain objective, so I’m not going to try. I can tell you that the two biggest complaints about Season 1 – the animation and the unnecessary anime original ending – were rectified.
On the animation front, while it wasn’t at KyoAni/ufotable level, it never dipped anywhere near as low as the awful treatment they gave Morgiana’s dance in Season 1. About the worse I can say is that when characters started chaining Extreme Magic back-to-back-to-back, sometimes these epic spells got downgraded into simple beams of light. I’m reaching for critiques though. The animation was usually good, and was never a chore to watch.
As for the ending, I honestly don’t know if this was anime original or not. There were a few small things that made me think it might have been (feel free to enlighten me in the comments below, manga readers – though watch those future spoilers), but it fit a lot better than Season 1’s ending. This one had real repercussions on the story – the destruction of Magnostadt, the alliance between Leam and the Seven Seas Alliance, Scheherazade’s life & death, Kouen’s coming knowledge about the truth of the world – which makes me doubt it was anime original. Plus, it was really, really good! It’s a special show that makes me literally pump my fist in the air and whoop aloud in joy, but the last few episodes had me doing that multiple times. What a ride!
What I liked about the first season of Magi was the mix of adventure and grand scale. Like my beloved Log Horizon and Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, after the first arc we began operating on the world stage with the trouble in Balbadd. This season went above and beyond by getting the rest of the world involved. The Kou Empire, Leam, Magnostadt, the rest of the Seven Seas Alliance, and even the other magi all got in on the fun, and DAMN did that make for some explosive storylines. We even saw the Big Bad reveal herself, and I did not see that coming. I said to beware of spoilers in the excerpt, right? Okay, so Gyokuen is a magi and she’s from Alma Torran @#$%@&^%*#$ AHHH!!
Speaking of villains, the ones we saw this season were pleasantly complex. Okay, not so much Gyokuen, who is batshit crazy nuts to a world-shattering degree – though honestly I’m fine with that in the Big Bad, because it makes her far more dangerous, and it will be very sweet to see everyone team up to take her down, I hope – but definitely Mogamett. There was so much to hate about Mogamett, with his bigotry for the goi, but the love he showed for his magicians was real. He was a fallen man, one who became so warped by the tragedies of his life that he let prejudice take control of him. He was undeniably a villain, or at least an antagonist, but it’s a lot easier to see yourself in Mogamett’s place than it is crazy Gyokuen’s.
Another star was Titus. The sign of a good tragic character is one where, every time his or her impending death is brought up (or eventually realized), you sit there going “Nooooo, I want them to live!!” It didn’t take long after we learned the truth about Titus for me to be saying that every single time. Up until the final part of the last episode I was looking for a way out, and then the ghost of Scheherazade says it should be Titus, her child who goes back down…and I wept. Way to go, loli-baba. You were a good mother in the end *tears up*
There were other enigmas. I still can’t decide who is more dangerous, Kouen, Sinbad, or maybe even Hakuryuu, who has forsaken his friends in exchange for…I’m not sure what, yet. Yunan hasn’t shown his hand, I would have liked to see more of Morgiana, and more of Alibaba’s training in Leam as well (though in exchange we got a very good training arc for Aladdin, so I really can’t complain), and…I’m just listing wishes now.
Bottom line: While the first season of Magi had undeniable weaknesses, the second season rectified them and then some. It’s epic fantasy of the type I love, with characters both heroic and tragic, plots that spanned the breadth of the world (and beyond), and a final showdown that sends chills down your spine. I’m glad director Masunari Koji and his team got a chance to keep going, even if maybe they didn’t deserve it.
Special request: Can anyone tell me what chapter of the manga the anime adapted up to? Since I’m not sure this will get another season, I’m considering switching over to the manga. Thanks!
Check out my blog about storytelling and the novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: Missing the point; You don’t get credit for the words you don’t write; Right, not best; and Three lessons from the editing desk.