Click here to return to the main site.
In a fantastic middle-age world where slavery is very common, there are strange tall towers named Dungeon which mysteriously appeared out of nowhere fourteen years before the story line. Someone who conquers a Dungeon becomes very powerful and wealthy. Our hero, Alibaba, is a teenager who works for merchants to support himself. He dreams of conquering a lot of Dungeons and becoming a very rich person. One day, he comes across a strange young boy named Aladdin who carries a mystical flute with supernatural powers in it. Alibaba and Aladdin agree to travel their first Dungeon together...
An anime series set in the fertile realm of classic Arabian fantasy certainly has plenty of potential for entertainment value, and at first glance Magi appears set on fulfilling it – the opening episodes have their fair share of treasure quests, comely maidens, poor but honest youths, wicked moustachioed villains and magical spectacle. With the central cast of innocent young magician Aladdin, his opportunistically adventurous new friend Alibaba, and stoical slave girl Morgiana duly assembled, it seems we're in for a cavalcade of adventures. It's odd then that the series falters almost immediately after its confident beginning.
The journey into the initial dungeon – one of numerous such around the world, we're told, which reward those who conquer them with unthinkable wealth and the mastery of powerful Djinni – comes across more as a pedestrian trip through the first portion of a role-playing game than a dazzling adventure. Worse yet, immediately upon its conclusion the likeable central trio are magically scattered across the world, with the next set of episodes finding Aladdin alone in a distant land reminiscent of ancient China and falling in with a group of nomads oppressed by imperialistic villains. It's a disappointment after the vibrant faux-Arabian world promised in the opening, not helped by a lacklustre story.
Thankfully, the series sees fit to reunite the cast in short order for a trip to Alibaba's home city, where his legacy as an adoptive prince – and the show's overriding storyline – takes centre stage. The cast fills out nicely with a cabal of rogues, freedom fighters and magicians of various allegiances, chief among them the master magician Sinbad who becomes Aladdin and Alibaba's most valuable ally. The plot quickly becomes convoluted with the arrival of yet more and more characters in the manner often seen in shonen anime, with royal intrigue, corruption, the hazards of using magic, the competition for the spoils of Dungeons and even a shadowy bankers' conspiracy competing for space in the storyline.
Despite the variable quality of the writing and plotting Magi still has much to recommend it. The music score by Shiro Sagisu (Evangelion, Bleach) is of the high standard expected of his work and A-1 Pictures, who can usually be counted on to deliver some arresting visuals, assemble a good-looking show with some outstanding action scenes, notable Morgiana's battle with a group of sabre-toothed tigers. The series is oddly more explicit than usual for a typical shonen anime, with the nudity quota bumped up by the likes of an eye-popping female Djinni.
Magi appears to have been sufficiently successful with fans of Shinobu Ohtaka's manga original to warrant a second season, airing in Japan at the time of writing, and so a further DVD set is almost certain to follow this and the next. It's to be hoped that Magi recovers from its underpowered start to grow into the zestful and enjoyable series it shows signs of being.