Review: Magi – The Labyrinth of Magic – Season 1, Part 1 / Cert: 12 / Director: Koji Masunari / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Haruk Tomatsu, Kaori Ishihara / Release Date: Out Now
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is an anime version of The Arabian Nights. As collisions of cultures go, it’s a bit of a surprise that this hasn’t been done before. As you may be able to predict from the title, this particular take on the classic stories focuses much more firmly on magical action-adventure than you may otherwise expect.
The show covers the misadventures of a young boy called Aladdin, a wise-cracking thief and chancer. Aided by his friend Ali Baba, and a magical flute that contains a Djin, he goes off to explore the mysterious towers that dot the land (confusingly called dungeons). They contain all sorts of monsters and magical things and are a sure route to fame, glory or a short life. Though the setting is loosely inspired by The Arabian Nights, familiarity with the source material won’t particularly help you here as all it does is provide a backdrop to what is essentially a character-driven fantasy adventure show.
The plot lines are complex and interwoven enough to make viewing compulsive, though each episode works fine on its own. By the time we get to the end of this set (which is only part one of an ongoing series) we have a reasonably well-imagined world with its own rules and magic. The Djinn (and there are more than one) do feel a bit like Pokémon on occasion however, being trotted out to resolve plot points rather than characters in their own right.
The animation is clean and pretty though a little crude in places. This is a TV show after all, but the action scenes are well assembled. The voice acting is okay; it’s a minor niggle but Aladdin can’t say the word “Magi” for some reason, and it simply sounds wrong. The character of Sinbad is superbly performed, being the right balance of bravado, charm and stupidity. Overall a great start to a series with a lot of potential.