Magi is set in a world that spins on RPG mechanics – dungeons, builds and combos et al – without needing to rely on the tried and tested trapped-in-game trope. An exercise in world-building, the immersive setting is rich in history and thoroughly fleshed out, expanding on the first 25-episode series.
An alternate recreation of the ancient Old World, the lavish architecture, textiles and jewellery richly conjure a sense of time and place, and the attention to the tiniest details is inspired. The Middle Eastern setting especially benefits from the chirpy animation and dreamy environments. The ethos to environment is explored twofold in the writing and characters. There’s opulence to the design, with wardrobes that juggle style and functionality; a turban unfurling into a flying blanket, or a bracelet filled with life essence.
The sense of community and culture is evocative of Fairy Tail, and the depth of characters and their reams of backstory are easy to get invested in. Aladdin is something of a departure from your atypical lead, goofy, for sure, but also childishly curious and obstinately determined. But then, no one character takes precedence over the other. Alibaba is all gawky arrogance, while Morgiana has a steely resolve and gracefully bears the pain of her past.
In true fantasy tradition, the central friendship is divided, with each branching off for their own journey of fulfilment, betterment or discovery. In a quest for knowledge, Aladdin enlists in Magnostadt academy, a beautiful establishment that gives Hogwarts a run for its money. Alibaba, desperate to perform a total djinn equip, sets off to become a gladiator. Morgiana attempts to find out what became and remains of her people. The plotting here is well paced, devoting enough episodes to each character without swamping the wider events, instead using each person as a way to further the narrative, both on a personal and worldly level.
Magi is a series that frequently surprises and begs its viewers to look a little differently at events, and perhaps those of other shows. Nor does it shy away from the realities and iniquities of the world and its history, with slavery, sex trafficking and the grim reality of piracy at the forefront. The humour works as ballast, tempering and not shirking these darker parts.
If show’s like Fairy Tail and One Piece appeal to you but the intimidating episode count puts you off, then Magi is perfect, doing in 50 episodes what other shows take hundreds to fill. Left on the cusp of war, the second curve can’t come soon enough.
Special Features: Opening and closing
MAGI: THE KINGDOM OF MAGIC PART 1 / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: KOJI MASUNARI / SCREENPLAY: HIROYUKI YOSHINO / STARRING: ISHIHARA, KAORI, HARUKA TOMATSU, YUUKI KAJI, RYOUHEI KIMURA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW