Just when you thought that Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic couldn’t get any more intriguing, the series throws out the Balbadd arc, a real game changer in every sense. This second collection of the first season of Magi, is made up almost entirely of the famous Balbadd arc, which fans of the series will tell you is one of the high points of the series. As such there is some pretty lofty expectations here for A-1 Pictures to stick the landing and by and large they do just that, but that’s not to say there isn’t any hiccups along the way.
As previously mentioned this collection revolves primarily around the Balbadd story arc and features a plethora of new and colourful characters as they all become entangled in the web that is Balbadd. It goes without saying that the real show-stealer is Sinbad, a character that is just impossible not to like. However the cast really comes into its own in this part of the series and finally begins to feel like a true ensemble, something that the first part of the series was laying the foundations for.
It is pleasing to see that Alibaba comes back into focus here in the Balbadd arc after having a bit of a disappearance for a fair part of collection 1. His character is so genuine and natural, the show is always better when it focuses on him. Alibaba is really just the most human character in Magi and therefore the most relatable. While Aladdin is a cool character with a bit of a dark past, he is rarely a character that the audience can relate to. So it comes as a breathe of fresh air to have the very human Alibaba back in the playing field in a big way this time around.
The story dives heavily into the darker themes the series has pondered, in particular it explores the notion of freedom through the rampant slavery that afflicts the world of Magi. The series does a good job at conveying differing opinions of what freedom truly is, but it generally always falls into the more black and white ‘slavery is bad’ ideology. Magi could do with some shades of grey, but it treads more firmly in black and white, good and evil, light and dark.
While the plot and characterization is generally on point throughout this collection, I must admit that there is some very odd pacing choices and there are moments the feel rushed when they really should have gotten more time. It is hard to say whether this is just the way the manga was originally or if A-1 Pictures have adapted it this way, but there are moments that should be truly emotionally affecting that fall flat due to poor timing and structure. In spite of that however the series does remain highly engaging even though some moments just don’t land the right way.
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic collection 2 is an intense second cour for the series and it builds upon the intriguing world and cast that we were introduced to in the first collection. Magi is a very interesting shonen series and with the Balbadd arc we are now beginning to see why the series has millions of fans across the globe.
Visuals and Audio
Continuing on from collection 1’s impressive aesthetic outing, A-1 Pictures have employed a remarkable visual style in this second collection, with a crisper look that comes off as a smoother and more detailed art style than that used in the earlier episodes of the series. The character designs become a bit more ludicrous but all look quite good and fit well within the world of Magi.
The audio portions of this release are equally as good and much like the visuals the soundtrack continues the strong showing of collection 1. The English dub is also rather noteworthy as it features some really incredible performances that must not be missed. Of course if you aren’t into the English dub option there is always the option of the original Japanese audio track.
Much like the first collection, Madman Entertainment have gone all out with Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic collection 2. Like the first release, this one also features an guide and art book inside the packaging, detailing all of the episodes on the release as well as compiling some stunning artwork from the series. The book alongside the on disc special features of clean opening and ending themes as well as trailers makes for an all around blockbuster release that more than earns the price tag associated with it. This is the closest thing to a collector’s edition release we will likely get down here and it is something special no doubt about that.
Although there may be some pacing issues here and there, Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic collection 2 continues to build upon the strong foundations set in collection 1 of the series. Not only does it build upon it but it provides a satisfying pay-off to the seeds planted as far back as episode 1. It is clear that Magi is designed for long-form story telling and it does benefit by having a 25 episode count, but you just can’t escape the feeling that this should have been an ongoing series in the same vein as Fairy Tail or One Piece. The idea behind this world is so immense, that there is so much left unexplored by the time episode 25 rolls around. Thankfully there is a second season, but when exactly it will see an English language release is anyone’s guess.
All in all, Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic subverts the tropes associated with the shonen genre and ultimately becomes something truly unique. Although it would benefit from better pacing and a continuous ongoing serialization, the series does a superb job with the time it has and provides a somewhat cathartic conclusion however teasing it may be.
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