First Impression: Magi
With a rushed start and very little in the way of introducing its characters Magi won’t immediately strike you as impressive. Thankfully it gets better over time.
The charms of Magi are not visible from the get-go. The first episode explains that labyrinths of magical origins have spawned across the world and however manages to climb them (they take the form of towers) and reach their treasure chamber will become powerful and influential. However, it only takes the main characters – Aladin and Alibaba – two measly episodes to scale an entire tower, making the “labyrinth clearing” notion a joke. Add to that the facts that Alibaba is immortal and Aladin can use magic (a rarity in their world) and you have an unbalanced show.
Or do you? Episodes 4 and 5 bring down the pace and give us a better perspective on what this series really is about. It’s not about the labyrinths (although they have an important role) or the magnificent djin (although they are magnificent). It’s about the Magi – a special kind of being that were tasked by the almighty king Salomon to help scout for righteous kings and queens to rule the land. As it turns out Aladin is one such Magi and..well…that’s all we know for now. Magi is less focused than your common Shounen series. Where most shounen series will spend their first episode or two making the goal and the means perfectly clear Magi does neither. At the end of episode 5 I still can’t tell you with certainty what Aladin will do with his powers or what is Alibaba’s real goal.
In other aspects the series proves to be hit-or-miss. The backgrounds are impressive. The towns, wall paintings and attention to arabic origins help you tune into the “one thousand and one nights groove”. The character designs are also quite nice, but they are drawn in a crude way and sharply contrast with the backgrounds. The animation is wonky, something I’m sure studio A-1 Pictures will fix as they gradually become accustomed to drawing the characters. The trailers for Magi promised the show will deliver more blood and gore than your usual Shounen series and signs of that happening are showing up little by little.
Magi might need more time to build a coherent story with a clear goal in mind. It has the exotic world and unique characters needed for crafting a good Shounen show but to firmly grip the audience it must first explain itself clearly. In a genre where series try to fly as closest as they can to the sun Magi still flutters hasitantly in the shades.