Notice: This review covers both seasons of this anime.
Magi is an oddball when it comes to shonen anime, because it’s constantly changing what it’s all about. Starts as dungeon crawling, proceeds to be about defeating evil rulers, then it’s about what it means to be a good ruler, then how can a nation can co-exist with other nations, then how to form an alliance and stop an evil force from destroying the continent. The formula constantly changes, the scope broadens, and the stakes increase.
It sounds like it should be regarded as one of the best shonen anime of all time. And yet it’s not since it was quickly forgotten by everybody, and even after the manga ended almost nobody cried about it. When a complete pile of garbage like Bleach ended, tens of thousands lost their shit. When this subversion of the shonen formula did the same, it had no impact at all. What happened?
The presentation, basically. From inconsistent animation quality, to some pretty questionable design choices, Magi was not made to be mainstream. It’s the same reason why other shows like Toriko and Bobobo never managed to be very popular. They were too weird for the average viewer. Magi was more focused on character tragedies and cosmological concepts, than being a good action or adventure. It was not exciting, it was not fun, and you were just tolerating its whimsical plot and setting.
Of course, not being mainstream material is not really a minus. Shinsekai Yori is also weird in its presentation, yet it packs enough interesting content to be memorable. Magi on the other hand is all over the place. You constantly get mood whiplashes, since the story is full of tragedy and death that get constantly interrupted by silly boob jokes. Also, the characters deform to chibi doodles when something funny happens. There are many who hate that. FMAB, the best shonen of all time, is disliked by thousands of people just because of a few seconds of comic relief deformity in every episode. It feels ten times worse in Magi, with its not as good production values, and its way more frequent comedy scenes. Also, because of the ass fetish everyone working in A-1 Pictures has, the camera keeps zooming on women’s buttocks for some really low brow fan service.
It’s also very hard to like the protagonist. He’s ridiculously optimistic, even for shonen standards, and has a creepy boob fetish from the age of 10. He’s basically a happy-go-lucky chuuni, completely out of sync with the grim setting he is living in. Worst part, the show refuses to point out how wrong he is. Instead, it validates every obnoxious action he takes, as if the power of friendship is all you need to fix any problem. On top of that, it also gives him a super powerful genie that easily defeats any non-genie opponent he comes across. And since there are only a handful of genie users, he’s overpowered from the very beginning. He’s what constantly breaks the immersion and ruins all the good ideas of the show.
And no, he’s not the only one, as most of the villains are one-dimensional light novel villains, who laugh like maniacs and love to torture innocent people just because. The victim card is overplayed in almost every episode, so the obnoxious chuuni protagonist can jump in with his ridiculous optimism, save the victimized innocent peasants with his genie-ex-machina and talk about rainbows and unicorns. Despite the great sociopolitical ideas it has from time to time, the characterization is shallow, most battles are silly, and the way everybody resolves their issues, is by pulling magic trinkets out of their asses. And then the camera zooms on said asses to further point out how much respect you are supposed to show them.
If the protagonist and the genies did not exist, if the main characters were instead Ali Baba and Morgiana, and if A1-Pictures didn’t have to show an ass every 5 minutes, Magi could have been a great shonen. Instead of that, we are left with a forgettable mediocrity.
I personally was intrigued by an Arabian Nights theme, but then I grew to love these characters. The story is very original, drawing from the 1001 Nights without following it directly. Aladdin is an adorable character who is quite easy to laugh at, along with Alibaba. As the story progesses, more characters are introduced, making the interactions better, and much much funnier.
Hello generic shounen, we meet again. This time, the random number generator has chosen to borrow Arabian Nights themes rather than the standard ninja/samurai/mecha/whatever thing, but it doesn't matter. The hero will scream as he slashes away, people will call out the name of their special attacks, and you will need a third grade education to follow the plot. Screw you Magi, screw you. Your good animation does not excuse not trying.
People will talk about how awesome Magi is, and it is true compared to other generic shounen shows - the animation is fantastic... oh wait, that's the single advantage. And fight scenes don't last multiple episodes (*cough*Naruto*cough*), so there's two. You know what the real problem it has? Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is plain better in every way. The kid is less annoying, the fan service is better, there is more style in the art, the writing is better, it admits how hilarious the "determination beats everything" idea is, and it was made five years before. And didn't bother with more than one season, thank heavens.
Sure, people talk about how the whole Arabian theme is awesome. It's not bad, but not good either. It is a backdrop over which things happen and nothing more. If it would have changed the plot some, then it would have been cool. Instead, all the effects of it are in the art. And even then, it really doesn't change much beyond the way people dress and castles. Still, it's actually good for what it tries to do.
Perhaps it is how shounen as a genre has been overdone. I've seen it all, and am particularly unforgiving in how I view it. The PG attitude is annoying, but within those constraints, Magi does well. If you haven't grown as tired of it as I have, perhaps this may come off as too critical. Still, anything you can play on your smartphone while viewing and not miss anything important can't be considered good in my book.
Writing (Story and Characters):
What can I say, shounen writing is usually terrible and Magi is no exception. It started out rather decently, but once you get used to the premise, you find out that it really doesn't do much creatively. It may be better than Dragonpiece Shipuuden, but since that is an extremely low bar, that changes nothing about the fact that this is the achilles heel of both the genre and the show.
The story is generic. Painfully so at times. There's the occasional attempt to look as if they might at some point stray from the formula, but it never does. Slavery is bad, m'kay. We get it. Yawn. Another superpowered villain requiring yet another power up of the hero. Yawn. It's dull, a product more than anything creative, and a complete waste of what is an interesting premise.
Don't get me started about the characters. This time, the kid is the perv, the hero is capable and not an underdog, and a girl kicks stuff. The arcs are completely standard. The backstories all have the required amount of angst. The villains are all nefarious types. Ugh. It is a very standard thing, done in a very standard way. The execution is good, I guess. Still, the cast is balanced in a way you'd expect.
I really wish I could write more about it, but... that's it really. Generic shounen writing that has nothing special to it other than the setting, which becomes irrelevant fast enough. You could do worse, and it is executed rather well all things considered. It's just the formula, for good and for extremely bad.
Art (Animation and Sound):
Solid all around, and at times truly great. The setting is wonderful, I'll give Magi that. The concept art is very good. There is a lot of upside to how the artwork was done, especially from a technical perspective. There are some great ideas as to how the magic looks (the glowy butterfly things are rather neat), and the show manages to be impressive from a visual standpoint. Really, artwork gives the show a life it doesn't deserve.
From a visual standpoint, Magi is brilliantly done. The concept art is well done, the character designs are generic yet executed very well, the movement is usually fluid, and there are only minor technical faults. Among the technical faults are the gimmicky scenes where scrolling through an unmoving picture is a replacement for drama, every single combat visual quirk you will ever see. It's over the top, yet still manages to impress.
Audio is over the top and extremely unashamed of that fact. We get the standard shounen voice acting, a generic soundtrack that fits the show rather well, and effect use that is a bit heavy handed but strong all the way through. Of course the voice acting is annoying to everyone high school or older. That is just the way shounen goes, and naturally, Magi isn't an exception to this rule as it tries to follow the formula too wel. It's above average in the audio department, but doesn't manage something special.
Artwork gives life to the world of Magi, but it doesn't make it nearly as special as it could be. While it is technically good, it doesn't manage to be exceptional. Perhaps I'm setting too high a standard, but whereas other shows like Attack on Titan create a unique world with a distinct feeling behind it, this show fails. A yellow/blue color palette is a classic visual contrast and makes the show feel more impressive than it actually is, but it gets tired. Perhaps that is the problem when the art sticks to the writing instead of trying to elevate it.
Magi is yet another generic shounen show. Visually, it is great, but other than that it has no distinguishing features. I can't recommend it to anyone who doesn't want a standard shounen show with good execution.
Now at the top of this review you will see that I did not finish this anime, I watch 12 episodes and then the 25(last) one and then dropped. This is a 6, which means below my recommend standard. I would not recommend this anime. "was it really that horrible" you ask? No, the animations were gorgeous, there was just the right amount of fan service, and it was pretty funny too. "so why would you not recommend it"? allow me to explain in my usual report.
Story: this would have been an 8, the story is interesting and adventerous. HOWEVER, and if you have seen my other reviews then you know that I hate arc/prob of the day style animes. This one was in arcs, which isnt always bad, but usually and like in Magi, it weakened the end game of the anime. I have been reading on some forums and it seems like A-1 studios is really good at making anime look pretty, but doing their own Original Anime Ending, and messing up everything. Case and Point, Magi. 7 for decent, but arc style and not having a particularly strong ending.
Animation: was beautiful, 10, loved it
Sound: had a good number of soundtracks, and some pretty cool ones, voice actors were nice and solid and pretty convincing. 9
Characters: this got a little weird, I just watched Samurai 7 and the characters in that one got a bit weird too, in very much the same way. Sinbad ended up filling a spot that Alibab should have start to fill as he developed, and alladdin, acting or seeming like he didnt know that much, seemed to know more then he should for as ignorant as he sounded. Morgiana was ok, and I watched the last episode so a little spoiler on her character type SPOILER shes a tsudere, and by the end you can tell she loves alibaba END SPOILER
characters were kinda weird right in the middle though, and alibaba was being way too much of a pacifist to be interesting really, it was pissing me off. A good anime has a main character who has the balls, but also the wisdom to do what needs to be done. I was not getting that from Alibaba, I was getting that from Sinbad. which seemed way weird.
overall: the decent but not overbearing fan service, the amazing visuals, and the humor was what kept me in for so long. But due to the way the story ended up(and apparently it diverged from the manga) and the arc style gives it a 6 for me.
I only recommend watching if you are really hell bent on wasting some time for the lulz. in that case just enjoy the scenery the humor and the little bit of fanservicy stuff.
It was sold as bleach like anime to me, but it is NOT. Magi is true to its main characters, neither male nor female...:
How is it call when the characters are in between male and female? does it have a name? Anyway, this anime is in that sense true to its main characters, neither male nor female... It makes you wonder to what category really belongs or what tags would describe it better.. the true is, you may be able to catalog it, but only on a per episode basis.
At times it seems that is was meant for infants, at times seems that it has indeed some action, and some times you really wonder whether the main characters are male o female... allegedly, they are both males, nonetheless, one of them wears a thin, bra kind of strip wrapped around his chest, just covering the parts a woman would care to... and some times you find yourself falling in love to one beatiful face, asking yourself who was that stunning girl... to realice in the next second, that it was one of the male friends... Not Cool.
It was sold as bleach like anime to me, but it is NOT.