Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Collection 1 Anime DVD Review

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Collection 1 Anime DVD Review Fantasy will set you free as I visit the world of dungeons, djinns, and magic once again.

What They Say:
Alibaba is a young carrier who dreams of gaining enough money to buy a whole country. To achieve this goal he must venture into a mysterious ruin called a “dungeon,” which is said to hold secret treasures deep within its labyrinth. Unfortunately, Alibaba lacks the courage to carry out his plan and remains a worker. Until… One day, Alibaba meets a mysterious boy named Aladdin who can summon a mighty blue spirit from a flute and travels across the continent in search of Djinn Metal Vessels. Hoping to harness Aladdin’s magical power, Alibaba invites Aladdin to join him on his dungeon-capturing expedition. Along the way and through numerous encounters and farewells, both of them will come to learn the truth about their destiny!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio on this set is really clear and something like Magi, especially, needs something with great audio. The fight scenes feel like they’re surrounding me with noise and the background music is never too loud for the voices. I really miss looking and listening to Aniplex releases.

Video:
This Aniplex disc of Magi is absolutely gorgeous. I forgot that DVDs could look this nice. Of course, a blu-ray would be the preferred method of watching, but this DVD is about as good as you can get. I love it.

Packaging:
The package is in a standard DVD box with one of those inserts to hold extra DVDs. I immediately took out the cards that came with the set, as it made the package way too bulky. I usually throw out those slip cases because they’re damned useless, but this one I’m keeping because it actually features different artwork from the DVD’s art. The insert is reversible, with the standard being Sinbad and his buddies and the back showing off Aladdin and Morgiana riding atop Ugo. The reverse has key evil dude Judar as well as misguided Cassim and his friends. It also has the entire English and Japanese cast as well as the anime staff on the back of this insert, which is pretty awesome. The discs also feature Shinobu Ohtaka’s signature really weird character designs as they’re shown in the anime, which is an instant draw.

Menu:
The menu is silent (but deadly!), unlike a lot of the Sentai releases I’ve reviewed in the past. I’m actually a little thankful, because there’s no opening playing in ten second loops that I eventually just get sick of while trying to review the packaging and menu designs. Anyway! The menu here is actually really cool and I can tell Aniplex put a lot of work into designing these to look vaguely dungeon-y.

Extras:
Aniplex has sparse on disc extras here, with only textless opening and closing songs and an English trailer on disc. But the booklet and the postcards are really nice, as is typical from Aniplex’s releases. I don’t know what I’d use those postcards for, but they sure are really fancy with their foil. The booklet features some episode teasers as well as artwork of the main characters. As Magi is a really nice looking show, it’s greatly appreciated to be able to look at some of its key artwork in the episode teasers and special artwork in the back of the book.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the first 12 episodes of Magi, we deal with a lot of heavy subjects. Slavery. Corruption of power. Brainwashing. Familial bonds. From the get go, it’s pretty clear that Magi isn’t going to be your typical shonen manga. It has a plan with what it’s trying to say with its themes and characters.

It arguably holds slavery at the edge of its sleeve in nearly every episode, though. One of the three main characters, Morgiana, was a former slave and the other two main characters, Alibaba and Aladdin, actually meet Morgiana by freeing her from slavery—illegally freeing her, of course. At this point, she doesn’t actually get freed, but rather Alibaba and Aladdin are the ones that get punished for their actions; a stark contrast to modern society, and a dark reminder of history’s skeevy past.

By episode six, we’re shown Morgiana’s own dark past. It was hinted at before, but Morgiana has shackles on more than just her ankles. It was literally beaten into her to believe that she is a lesser being. All while crying and pleading to see her mother and father again. But Magi is more than just this dark story, of course. It’s shonen! Its friends that help friends to rise up and fellow slave Goltas convinced Morgiana to break free the first time and he does it again—Morgiana reminiscing about him, rather—that convinces her to fight against all odds.

It’s in these moments that Magi really convinces me that it’s an optimistic, not a pessimistic show. Despite its insistence to have these saddening themes, it always has an empowering message to tell. The bad guys get their just deserts and some of them even turn good in the end.

It picks up in the last six episodes of the set with the introduction of Sinbad and the Fog Troupe and the reintroduction of Alibaba. But I think it impresses me more just how much foreshadowing that the show has. At 20 volumes, it’s certainly hard to keep a good amount of cohesiveness in your storytelling. But through nearly 50 episodes of the anime now, a good majority of the things being explained in the simulcast have been presented to us in these first six episodes, including its themes and specifically the Dark Metal Vessels.

The themes of these episodes shift from things like slavery and brainwashing (very character-centric themes) to corruption of power and economics of paper money (very story-centric themes). Thinking back to the show, it’s plotted very brilliantly simply by splitting up the main characters. In the first two episodes, we get a great sense of both these characters and the world in a balanced story of capturing the dungeon.

In the next four episodes, we get a good look into Aladdin and what drives him forward, both prior to and after meeting the Kouga tribe. Morgiana, for now, gets minimal characterization in these first 12 episodes. But her character is built up very subtly, and overtly in episode six, which is her shining episode. It’s Sinbad that really instigates most of this characterization in the second half just by spurring Alibaba to action to take back his home city of Balbad from the corrupt people that rule it.

This is where the economics comes in, because they change their entire currency to paper money. The paper money, at the time, is just paper and fluctuates greatly in value compared to silver coins, which are worth whatever silver is worth. It’s like a simplified Spice and Wolf explanation.

But as always, the story goes back to slaves. Balbad will trade its entire citizenry into slavery to sell itself out of debt. Morgiana, of course, is against it and these are the moments she gets the most heated. Remember in episode six when she coldly tells a little girl what their fate will be? If that little girl were anyone else but a naïve child, Morgiana would not be nearly where she is in character because that moment spurred her to action against slavery and broke some sort of mental block she had on herself regarding her own disposition.

The last episode on this set largely sets up for what’s coming. Nothing’s quite resolved yet, as Aladdin’s still unconscious from his fight with Judar and Alibaba’s only just starting to learn his Djinn Equip. Plus, we haven’t even scratched the surface with my favorite character, Morgiana. In addition, the people of Balbad are in turmoil because of their poor state and the king’s only getting more corrupt by the day.

The dub, unfortunately, only gets the job done. It’s not really bad by any stretch, but it’s not good either. The obvious standout performance is Christina Vee as Morgiana. Erica Mendez as Aladdin is a little too raspy compared to Kaori Ishihara and it doesn’t quite have that lofty-ness of the Japanese performance. Some of the secondary characters, like Matt Mercer as Sinbad and Patrick Seitz as Ugo are quite good, but these performances are too few and far between. Erik Kimerer as Alibaba works well enough, but it’s nothing noteworthy. Recently, these LA dubs (my only other example is Madoka Magica, but I think Sword Art Online as well) have been using relative unknowns in the voice acting circle. With Madoka, it worked really well but it doesn’t quite have the same payoff with Magi.

In Summary:
I really liked Magi during the simulcast, enough so that I picked up both the manga and second season for review here on the Fandom Post. It’s a mark of a good show when you keep picking up things from each rewatch, and I definitely am still picking things up about Magi in a third watch through—mostly the finer points of its commentaries and themes. A marathon session is the way to watch these episodes, as a lot of them have continuity with each other that’s just really easy to forget when you’re watching it week to week. But even at the price tag, Magi is well worth it.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, Textless openings, Textless endings, English version trailer, 2-sided Reversible Cover Illustrated by Toshifumi Akai (Character design/chief animation director), Deluxe booklet, 5 collectible foil stamped postcards

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Aniplex of America
Release Date: January 14, 2014
MSRP: $74.98
Running Time: 300 minutes

Review Equipment:
Radeon 7850, 24 in. Vizio 1080p HDTV, Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II

Advertisements