Being the sequel to the anime Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, the opening to this series sees a troupe of friends, Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryuu, receive heroes’ welcomes on their return from conquering the Djinn Zagan. But the excitable, inquisitive Aladdin doesn’t intend to rest on his laurels, eager to learn even more about magic. His companions, too, have their reasons to set out on new adventures. Alibaba hopes to make it as a gladiator, Morgiana wants to return to her roots and find out if she really is the last of her kind, and Hakuryuu seeks vengeance for his father and brothers.
To begin with, this first curve takes time to build up momentum, as it works up to the focal group parting ways to achieve their own ends. That’s not to say there aren’t stand-out moments here. When Aladdin is taken captive by a band of child pirates, and his friends disembark in Actia to ask for help, they’re implored to recover these lost children born in the city’s slums. Their rescue mission leads them to a rock fortress in the sea, where the urchins are given three square meals and a bed by Aum Madaura, who they adore and worship as their mother. In their climactic clash with Madaura, Aladdin and his friends reunited have their memories, or absences, of their own mothers turned against them, giving powerful insights into their grief, regrets and resentment through the sparse and artful use of flashbacks. As well as being a concise means of showing where these characters come from, it proves a creative and thoughtful look at loss and learning to pick yourself up that revives the oft-revisited themes.
When the four do set out on their own, the focus is on Aladdin honing his Magi’s craft at the Magnostadt Academy, populated by students whose magic abilities aren’t innate, in a realm where there’s a time-tested rivalry between magicians and non-magicians. Even wearing a gem that limits his power drawn from the butterfly-like Rukh that float in the air mostly unseen, he excels in the charming Hogwarts parody of the academy. When the plot breaks away to follow Alibaba, Morgiana or Hakuryuu, the tone adjusts to the path they are taking, defining their individual struggles and bringing texture and varying shades to the series as a whole.
Given the amount of back-story attached to each of these characters, and the surprising lack of flashbacks, their journey beginning from this series is still one that’s easy to be absorbed in. This patchwork historical fantasy world’s nature and past times, its beliefs and knowledge, its societies and tribes, are all present and visible without loading you down with exposition. While nowhere near as intimidating as jumping into a show with hundreds of episodes already trailing behind it, Magi has the long-running shonen value of giving you something to sink your teeth into.