Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
DVD 2 - The Kingdom of Magic
All is not well in Magnoshutatt, where Aladdin is concealing his identity as a magi and studying magic. Now a second year student, he has been granted citizenship in the magic city-state, which leads him to discover the horrible truth of Mogamett's past and his treatment of non-magician citizens. All of this becomes even more important when the Leam Empire attacks Magnoshutatt with intentions to annex it...and from the east, the Kou Empire is planning to do the same thing. With his friends divided among the nations and his feelings for Mogamett conflicted, what will Aladdin do? And is a peaceful solution even possible?
There is a style of literature known as “Naturalism,” which, in its simplest form, expresses the belief that it is impossible to overcome or rise above the situation you are born into. It isn't always seen in anime, and it certainly wasn't part of the first season of Magi, The Labyrinth of Magic, but in the second half of The Kingdom of Magic, it becomes a central issue. As we had heard rumors of previously, Magnoshutatt is a place for and by magicians. Only magic users are in the upper echelons of society, and as Aladdin discovers very quickly in this set of episodes, the city-state is run on a caste system. At the bottom of this stratified society are the “goi,” people with no magical ability whatsoever. Much to the horror of Aladdin and his friends, these people are forced to live underground, with their ruhk harvested to fuel the magical machinery of the wealthier classes. It's like a fantasyland version of a Stephan Crane novel, and the emotional backbone of this half of the series comes from the early discovery of this vile place. While there Aladdin's friend Titus discovers an orphaned girl who is dying of either ruhk depletion or consumption, and his championing of the girl, Marga, drives the plot as much as any of Aladdin's own actions; in fact, I would argue that it is because of Titus and Marga that the issue is even taken to the point it is.
There's a very interesting theme going on in the entire Magnoshutatt arc that is almost lost in the tumult of the battle episodes, which, I should mention, are quite gripping. When the magic students are forced to attend an “Ideology” lecture given by Mogamett, we see the past that brought him to where he (and the city) stand in the present. It is a story of the oppressed becoming the oppressors, with Mogamett creating a world where he would never have to suffer being at the bottom of the social order again. Unfortunately his poor treatment at the hands of non-magicians and the pressure of trying to lead his people to the right path leads to his own turn as an oppressor, and he begins to see those who aren't mages as less than human. (This is shown nicely when we see the low caste citizens through his eyes.) He refers to them as “goi,” which can be looked at in a couple of different ways. Presumably it is because they lack magic, the Japanese word for which is “maho.” Since magic in the story's world is fueled by “magoi,” it is probable that “goi” is simply meant to remove the syllable that both “maho” and “magoi” share, indicating a lack of magic. On the other hand, as some of you may know, “goy” is a derogatory term used by Jews to describe non-Jews (plural: goyim, which may be more familiar), and the contextual similarity is striking. Either because I have that association or because it's really there, this increases similarities between the Leam attack on Magnoshutatt and the Roman conquest of Judea, specifically Masada when the soldiers are attempting to breach the walls. In either event, it is a particularly interesting relationship that Mogamett has with both his people and the outside world, and it makes an excellent backdrop for both Aladdin's actions and the tragedy of Titus.
If Titus and Marga are the sentimental heart of this story arc, then Aladdin is the force. He becomes a very strong character in terms of both his abilities and his determination, and when Alibaba returns, we can see him draw strength from the presence of his friend as well. Their reunion is very well done in the sense that it feels perfectly natural. There is no big, moving reunion filled with tears, just two people who never doubted that they would see each other again coming together. We see them sitting and talking for hours, which has more subtle impact than if more had been made of it. On the other hand, Morgiana's return is very underdone, with her not reappearing until almost the very end and no real information as to how she spent her time and became able to do what she now can. In fact, last minute arrivals is really the name of the game as the war continues, with people just popping out of the woodwork to help save the day to the point where it almost feels ridiculous.
The English dub is much stronger for these episodes, with none of the stuttering and awkward pauses that marked the first half. Only Koha stands out as weak in the dub, and the sub track is generally strong all around. The background music this time trends towards the orchestral, and it really works well to enhance the mood. The new theme songs are also catchy, even if the ending theme does make it look like Aladdin and Alibaba are romantic interests. Extras once again include a small two-sided pencil board and a small poster, as well as a decorative sleeve for the DVD case. It's still Aniplex, so it's pricy, but this is also the best set of episodes; if you're a Magi fan and can only buy one set, this would be it.
While as of this writing there is no third season in the works, Magi: The Kingdom of Magic ends with just enough closure to wrap things up and plenty of room for the story to keep going. It isn't the Thousand and One Nights, but it also works well within the themes of that book and its area of origin as well as being a good story all on its own.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Interesting historical and linguistic parallels, dub shows improvement. Titus and Marga story is effective, Aladdin becomes an even better character.
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