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Shelf Life
Magi: The Kingdom of Magic

by Paul Jensen,

My parents are shopping for a new car to replace a twenty year-old SUV that's on its last legs. I tagged along with them on a trip to a couple of dealerships during my most recent visit, and I remembered something important: even for a gearhead like me, the process of buying a car is freaking exhausting. Impulse-buying anime is much less stressful, so let's get into this week's new releases. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Magi: The Kingdom of Magic

On Shelves This Week

K: Return of Kings - Complete Collection BD+DVD, DVD
Viz - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.99|$39.99
Currently cheapest at: $57.05 Barnes and Noble|$29.24 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: The Green King escalates his Clan's conflict against the Red and Blue Clans, forcing the Silver King to intervene with a plan of his own.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this TV season, along with reviews for the previous movie and first season. You can watch it on Hulu and Viz.com.

Record of Lodoss War - OVA and TV Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 1000 min - Hyb - MSRP $84.98
Currently cheapest at: $62.03 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A young warrior named Parn and his companions set out on a quest to restore peace to the island of Lodoss.

Extra: Our most recent review of the OVA part of this collection dates back to 2002, and you'll find it here. A few episodes of both the OVA and the TV series are available streaming on Funimation.

Three Leaves, Three Colors - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $47.28 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Former rich girl Yoko, class rep Teru, and certified glutton Futaba enjoy daily adventures at their high school.

Extra: We have some Preview Guide coverage of this show, but no full reviews. You can stream it on Funimation.

Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline - Complete Collection DVD
Sentai - 1000 min - Dub - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $41.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After rookie Space Time Agent Valerian accidentally alters the future by saving a girl named Laureline in 10th century France, the two of them must cooperate to repair history.

Extra: We don't seem to have an encyclopedia page for this French and Japanese co-production, but it's available streaming on Crunchyroll.

Aniplex - 166 min - Sub - MSRP $89.98
Currently cheapest at: $69.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Daisuke Higashida starts working at a restaurant after his family runs into financial trouble, but all of his new coworkers are a bit odd.

Extra: You'll find episode reviews (written by me) for this Wagnaria!! spinoff here. You can watch it on Crunchyroll and Daisuki.

Shelf Life Reviews

I reviewed Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic a couple of weeks ago, and gave it a Shelf Worthy rating. Its sequel, Magi: The Kingdom of Magic, only managed to get a Rental out of me this week.

As a series, Magi tends to feel uneven to me. All of its story arcs have something compelling about them, whether it's strong chemistry between characters or interesting ideas that drive the story forward. By the same token, it seems like each story arc has obvious room for improvement, with the most common issue being the show's tendency to try to do too much at once. That general pattern carries on into sequel season Magi: The Kingdom of Magic, but the balance doesn't lean as far towards an overall positive for me as it did in season one. The high points seem to come less frequently, and problems seem to pop up more often.

This season opens with the leading trio of Aladdin, Alibaba, and Morgiana deciding to go their separate ways. Aladdin goes off to train in the city-state of Magnoshutatt, where magic-users are treated as a separate and superior class above normal people. Alibaba heads for the Leam Empire, where he plans to fight as a gladiator in order to sharpen his skills and resolve a problem with his magoi. Morgiana heads to her homeland, seeking a sense of closure after having spent so much of her life as a slave in a foreign country. While the three of them may be separated by distance, their fates are tied together by a brewing conflict between the world's major powers.

You may have spotted one of the issues with this season in that description: the main characters all go off on their own for a significant period of time. The chemistry within this core group was one of the first season's biggest strengths, so breaking them up takes that strength away. This decision isn't without its upsides; sending everyone in a different direction allows the show to explore more of its world while dealing with each character's personal journey on an individual basis. Unfortunately, even an expanded supporting cast can't quite make up for the loss of that “exploring dungeons with your buddies” charm.

On the positive side of things, those new places and faces allow the series to continue wrestling with intriguing questions and dilemmas. As mean and nasty as the class system in Magnoshutatt may be, the story behind it is a clever exploration of how the oppression of one group of people can lead to the oppression of another. Series newcomer Titus, one of Aladdin's fellow magic students, also opens the door for some emotional moments thanks to his unusual backstory. The concentration of all these plotlines around Magnoshutatt works to Aladdin's benefit by molding him into a more dynamic protagonist. He comes across as more of a complex and compelling person compared to his more generic “magic kid” role in season one.

The branching storylines eventually come back together in time for some large-scale battles at the end of the season. These action scenes offer some interesting matchups in terms of characters' abilities and worldviews, along with plenty of colorful powered-up character designs. The only trouble is that the writing has trouble juggling all of the different countries and factions. By the time things start to wrap up, we have the Kou Empire, the Leam Empire, Magnoshutatt, Sindria, and the Al-Tharmen organization all competing for screen time. This leads to too many conveniently-timed “here comes the cavalry” moments, along with a lot of last-minute revelations that seem to come out of nowhere. This causes the main characters to spend a lot of time on the sidelines instead of in the center of the action, and things end on a less satisfying note than they did in the previous season.

Production values for the series remain impressively high, and the sheer variety of character designs and locations is quite a feat on its own. This set is functionally similar to the previous one, offering a nice, compact package but lacking in the extras department. The English dub continues to be perfectly listenable, even if it does seem to have trouble deciding on exactly how many syllables are in “Magnoshutatt.”

While this second season of Magi didn't capture my attention as thoroughly as the first, it's still a well-produced show with plenty of neat ideas. This set sits on the high side of the Rental range, and I can see it jumping into Shelf Worthy territory if the storylines in this set really work for you. For my money, I'd rather push the big picture towards the background and spend more time on the main characters. Either way, it's worth watching at least once if you enjoyed the first season.

That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Aria:

"Compared to some of the other Shelf Obsessed segments I've seen, my collection is sorely lacking. However, I only started committing to a "proper collection" in 2013, and because I want to be certain about what I buy, I only get stuff through physical retailers. I'd like to display this stuff proudly somewhere someday, but for now I'm stuck with overhead shelving space plus a magazine file (not pictured). The Ryuu strap (in front of some volumes of Detective Conan) is the pride and joy of my collection so far, despite Ryuu not being my favourite character from Binan Kōkō Chikyū Bōei-bu Love! (that would be En).

The volumes in Japanese are from friends and family, but I'm studying Japanese in the hopes that I'll read and understand them someday. The big silver book is from a Coldplay concert, while the blue book on its left is one of those manga drawing guides."

Every collection has to start somewhere! Speaking as someone who has accumulated way too much crap over the years, you've got the right idea with being careful about what to buy. Good luck with your studies, and thanks for sharing!

Want to show off your own collection? Send me your photos at [email protected]!

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