Magi: The Adventures of Sinbad Review
For the first time in a long time, I just watched an entire 1 cour anime in one night: Magi: The Adventures of Sinbad. Rooted in the Magi universe, which includes Magi: Kingdom of Magic and Magi: Labyrinth of Magic, The Adventures of Sinbad takes place before the stories of both Kingdom and Labyrinth. Following one of the most interesting characters from the first two series, Sinbad, on his youthful adventures. It can't exactly be considered a prequel because no plots are directly related, but it is deeply connected to the stories and characters in Kingdom and Labyrinth.
Magi: The Adventures of Sinbad is the origin story for Sinbad. From his birth to the age 16, where this season ends, Sinbad influences nearly everyone meets. Note that I said this season; while a second season hasn't been confirmed and the source material is not currently that far ahead of where the story left off, they definitely left it wide open for a second season. That said, I really hope they make it. I liked the first two seasons of Magi well enough, but Sinbad's rendition of Magi is, simply put, way better. Why is it better?
It's better because Sinbad is a good main character.
I don't want to spend a lot of time addressing what bothered me about the first two seasons of Magi, but it makes for a great comparison. In both Labyrinth and Kingdom, the direction wasn't ever very clear. Don't get me wrong, following good characters on an adventure with no real goal can be good, ala Spice and Wolf, but Magi failed to make me really understand what drove the characters to do whatever they were doing. Arguably, the most interesting characters in the original series were Sinbad and his retinue (which makes sense that he would be popular enough get his own spin-off series). Sinbad is the type of character that sets a goal and does what he needs to do to get there. Despite being an age-old formula, Sinbad's goals and paths to his goals are far from generic.
Sinbad was inspired by his father to fight against the norms of society. The country that he grew up in was propelled by war and power; it used the citizens as tools for their war machine. Instead of fighting against the government or changing the hearts of the people, Sinbad's decision is to simply make a new, better country that will change the political landscape of the entire world. In Labyrinth it's clear that he accomplished this goal. In his story, his route there is nothing but fun and adventurous.
What Magi: The Adventures of Sinbad offers the viewer:
If you've seen the main series of Magi, you can expect the same kind of action, humor, and scale from Sinbad's adventure. Of course, there is also a large group of characters that make appearances in both. You can also expect to see a solid goal, plan, and delivery; which is something that you almost certainly felt was missing from the main series.
If you haven't seen the main series of Magi, you can expect a fun, action packed adventure of a bombastic, confident, powerful character set in a thriving, colorful, intricate world. Unfortunately, it's nothing super special. Seriously, as much as I like to praise Sinbad for being a great character and as much as it's comparatively better than the main series of Magi, it definitely lacks a certain depth that makes some shows great.
Everything can be taken at face value. There aren't any intriguing subplots going on behind the scene that will make you curious. You'll never really have to think about how anything will progress. The deepest thoughts you'll have will we wondering how Sinbad will overcome the next obstacle. There is never any question as to whether or not he will. After all, we already know that he is successful. While stories that don't have literary depth and subplots and secrets can be very good, much like in Sword of the Stranger, they can much more easily fall into the trap of being outright terrible. At the very least, they are often unenjoyable; which is the pitfall that Sinbad finds itself in. The story isn't bad. Following Sinbad on his journey is fun. But it doesn't offer anything on top of that. Even though that makes it really easy to watch, it leaves a sense of longing for something a little more complicated.
Magi is, of course, a shounen. The shounen genre focuses on the "young boy" demographic, but Magi's target demographic often seems to point towards the younger end of the spectrum. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but it definitely misses a few marks for not making up its damn mind. It's apparent that the world is well fleshed out with all sorts of history of wars and complications between trade . It's equally apparent that throughout the four-or-so arcs that take place in The Adventures of Sinbad, none of the more mature concepts are ever explored. One specific example would be later in the series when Sinbad and his crew visit a village that has completely reversed gender roles. This is a concept that, with an air of maturity, could have been really interesting, but it was instead used as a jumping off point for humor and to make Sinbad look more honorable.
The main point is that The Adventures of Sinbad is an improvement to the universe and main story of Magi, but it continues to lack thoughtful storytelling mechanics and depth. On the surface it's a lot of fun, but it's chock full of anime cliches that are a little hard to overlook.
Animation and Music
Along with a lackluster-but-fun plot, The Adventures of Sinbad doesn't really boast anything extraordinary in the animation and music department. The production studio for The Adventure of Sinbad is Lay-duce, one of the newest studios to hit the anime scene which is made up of a bunch of ex-Bones animators. They definitely did a great job at maintaining the same general style that A1 used with Labyrinth and Kingdom. Their style, much like their style for Fairy Tail, is occasionally great but mostly decent. There was never a time where anything looked "off", but there were rare occasions that made me think "wow".
The music for The Adventures of Sinbad is much like the animation in that it sits very comfortably in the decent category. Tomohiro Ohkubo did the music and from my short research, it appears to be the only thing that he has done (at least in the anime industry). That said, it isn't bad as it complements the scenes nicely and never distracts. There is always room for improvement, as well done compositions can really add a lot to a viewing experience.
Should you watch it?
It's probably not for you
Sinbad is a fun character, but he is certainly not the best introduction to the universe of Magi. It's easy to narrow this recommendation down to at least watch it ONLY if you have seen and enjoyed both Labyrinth and Kingdom. It won't be as interesting to anyone that hasn't seen the original series and it certainly won't offer much more to anyone that didn't enjoy them. It's an okay series. I enjoyed it for the characters and the connection to the Magi world, but had some definite gripes about the content of the story, depth of the storytelling, and mediocre animation and music.