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After a bit of an iffy start, Magi's second episode makes everything a little better.
I had some issues with the first episodes rather unfaithful adaptation since it didn't give us a strong start to the series, the proper character introductions or a decent idea of where the story is set. Luckily this episode didn't really need any of that because we got more insight into the type of world in which Magi is actually set in only through the characters.
A reason for me liking the manga version of this anime so much were the dark themes and the characters who accompanied those themes. Magi isn't your bog standard shonen adventure series, it is one that resembles One Piece at times with the darker feel of Fullmetal Alchemist and that definitely came across in this episode.
The story still feels a little happy and cheerful because of Aladdin and his moe moments or the rare occasions where he is stuck in an awkward position, though this didn't detract from the more serious moments that filled this episode. Our insight into the world of Magi came from an up close look at the Shariff.
What I like about the Shariff being the first antagonist of the series - same as the manga - is that we're being shown how far spread human greed is. There are always series that comment on human greed but none that show it for what it really is - potentially omnipotent - unlike here where, and I'm paraphrasing the Shariff, "I'm just a man whose been given some land to control but that can really make you greedy." A powerful statement, supported by the Shariff's actions of greed, but one which wouldn't have been as powerful if Morgianna wasn't present. I'd discuss her character now but she has a more important role later, so I'll say nothing for now.
Some will compare this episode to One Piece's Sabaondy Arc which has the same feeling and I would be inclined to agree with them had this episode not come across as strong it did. The biggest thing that separates this aspect of Magi from One Piece for me is how appropriate the themes go with the concept of the story and how relatively simple they are.
A very strong second episode in comparison to the first. Clearly this isn't a fully faithful adaptation and this episode actually had a lot of chapters of the manga included, but the latter isn't a problem if you knew how slowly paced the manga could be at times. The animation also took a big step up this episode and gave A-1 Pictures more opportunity to show off their beautiful animation.