Now to be fair, if this anime were to be evaluated on its own, it would probably be Good, if not Very Good. Honestly, this season had the tone and feel that I expected from the first season and, had they just chosen just one tone and stuck with it, it would have been fine. Unfortunately, this anime isn’t a standalone – it is a continuation from the first season. As a continuation it is Weak. The problem is that they decided to change what kind of anime this was mid-stream. This resulted in something of a disappointment, especially in light of how good the first season was.
Purpose: Poor. The main problem is that it’s clear that the author changed what he wanted to do with the anime. It changed from an intense character drama to a fairly standard action anime. In order to effectuate this change, the first handful of episodes were dedicated to stalling out the momentum that built in the first series. Essentially, the first handful of episodes worked like OVAs. What they did was convert our characters’ personality growth and development into physical strength development. After those episodes, the anime basically re-started itself in a different course by following Aladdin to magic academy. Once there, it started building into a fairly solid action anime. Make no mistake, eventually, there was some pretty cool stuff going on. One last problem is that it tried to return to its season 1 roots in the last half of the last episode, with some fairly strong character drama.
Characters: Poor. Since our “main” characters had their development stalled and were effectively out of the story, they needed to create some new “main” characters. The new “mains” were really fairly under-developed throughout and ended up being fairly incidental for the large part of the story. Amusingly, one character mirrors the same sort of journey made by the season 1 main character, although to a much weaker effect.
A large part of the problem is that the story follows the most weakly developed character, Aladdin. In other words, it changed main characters in this season as well. The reason this is a problem is because it is at odds with Aladdin’s place in the world, as described in the first season. Even so, we see no real personality development from him throughout the anime. Yet another problem is that they tried to bring some moral ambiguity into the equation that clearly had very little impact. Sure, it had impact for the viewer and for another character, but it represented little more than a physical threat, rather than a challenge to Aladdin’s character.
World: Good. While not as strong, they still managed to pull off some very interesting things. Unfortunately, most of the stuff that had the most potential, more in line with Season 1, was barely touched on and, ultimately, ignored. We got very little world development other than the magic academy and the little bits of scattered information about the areas our Season 1 heroes were journeying in.
The strongest aspect of the world was its occasional dabbling in the gray morality of certain issues. This was brought to light through a couple of characters. Dabbled is certainly the right word because they were set up as rather basic villains or antagonists that were later developed. Part of the strength of Season 1 was that it tied emotion to the struggle through our main characters. Without that tie-in the “moral dilemma” became rather academic in nature, since it had really nothing to do with our main characters, other than something to be stopped. It was always presented in a way that made it clear they were bad or wrong, which rather dismissed the quality of their decisions. As an aside, since these characters weren’t main characters or supporting characters, their place is in World, rather than Characters.
Plot: Weak. This anime continues in the tradition of artificially de-fanging our (previous) main characters. In this case, 2 are sent off on training or discovery journeys, while the third is limited in power. Sure, it got them out of the way, only to re-emerge at a time convenient to the plot. The main problem with the plot is that it was trying to rebuild after a change in direction. Much of the plot was absorbed with explaining and learning. This presented a huge problem because it prevented forward momentum. In fact, the plot had a very, very short trajectory.
Storytelling: Good. They did a good job of building some scenes so that they had the appropriate emotional impact. They did a fine job of reversing the course and building up the action. However, it was never particularly strong, which is partly the Plot‘s fault. Since they didn’t have very far to go, they had to spend a lot of time horizontally – not moving the story forward.
Pace: Poor. This was bound to happen when you halt momentum gained from a previous season. The problem was that the pacing was crippled by the change. Unfortunately, this robbed many scenes of their appropriate impact because the development couldn’t reasonably be accomplished from a dead stop. It took a while to get going again, and still longer to match the quick pacing that an action anime requires. Once they did, it was a pretty strong pace. To give some perspective, it took roughly 18 episodes to accomplish this.