When I actually started reading this I didn't know it was an Akatsuki manga. The same person that wrote/drew Love Hina. Though there was a huge time gap between Love Hina and Mahou Sensei Negima!. The only reason I really even noticed was because the art work looked familar, so I checked the author. But since I now knew that Akatsuki was writing this manga, I knew it was going to be good.
This was the first manga I'd read that was centered around magic. As I kept reading from the start, the story got deeper and much more interesting. There are a lot of parts in this manga that are very surprising. Surprising things that lead me to chuckle or ball out in laughter or go wide-eyed and say "holy crap!". This manga just keeps getting better and better as I read it, and more interesting to read.
What I like most about this story is how much the characters have changed, especially Miyazaki Nodoka, who seems to have changed the most, undoubtedly. It's the things in the manga that she does now, the risks she takes, the things she does and the things she says that make me realise that Nodoka has undergone a near complete personality reversal. Or that's how I would put it. The Nodoka in the present time of the story is my favorite. I could actually say that she's my favorite character. What astounds me is that she used to be a very shy and reserved, ordianary love-struck girl with a crush on her teacher. And she transformed within a period of two or three months into a smart, very brave and outgoing abnormal girl with a crush on her teacher.
Aside from the magic theme of the story, I was completely taken back by the amount of characters the story holds, and the deep level of detail for each character that has thus far made an impact in the story line. From the start I didn't think that Akamatsu was going to be able to integrate over thirty characters from chapter one and keep that line going perfectly.
Though now I've finally finished reading up to chapter 285, I'll probably update this review with a brief opinion on good new chapters that come out weekly, so probably not all of them.
Ken Akamatsu’s Negima is widely regarded as one of the best (currently ongoing) fighting shounen. This is usually attributed to its many cool characters, great fights and large amounts of fanservice.
But that’s a lie.
The series starts off as a harem manga revolving around a young Welsh boy named Negi Springfield. He’s an apprentice wizard of a mage guild sent on a mission: he is to travel to Japan and become a teacher in an all-girls high school. What all of this has to do with wizardry is never really made clear. Though he is told that he will be punished (by being transformed into a small rodent) if any of his pupils find out he’s a wizard.
(Though the last part isn’t true. He actually gets found out by several of his classmates pretty soon and I have it on good authority that the has yet to face any repercussions for it.)
The series takes a really long time to get going from there on out. The class that our young teacher’s been assigned to has a whoppin’ 31 pupils. While this may seem overwhelming at first it turns out that they all fall under very familiar shounen-archetypes: you have the spunky tsundere who sports twin tails (named Asuna rather than Asuka), a katana-wielding stoic girl who’s actually really shy deep-down, a cripplingly shy girl who can’t speak 2 words without stuttering and a Chinese kung-fu girl who speaks broken English. The series takes its sweet time introducing many of the characters and quickly gets repetitive in that regard. It’s almost as if Akamatsu is worried that the audience won’t understand that a shy girl is shy if she’s not blushing and stuttering in every scene she’s in. This goes for all the girls in Negi’s class. Akamatsu makes laughable attempts at injecting depth into his characters but they remain caricatures in spite of it.
Another big reason why it’s difficult to take these characters seriously is because of the constant nudity. There’s tons of fanservice in this series, usually as a result of Negi’s attempts to use magic backfiring on him. Fanservice isn’t bad in and of itself; but Negima is beyond excessive in this regard. It’s made worse when Akamatsu has it seep into scenes that are supposed to be poignant. It just kills the mood.
Yet another problem with the huge cast of characters is that only a handful of them truly matter. The 3 girls in Negi’s class who are most important to the plot are as follows:
- Asuna Kagurazaka: the aforementioned spunky tsundere with twin tails and an infatuation with an older man (gee that doesn’t sound like a certain Evangelion-character at all).
- Evangeline A.K. McDowell: A loli vampire who is more powerful than all the other students combined but whose power is sealed off for reasons convenient to the plot. She quickly becomes Negi’s (not so) reluctant mentor.
- Nodoka Miyazaki: The aforementioned shy girl who serves mostly as Negi’s primary love interest. She's also really a really powerful mage without knowing it or something.
As far as characters goes, these three are the most important. Characters who are in any way related to either of them get a little bit of screen time every now and then, while characters that aren’t are, for all intents and purposes, background decoration that don’t matter.
The biggest problem with the series, however, is protagonist Negi Springfield himself. He is, to be blunt, a Mary Sue. He is can master techniques that take a lifetime to learn in a matter of days, has a whole lot of raw power and every single character who isn’t a villain either adores him, likes him, is tsundere for him, looks up to him or respects him. Speaking of characters who adore him: virtually every girl in his class loves him in varying degrees. Many a chapter is filled with tons of superfluous dialogue between the girls talking about how cute/awesome/annoying-but-not-really Negi is. Keep in mind: Negi is TEN YEARS OLD.
Visually the series is adequate. Akamatsu deserves props for making the many characters instantly distinctive from each other (aside from twins) and backgrounds are detailed enough without cluttering the page. The downside is that most of the fights scenes look awkward: they mostly boil down to either large beams being shot or having a character wielding a weapon stand around in an awkward position surrounded by ‘’sparks’’ to indicate places where they’ve attacked. Very poor ways to disguise the non-existent choreography.
So Negima fails both at having likable characters and having cool battles. And since these are the two main reasons why people read fighting shounen, there’s not much left to recommend. It’s honestly quite baffling that the series has garnered so much love when it’s nothing but fanservice, overblown archetypes and bad fight scenes all held together by one of the biggest Mary Sues in all of anime/manga. People looking for a good fighting shounen should just stick to Naruto, Psyren or Fullmetal Alchemist. Better yet: switch to seinen series like Battle Angel Alita, Blade of the Immortal and Vagabond all of which deliver both in excellent action and stellar writing. It also helps that these series show nudity in small amounts and on moments when it’s relevant. Ken Akamatsu could learn a thing or two from that.
***This is a spoiler free review***
After a run of over five years, Negima! Magister Negi Magi has finally come to a close. With thirty eight volumes and 355 chapters, the series is a very long and drawn out story that at first strikes as a normal high school harem but suddenly transforms into a magical epic.
As I stated in my intro, the manga is very, very long and is split up into many different arcs. Within the first 250 chapters I never felt bored with the story. Unlike many other manga and anime, the plot actually gets better as the story progresses. It does not pull a Bleach and start to slow down after an amazing first arc. There is always a bigger picture in the future that makes the main cast get into deeper and deeper conflicts. Each arc was unique and interesting from start to finish. The final chapters suggest that the creator was semi-rushed to make an ending, causing a huge build up to be ended so abruptly. Despite this, the creator still pulls of a somewhat decent ending that will satisfy most people. The plot starts out as a normal school type harem but soon develops into a tourney style plot structure. From there it goes into a more adventure type story while still keeping the comedy and character development. Oh yeah the characters; there are more than thirty plus characters that are in the story at a given time and not a single one seems unnecessarily put into the story. The overall aesthetics of the plot are very appealing and from start to finish I felt very immersed into the manga. The only issue I had with the manga was the amount of ecchi related content. There are many scenes of almost completely nude characters but most of the scenes lead into a very humorous moment which in the end made it worth dealing with.
The artwork starts out a little on the plain side but it is very obvious that the artist improved over the years the manga was being sterilized. By the end of its running, Negima! and it’s characters are stunning to look at and every battle scene is very well drawn.
Now characters are very important to any type of story; whether there are two or twenty. Negima! has over thirty characters at a given time and to be honest I remember each and every one of them. Each character is unique and has their own personality that I can say is not a total cliché (although there is your typical bookworm and bi-curious teen). Each character gets massive amounts of character development time with and without the main character. I was pretty much attached to each one by the end of the series.
What can I say about this manga? It evolves from a typical school harem into an epic magical adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire way through. The only flaw with the plot is the anti-climatic ending that was still excuted well. Also, there was an unnecessarily high amount of ecchi scenes in the manga but the way they pan out and are used were very clever. Never have I been so attached to an ongoing manga as much as Negima!. This series will go down in my book as one of the best manga of this generation.
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