Negima, also known as Mahou Sensei Negima, Negima Magister Magi Negi and numerous other titles, is based on a long-running manga by Ken Akamatsu, best known for the archetype-setting harem series Love Hina. Love Hina was adapted by Xebec, and subjected to a not-particularly-great adaptation. Negima is almost the same in that respect, except that rather than a not-particularly-great adaptation, here we are presented with an appalling one.
For starters, this series came out several years sooner than it should have done. The manga is, to this day, still running, and promises to be around 40-50 volumes in length by its completion. This, however, was made when they were still only few volumes in. When Akamatsu was going to make this series, he wanted to make a Shonen manga, but was forced to make a harem manga in an attempt to repeat the success of Love Hina. As a result, he kicked off with a blatant harem setup, and gradually shifted away to becoming a Shonen series instead. In the process, it eventually became something of a Shonen manga for Harem fans.
Of course, while battle Shonen series are increasingly becoming a patch on the anime industry, with repetitive fights, contrived plots, one-dimensional characters, and optimal capability to be completely recycled by another series with a quick, unconvincing makeover, the Negima manga is absolutely none of those. Negima knows what it is, and gleefully runs through all the battle shonen tropes and harem tropes in hilarious tongue-in-cheek fashion. But even while happily resigning itself to being a generic shonen series, it manages to be utterly exemplary as one, building three-dimensional characters, rich fantasy worlds, plots that skilfully manage god knows how many characters and still manage to make most of them interesting an memorable, fights that are well-constructed and compelling, and humour that is outright hilarious. In effect, Negima is something that every shonen series should strive to be.
That is, however, something this series decides to completely ignore. It kicks off mostly faithful to the first part of the series, but promptly decides to deviate whenever any of the story arcs pop up. Yes, rather than actually following the plot of Negima, regarding Negi's exploits to find his long-lost father, they just decide to do... well, pretty much nothing. All the series ever focuses on are the protagonist Negi Springfield's day-to-day activities as the teacher of an all-girl high school. In a nutshell, what this is series has done is taken every piece of filler from the manga and put it together into a series. The only time they really touch on any of the manga's story arcs is the Kyoto arc, which took about 3 volumes of the manga to cover. They then proceed to dedicate about 2 episodes on this, cutting out pretty much everything of importance, and cutting a major character (Kotaro) out of the story altogether. The end result is a rushed and butchered version of what was previously a good story arc.
Of course, Negima is a character-driven series, which it would really have to be considering that it starts off with around 35 characters, and in the current arc of the manga it must be nearing 100. Problem is that the series stops at around 45, and only remembers to make a handful or two remotely interesting. The only ones that are really worth mentioning are as follows: Negi, our protagonist, a ten year old Welsh magician. As part of their training, young wizards are sent off to work to test their abilities, with Negi's test being to teach a school of Japanese students who are older than he is. He has a fantastic backstory that spans childhood horrors, parental abandonment, and a crippling need to become a great wizard for reason I won't dare spoil. This adaptation covers approximately none of it.
We also see his first of many sidekicks, Asuna Kagurazaka, whose backstory digs so far back that I can't even say a word of it without spoiling anybody. But naturally, not a single bit of it was adapted, so we are left with a one-dimensional character who is bossy and annoying. It's worth noting that even in the manga she's not particularly likeable. We also have Evangeline A.K. McDowell, a vampire who was imprisoned in the school by Negi's father and needs Negi's blood to escape, Nodoka Miyazaki, the clumsy, hyper-moe bookworm girl and primary love interest, and Yue Ayase, friend of Nodoka and general deadpan snarker. Other than that, most of the remaining 40-something cast members aren't used much. Some of them get their episodes in the spotlight, but none of them ever really shine as a result. Several cast members get as many as one or two lines in the entire series. Some others are also quite out of character, in particular Sayo Aisaka, the ghost.
On the technical side of things, Negima is as poor as it is anywhere else. The animation is awful, littered with animation mistakes absolutely everywhere, and the colouring is horribly bland and undersaturated. The music is all either annoying J-pop or completely forgettable. Negima was a series I watched before I was in the habit of watching subbed series, so I regretfully sat through the horrible dubbing. Don't get me wrong, I actually like dubs, but this is a really bad one. Greg Ayres as Negi is the highlight of how bad it gets. Effectively, Ayres is the Michael Cera of English dubbed anime. He has a distinctive, whiny voice, that can either be amusing, loveable and endearing, or horribly annoying. And the absolute pinnacle of just how annoying Greg Ayres can be when casted poorly is Negi Springfield. His voice is, in addition to its usual nasally whine, made considerable higher and given something of a British accent. To simulate the experience of hearing this, find your nearest chalkboard and scrape your nails down it. Despite the large cast, there are very few decent performances here (Brina Palencia as Yue Ayase and Laura Bailey as Evangeline A.K. McDowell are the only good ones in here), as well as several other irritating ones such as Leah Clark (Nodoka) and Monica Rial (Konoka) both putting in extremely shrill voices, with the remainder of the cast simply being either poor or unremarkable.
At this point I'm sure that several readers are annoyed at how much I've prattled on about the differences in the adaptation, but the thing is that when you take that away there is very little to talk about. When depleted of all the manga's positives, what we are left with is a series that is honestly lifeless. The comedy is mostly absent, and when it does it falls flat. None of the characters are enjoyable in the least. The plot is almost nonexistent. This series doesn't even have any fanservice to carry it for the lowest common denominator (ecchi fans).
Being an ongoing series, Negima of course had an anime-exclusive ending. While it was very contrived and the drama was laid on awfully thick, the plot itself honestly wasn't that bad and at least saves this anime from being absolutely, 100% terrible, alongside a very small handful of funny moments.
Thankfully, Negima has since left the hands of Xebec, and moves into those of Shaft. Shaft have gone on to make a TV series that is essentially Negima in name only, although it is still a damn sight better than this, two random filler OVAs, and most likely due to complaints, two series of OVAs covering later arcs in the manga, which are easily the best animated chunks of Negima. Sadly, this pretty much rules out any kind of full series adaptation.
Thanks, Xebec. You ruined it.
Final Words: For the love of god, buy the manga first.
English Dub: 2/10
For Fans Of: Love Hina, Harry Potter.
- Animated by studio Xebec, notorious for being unable to produce a single above average show besides Love Hina.
- Directed by Habara Nobuyoshi, who also did DNAngel, Fafner, and Broken Blade. This guy is really good at taking interesting premises and making very little out of them.
- Based on the manga of Akamatsu Ken, who prior to this had done a sci-fi romcom called A.I. Love You, which was not bad but surely felt standard, as well as the smash hit Love Hina. This was his next project which was hardly as good.
Negima is yet another fan catering harem show with a far fetched premise that does very little other than offering poor excuses for one ecchi scene after another. It is rather saddening to see the maker of Love Hina producing such an inferior series, since that one was a legend in the genre and one would expect far more from the guy who set the bar for modern harems. I mean, ok, it still has far more context than most other harems but it’s all one big mess of ideas thrown randomly at your face. Love Hina was kind of like that too but it surely didn’t have more than a handful of girls living inside a house, so it was very easy to focus on them. Negima on the other hand is about 50, I repeat, 50 girls and the setting is one huge school, plus its various secondary buildings, plus hidden ruins, plus traveling all over the world and battling all sorts of monsters. Sure, it sounds far more interesting but it barely manages to focus much on anything before it shifts to a different girl and a different story. There was absolutely nothing to care much about here.
I keep on hearing how the manga version is ten times better and how the ratings of the anime were so low they cancelled the continuation but frankly this doesn’t excuse anything (other than how adaptations suck). The story is simply not cut out to fit in a harem, and the anime as a whole is plain mediocre and forgettable for various reasons.
The premise of the show is indeed a catchy one, as it leaves room for practically any stereotypical romcom and ecchi situation possible to happen. There is this teacher in an all-female school and he is in secrecy a wizard. He has no experience and needs to learn along the way how to cope with a class full of hormone-crazy chicks, who find him cute and try their best to get all intimate with him. And since this is a harem show, every step of the way is oozing with misfire of spells that always magically rip clothes, enlarge boobs, create love-struck fangirls, before everything is magically restored with brainwashing.
Things are too crazy to take seriously, as the teacher is only 10 years old and every girl in the class is practically a harem stereotype, filling any possible erotic fetish you can imagine. From witches, to androids, to gymnastic athletes, to samurai girls, to tsunderes, to… Oh hell, you see what I mean. He is even allowed to live in a small apartment with two hot chicks like nothing matters. I know harems are notorious for their far-fetched excuses for a story, but this was simply too much to even pretend it doesn’t matter in such an anime. Especially when the show keeps insisting it has a serious backdrop plot.
Although it is episodic randomness half the time, the other half is a loose arcing of various events slowly building up towards some really spooky stuff. Many girls are a lot more than they seem and keep on putting cute shota teacher Negi to some really dangerous situations… before some magic panacea undoes everything and he finds himself naked and with his face on some girl’s privates that is. And it is interesting in a way to see how he keeps trying to find excuses for all the things that are happening in his life, like WHY DON’T YOU JUST GO HOME or WHERE IS THE POLICE TO ARREST THE PAEDOPHILIC BITCHES AND THE OTHER TEACHERS FOR ALLOWING A KID TO TEACH? And it is also silly how he aspires to become this super cool wizard like his late father, and keeps making contracts with the girls in order to use them as his bodyguards while casting the spells. And of course we can’t have a contract without some ecchi scene like kisses and nude or this would be a show with actual context.
Anyways, there are lots of missions that vary from plain ridiculous to life-threatening, brimming with fan service and stereotypical ero jokes without ever going for something concrete and meaningful. So ok, this is a harem and you are watching it for the erotic humour, but they keep trying to make it feel like it’s a lot more than that and it becomes kinda insulting to the audience’s intelligence.
The production values are rather run down so despite a setting that would demand heavy work on visual effects in the magic battles, the whole thing remains way to crude and unexciting to watch just for its looks. Soundtrack and voice acting are ok, although there are no memorable songs or voices. Plus I really dislike silly jpops and tired erotic punch lines.
The characters show a lot of potential at first, for having a lot more in hide than a vague erotic fetish to define them, but their sheer number alone is enough to deem them impossible to remember as anything more than random ecchi archetypes. Do you believe there are initially 31 girls and they all interact with Negi all the time? How can there possibly be enough room to advance them properly? Well ok, there are a handful of girls that are fleshed out nicely, like the tsundere-with-bells-on-head Asuna that along the way gets more and more intimate with Negi and even ends up being the core issue in the finale. There is also the Shinobu-wannabe Nodoka for being the super shy girl living with Asuna and yet another girl who tries to grab Negi for herself. And in a similar simplistic manner there are a few more whose names and role in the series I have forgotten because there are 31 of them in a chaotic plot of superficial conflicts and tired ero humour. Man, this is Naruto all over again. So many characters, so little to remember them for.
There is practically very little value and enjoyment in this show. It hardly makes use of its premise, the production values are bad, the humour is tired, Love Hina by the same guy was better, and when it comes to comedy and teachers, Great Teacher Onizuka and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei kick the crap out of Negima with their hands tied behind their backs. Now those are shows that actually leave a lot more behind other that shallow fan catering.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but crazy, thus fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (average)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (too many of them)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 2/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 0/3 (no reason to rewatch it)
Memorability 2/4 (it has some good ideas but in all not much to remember it about)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Art 0/1 (looks lazy)
Sound 0/2 (sounds meh)
Story 1/3 (good ideas, shallow presentation)
Characters 0/4 (too many of them)
Mahou Sensei Negima is a story set in the modern time about a 10 year old mage, Negi Springfield, who has just graduated from his magic school in Wales and is given a training assignment to teach at Mahora Acedemy in Japan, an all-girl boarding school. While he must hide his magic he fails to do so on the first day, which is the first mark for more trouble.
While I do enjoy the storyline created by Akamatsu Ken, the story changes made by the producers of XEBEC lack in the same quality. Parts of the story are changed, more useless things added in filler episodes. Whilst the humor in these fillers makes them bearable they do not match up to the manga's quality and in some cases even totally conflict with the manga.
Filler scene that is the opening of Episode 1. It is amusing yet quite ridiculous.
Animation is the weakest part of the series. The artwork isn't all that good in quality, the coloring lacks and the changes in the character design, such as Chisame's green hair and Asuna's two colored eyes, are totally horrifying.
The sound is probably the series strong point. The soundtrack has some amazing tracks, others are nothing more than mediocre though. The voicing cast is quite well selected, and with the spell incantations kept in their original language of Latin or ancient Greek it sticks with the manga quite well. The maintained spell incantations is the only thing this series beats the later OVAs in.
Generally the cast of characters is awesome, but with the plot changes mentioned earlier character backgrounds and development throughout the series also change. Sadly this decreases their quality. The worst example is the fiasco of the last arc (episode 23-26). The only change from the manga in terms of character I did not mind was the addition of a background story of Sayo. This is where the manga leaves you wondering.
The concept of the series is quite awesome with plenty of humor, action and even a dose of romance, the anime series leave room for improvement in quite a few areas. The series do offer some enjoyment but if you really wish to see the quality of the series I suggest you skip this and stick with the manga.
This review is based on my reading of the first 19 volumes on the manga and the corresponding episodes.
The english dubbing for the anime is better than the original jap version as we're able to hear accents for characters who are supposed to be from wales and whatnot. Further - Negi's English subbed voice is superior to the original as the actor gives it a very unique breaking/rasping quality to it that I found endearing.
The art is pretty bad, but then again the art in the manga was never that great either...
The story is mostly there, with some character development of the other 31 classmates neglected (although without an endless anime to go with the endless manga it would have been impossible to develop all of them...).
The fanservice is completely gone from the anime. Which actually is a big blow to the series because the manga goes to extreme lengths to set up fanservice situations, deviating significantly from the plot for a stupid excuse to show some bikini or bath house middle school action - the anime throws out the fanservice, but keeps many of the stupid plot deviations intact, so we're left with often nonsensical situations, without even raison d'être. Also, Negi sneezes off people's clothes left and right in the manga to comedic (or erotic) effect, but the anime tones it so far down to family-friendly land that the humor and interest in that plot element is sapped.
Bottom line...Read the manga instead!!
It must be a Japanese thing to totally misunderstand age or age approrpiate behaviors. For example, this is another of many, many animes that feature characters implied by setting to be of one age but the characters themselves, look and/or behave a far different age. In this case, the students are supposed to be middle schoolers which would max out at about grade 9 or perhaps 14, but in fact, most of the students look or behave late high school or early college age. Negima himself, ostensibly is supposed to be 9 but even taking into account his supposed genius intellect, his maturity and implied experience are closer to a middle schooler, so basically we have a middle schooler teaching senior high school students to sophmore college students, despite what the claim and setting suggests, this is not what is actually seen in the show. Only perhpas the twins, arguably remotely reflect a middle school age character/setting between them. Ironically, an episode featuring a dodgeball game instigated by jealous supposedly high school girls show girls who look college age or older, but act like they are middle schoolers or younger.
The worst thing perhaps about Negima is, the English dub version features an annoying fake soft forced whisper voice that sounds more like someone who shot past puberty and is trying to mimic his pre puberty voice with overzealous effort but failing miserably. While the setting of a so called normal girls middle school that is sometimes thrown into the supernatural, is not to bad the haremesque feel, irresponsible adults who too easily let a child travel overseas alone for an adult job for which he reasonably would totally lack the experience and wisdom to pull off, which sets up the usual Logan's Run inspired anime cliche on top of the harem, magical girl, gothic lolita, and lolita vampire cliches start to add up. It is not bad to watch nor is it horribly executed, it is just so many of those mundane cliches hamper what could other wise be a much better effort with much greater potential and ends up more or less as another case of lost oppornities. It is possible all the cliches are intentional to capitolize on some sort of inside joke but even if that were the case, it does not exactly work well to that effect. Though she is a bit of a cliche herself, the gothic lolita vampire, Evangeline really comes out as the best most intriguing and endearing character. Negima feels more like a manufactured story tool and inspires little personal reflection, interest, or sense of depth. In fact, what little there is of his story itself rings solidly a great deal like one of the more frequently used cliched stories in reference to his background and personal agenda. Asuna oddly enough is alot like Kana from Minami-Ke, and so much so that if you stacked their bios and character side by side you would be hard pressed to distinguish them. However, Kana and Minami Ke is a better, more solid, believeable, and endearing character than Asuna, not that Asuna is aweful, but Kana is just better. On top of that, Minami-Ke is a better anime story reflecting middle school and middle school students while doing a much better job. Minami-Ke also trounces Negima in how much better and more believably middle school students as well as younger and older students are both visuallly represented and behaviorally depicted. Negima could take some lessons from that show.
Negima looks like a miniaturized Harry Potter but lacks his depth and solid story nor does he have the same kind of family or friendly connections to help bring the character to the surface as well. As nicely a job as the show does of bonding Negima with his students at the same time it feels a tad deceptively false, forced, and in some respects lacking the solid respect friends or a teacher demands of students. Animation is done pretty well, and it avoids the dog face and frog face issues a bit more and slightly better than most animes. The story while full of cliches and standing on a fairly weak foundation is still interesting enough to watch if your expectations are not high in the sky. Sound as far as the dub goes, is mostly ok with the primary exception being the annoying voice picked for Negima and lack of background noises such as birds or bugs. So the environment does not feel as fleshed out as it could had those subtle noises had more attention. Sound effects are decent enough but probably won't garner emmy or oscar attention. The characters are mostly ok, however for the most part they do not match the setting as well as they should nor does Negima reflect a solid footing reflective of a child teacher. No parents is a bit odd though sadly too common of a anime cliche to the point that it is almost a given and is boring. There are flashes of him acting like a child but not enough to feel convincing or consistant nor enough to offset the almost surreal sense of his maturity, wisdom, or implied emotional age.