Story/ Art: Ken Akamatsu
Translation/Adaptation: Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley
What They Say
10-year-old Negi Springfield has just graduated from a British school for wizards. After meeting with the school headmaster to discuss his graduate work assignment, he finds that he will be moving to Japan – to teach English at an all-girls high school. Under strict instructions not to show his magic powers, Negi finds that he can’t resist using them to help others. Of course, despite his good intentions sometimes his magic just makes things even worse!
For the reintroduction of the earlier chapters of Negima! to the market under their label, Kodansha Comics has chosen to use an omnibus approach which gives readers three individual volumes worth of stories in one (mostly) convenient package. The book is a bit on the large side in that it clocks in at just under 600 pages when all the extras and notes are taken into account but fortunately the publisher took this into account and almost all the panels are far enough away from the binding that one won’t need to bend the book binding to read them.
For the cover of this release Kodansha uses a new (to the US market anyway) image of Negi and three of the girls in winter wear while the clean images that Del Rey had used for the covers of the individual volumes they released are present on the back. The spine features a close up of the Negi image from the front against a mostly black background with a red slash causing the volume number to stand out while Kodansha’s logo is against a purple-red banner at the top of the spine while the back cover uses a bright red color. For the this new omnibus Kodansha continues to use a very similar style of paper to the pervious companies release so those familiar with that will find themselves right at home for the most part, though the individual volumes quality could vary while the omnibus uses a single standard throughout.
Where things change though is that Kodansha used the team that has been translating some of the later books in the series back into the earlier material so there are a number of changes to some lines of dialogue from what I remember the first time around- though whether this is a plus or minus depends on how wedded one was to the previous translation as this one also reads fairly well. Where things go off track though is somewhere in the printing or editing process a couple of speech bubbles repeat text present either in a speech bubble near it or on occasion even in the same bubble itself and at times some of the emoticons or other lines delineating speech patterns can over lay the text as well. Those who are particularly fanatical about Negima! will also note that while the volume does include some extras they are not the sum total of those that were available throughout the individual volumes covered here and some of Akamatsu’s earlier little character extra inserts are missing as well- which is odd as Kodansha’s Love Hina was remarkable for bringing these same little touches to the US market for the first time since the original publisher of that work skipped over them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
While Negi’s class has managed to return from its class trip to Kyoto tired and (mostly) none the worse for wear and (mostly) still in the dark about Negi’s wizard abilities the things he and a small group of his students encountered on the trip has him coming to a momentous decision. To this point he has largely been relying on his reflexes and some of the basic elements of magic he has been taught along with a few modifications of his own but Kyoto’s events have shown him that there are limits to what he can do alone.
To overcome this he makes a deal with the devil (almost literally) as he convinces his student Evangeline to take him on as her disciple which may be playing with fire. While she appears to be a 14 or 15 year old girl she is in truth a centuries old vampire/dark wizard and the mere mention of her name still sends chills through the wizard world among even the strongest of their ranks and there is a very sizable bounty placed on her head. Even worse, if the wizard world doesn’t excommunicate Negi for his choice of mentor if discovered he still has to face the being known as Dark Evangeline and the price she will extort for his tuition. On top of that Negi isn’t one to be content to learn to walk before he can run and he also enlists the aid of perhaps the school’s greatest fighter (and also student in his class) Ku Fei in an attempt to learn Chinese Martial Arts to bolster his fighting ability.
While the full extent of his activities are not known to everyone in his class, many of them see the effort that he puts in to his daily life and martial arts study and it inspires them to try harder for themselves. Meanwhile a few of the braver- or perhaps more foolhardy- ones who do know about both areas of his studies will attempt to also learn magic in part to try to lighten the load their 10 year old teacher is carrying. This desire is only strengthened when the secrets of Negi’s past are revealed but shortly after that the dangers of the wizard world come calling which may challenge their resolve.
When an unscrupulous opponent takes a number of the girls hostage Negi will find he needs to make a new ally out of an old enemy in order to even have a slim chance at victory. When the battle turns incredibly personal though, it may be up to Negi’s allies to figure out how to save themselves as well as to cool the impetuous youth down before he lets his emotions get the best of him.
In the aftermath there may be little time to catch a breath though as the approaching school festival looks to drain both the students making exhibits and the teachers watching over them- especially when an old rumor about some magic from the tree at the center of campus proves to be true and Negi is drafted into an Anti-Love-Confession-Brigade. With so much going on how will one 10 year old- even one as powerful as Negi- handle all the responsibilities that come with his role as teacher, especially when he also has to deal with a robot in love and an honest to goodness ghost?
Having already had two anime series, a number of OADs and a movie in addition to the regular release of the manga (initially from Del-Rey for the first 20 something volumes), Negima! is probably one of those series that needs little introduction as a good percentage of manga and anime fans likely already have their minds made up about it. Add in that creator Ken Akamatsu’s Love Hina was a hit on both sides of the Pacific (and the manga was part of the early Tokyo Pop manga wave that really shored up manga’s popularity) which helped spur publicity for this series and it is hard to imagine that there is much beyond a minority of fans who aren’t of passing acquaintance with the title.
What one finds in this volume is largely what the early volumes show off- Akamatsu developing his young hero by playing off his personal tragedy, desire to see his father and sense of responsibility to his class while surrounded with 31 of the least well mannered students possible who just by the way also have either some past issues, a desire to fall in love and/or possibly a desire to learn magic depending on the girl. Oh yeah, and who also spend more time than is often comfortable with panties exposed or flat out naked. Which wasn’t as big a deal in Love Hina as much of the cast was a bit older but when the girls in question are 14 and 15 it can be a bit much.
Still Akamatsu doesn’t rely solely on (underage) female flesh to carry his tale as he crafts quite a story here of action and peril as he puts his lead character (and anyone caught in the path) through no small number of trials as he slowly builds on the lore he creates for the world his characters exist in. It is a testament to his writing skills that he doesn’t concentrate just on the plot directly in front of him but is able to both build up to future events while giving a satisfying resolution in the short term as well that a good number of author’s today seem to have forgotten how to do.
The trials of the 10 year old wizard/teacher Negi Springfield continue in this volume as the return from the chaotic class trip finds him contemplating his future and coming to terms with the short comings in his training that were revealed to him in his battles in Kyoto. As he works toward a new goal he will also be both an example to and draw inspiration from his students who recognize his efforts and decide they wish to change themselves as well. With plenty of action and fanservice to be found fans of the Negima! manga will find another dose of fun and frivolity at their fingertips with this latest compilation.
Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: December 27th, 2011