What They Say
Vampires, robots, sorcery… and that’s all before gym class! Welcome to Mahora Academy, an all-girls school where the impossible and the enchanting are a part of the curriculum. It’s the start of the new school year and emotions run rampant as the girls of Class 2-A meet the newest staff addition: Negi Springfield. A ten-year-old Welsh-born prodigy, Negi has more problems than he has students. As a wizard-in-training, this academic appointment is the final requirement in his quest to become a Magister Magorum. But if he messes things up and the girls find out, existence as an exotic ermine will be his fate! It’s mishaps and maybe even without the magic, but the undaunted Negi won’t give up. Between his quiet determination and compassionate nature, and the talents, quirks, and abilities of each of the girls, Class 2-A finds their way into and out of every predicament, redefining school spirit along the way. Friendship, adventure, and life lessons are all on the agenda, and the students have just as much to teach their young professor as they have to learn.
For this release, we have been given 2.0 tracks for both the English and Japanese dubs. For this playthrough, I listened to the English dub. For the most part, the audio was clear, and in particular, I loved some of the voices of the English VAs. Specifically, I liked Greg Ayers as Negi, Luci Christian as Asuna, and Laura Bailey as Evangeline. However, there were a number of times, particularly in the more dramatic moments, when the language track suffered from dropout, and was hard to hear over the music track. There were moments when I wondered if it was an intentional choice given what was happening on the screen, but overall this was more of a technical glitch than an artistic choice. As a rather minor annoyance, the music on the menu screens was a good deal louder than the actual show; not as much of a problem going from menu to show, but almost deafening when the show would return to the menu.
The video, on the other hand, was really nice on this release. Shown in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, the digital transfer came through beautifully here. This show is very colorful, and in particular, uses hair color to a great degree to help distinguish the many females in Negi’s class, and there were no instances of fading, bleeding, or cross coloration. Negima! also features a number of neat looking effects, especially when Negi is using magic, and those transferred wonderfully here as well.
I really like the packaging for this set. The main portion of the case is covered by a card slip sleeve that has a picture of Negi and a few of the girls on the front, while the back had stills from the show along with a summary, list of extras, and other technical details.
The interior case is tri-fold, also made of card, with clear plastic inside for the discs to snap in. The back of the case lists the names of each episode and which disc they appear on. In a nice touch, both the English and Latin titles are given, just like in the show. The front of the folder has a picture of Asuna, and the interior flap has the Mahora Academy coat of arms.
The inside of the folder is set up to take two discs per section, with the bottom disc overlapping the top; meaning that to get at the upper disc, the lower disc has to be removed. Each disc has a monotone picture of one of the more prominent female characters from the show set against the Pactio spell circle. The picture for each disc is the same picture that was used for the front covers of the individual releases.
Under the discs, spanning all three sections, is a pretty cool image of Negi, Chamo, and all of Negi’s students. Negi, Chamo, and Asuna occupy the center section, with the other thirty girls squeezed in on the outside flaps. This setup seems to be used quite a bit for Funimation collections, but it is a setup that I like.
There was nothing particularly special about the menus on this release. The main menu uses the same picture from the front of that particular disc, and the menu options contrast nicely with the background, making them easy to follow. For the main menu, we are given options of play, episodes, audio, and extras. Each, except, for play then goes to a submenu, which have different character sketches, usually of a character or characters who feature prominently in that volume. Again, nothing special, but decently designed and functional.
For the most part, the extras on this release are pretty standard fare, and the extras from the individual releases have been retained for this collection. Each of the even-numbered volumes contains a commentary section amusingly titled ‘Schoolgirl Commentaries’ which each feature a different pair of the English voice actresses covering one of the episodes on that volume. Each volume also contains the standard textless openings and closings as well as a set of three character profiles, usually detailing characters who play an important role in that volume. Two nice additions to the extra set is a set of Japanese Cultural Notes and a Blooper Reel. The cultural notes appear on each volume and cover topics such as communal bathing, the Japanese school system, and the mythology behind the Tree of the World. The blooper reel is an approximately five-minute segment on the final disc featuring screw-ups and general goofiness from the English VAs.
Negima! is the first season of the somewhat controversial adaptation of the popular manga by Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina). It is controversial for the fact that it strays quite dramatically from the manga, in particular in the story arc that leads to the conclusion of the series. However, as I have never read the manga, I was blissfully unaware of what might have been changed, and so I was pleasantly happy with what the studio, Kodansha, presented.
Negima! takes place at Mahora Academy, a prestigious campus of all-girls schools that range from elementary right up through college. Class 2-A at the Mahora Academy Middle School is a motley collection of girls who get a surprise on the first day of the new academic year: their new homeroom and English professor is Negi Springfield, a ten-year-old boy from Wales. Introduced as a child prodigy who had recently finished up his collegiate work, Negi quickly finds that teaching a group of young teen girls, who are in fact still older than him and each with varying levels of fascination/infatuation with him, is going to be one of the hardest things he has to do.
Yet, Negi harbors a secret that he has to be careful not to let out: he is in training to be a wizard, and adequately performing this job is the final task he must complete to attain the level of Magister Magorum. Failure is not an option, as the penalty for not succeeding is being transformed permanently into an ermine. As such, his determination to succeed is great.
Despite his immediate popularity with his students, however, Negi’s appointment does not sit well with Asuna Kagurazaka, Class 2-A’s resident fireball and dunce. Throughout her time at Mahora, Asuna had developed a crush on Professor Takahata, her former homeroom teacher, and she is quite distraught when she finds that Takahata will no longer be her homeroom teacher. So naturally, she takes it out on Negi. Imagine how pleased she is when she finds herself rooming with the new teacher and helping him assimilate to the school and Japanese life.
Aside from the rocky beginnings, Asuna and Negi quickly form a peaceful coexistence that slowly builds into strong friendship. Asuna is the first girl in the class to discover Negi’s magical abilities, and she manages to keep it a secret from the rest of the girls, and this bond brings the two closer together as they find themselves helping each other out whenever possible.
What follows from here is typical harem comedy fare, though not without its own charms. Negi finds himself the focal point of the attention of every member of the class. Some, like Nodoka and Yue, find themselves romantically attracted to Negi while others, like Kaede and Konoka, look more to him as more of the little brother type. Then there is class president, Ayaka Yukihiro, whose relationship with Negi is more of an obsession. Regardless of the cause, once Negi enters their lives, he becomes the focal point of them. But it is this dynamic that helps Negima! break that mold: while Negi is important to each girl, that importance is different to each, and his status as a ten-year-old opens the door for many more innocent relationships that what typically develops in a harem comedy.
And of course, being a harem comedy, Negi and the girls continually find themselves in tough, embarrassing, or otherwise hilarious situations, many times involving some form of misunderstanding. All of the characters being fairly young opens the door for more zany plotlines and struggles than the typical fare. One only needs to consider the prospect of Asuna fighting a giant, animated teddy bear with a paper fan to fully understand the ridiculous situations in which the students and their professor regularly find themselves.
However, while their respective ages bring new angles to the formula, it does not change the fact that Negima! is still quite formulaic. While at times Negima! seems to parody the formula, in particular with the ‘Super Smoocher Pillow Fight Challenge’ (because all guys know that girls like to have pillow fights), much of the rest of the show is the same tried and true jokes that appear in most any harem comedy. While the differences in circumstances between this show and many others create new variants, at heart it is all the same. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it also means that much of the time, Negima! fails to stand out.
One of the things I particularly liked in this show is the lack of one true, overarching storyline; instead Negima! has three or four arcs that spread over a few episodes, and bridge the gaps with random, one-episode plots. It helps give the show the feel that this really is just the story of their daily lives. Of course, the lack of an overall story could be a drawback to many people as there is rarely a point where the viewer feels that a difference has been made. Yet, with a show based on wacky comedy, this perhaps is not always a bad thing.
The biggest dichotomy that I struggle with in this show, though, is with the final story arc. Without spoiling much, the final arc is opened with an event that casts a melancholy pall over the last four episodes. For a show that is based in light-hearted comedy, where for twenty-two episodes nothing ever really seems all that bad, the events of the twenty-third episode are almost a punch in the stomach.
On the one hand, this is a completely fascinating storyline. The characterization built in one through twenty-two really comes to shine in this last arc, as the class pulls together to try and work through this new problem together. This last arc features some really tight storytelling, quite possibly the best in the show, and finally begins to hint at a relationship that is in a slow burn from the very beginning. Overall, it was probably my favorite part of the show. Yet, considering how much it differs from the rest of the show, it can be hard to swallow. This was definitely an arc that could have benefited from foreshadowing throughout.
Negima! is a show that I struggle with my recommendation on. Logically and objectively, there is very little present that sets this show apart from others of its ilk; yet subjectively, I enjoyed this far more than I do most show this type. Negima! has definitely become something of a guilty pleasure of mine. Granted, I am probably benefited from having never read the manga, but I certainly enjoyed what is offered here. I would even say that as long as they can let go of the differences, fans of the manga would probably still enjoy this telling. Recommended.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Character Profiles, Schoolgirl Commentaries, Japanese Cultural Notes, Bloopers, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 5th, 2008
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Magnavox 37MF337B 37″ LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (S-Video Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System