What They Say:
Putting a 10-year-old boy in charge of a class full of teenage girls would normally sound like a really bad idea, but that’s what Negima Springfield has to do when he’s assigned to teach English at the exclusive Mahora Academy. Making matters worse, the class in question is Class 2-A, where the students all have unusual skills and secrets and some aren’t even human!
Fortunately, Negima isn’t a normal 10 year old. He’s also secretly a wizard, which is a good thing since Negi’s lesson plans are constantly being interrupted by ghosts, vampires, ninjas, time travelers and even cheerleaders! Can magic help when more than a few of his students start to have romantic feelings towards him? Prepare to be enchanted by the most charming wizard ever!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the previously created English language dub, which is also in stereo. Both are presented using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec and captures the flow and feel of the show pretty well. The show works a decent mix of action and dialogue to it as it unfolds where it’s more comedy-action than anything else for a lot of it. The more serious moments of action are well-handled as it moves across the forward soundstage but it doesn’t have much in the way of noticeable depth or impact to it. Dialogue is straightforward with a clean approach to it as there’s some decent placement from time to time but not much in terms of movement across it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio and is encoded at 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-six episodes are spread across three discs in a nine/nine/eight format giving it plenty of room to work with. Animated by Xebec, the series has a pretty simple look to it overall where it almost feels like a budget show with what they’re trying to do, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering how many character designs that they had to deal with. The series isn’t detail rich but looks decent and that comes across well in the encoding here with colors that are clean and solid throughout and the higher motion sequences avoiding problems like breakup or blocking. Having only seen this on DVD previously and far too long ago I can’t do a direct comparison but this release looks good with source materials it has and definitely better than what DVD encoding and bitrates were like well over a decade ago.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds two of the discs on a hinge and the third against the back wall. The front cover artwork uses some of the recent Japanese cover artwork that puts Negi and Asuna together with a great background that has a feeling of magic to it with the colors and designs. I do like that we get Asuna in her rough and tumble mode here with weapon in hand and some bandaged exposed areas as well. The logo is clean and nicely blocked out and stands out against the rest. The back cover has a nice scattering of shots from the show and a simple but effective summary of the premise. The extras are clearly listed as are the episode and disc count. The production credits break things down clearly and the technical grid lists how the set is put together accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release uses the static image approach where each disc brings us different pairings of the characters. These use more of the familiar artwork from the old DVD releases and look nice as they occupy about two thirds of the screen. The navigation along the left uses some of the elements from the cover with its design and color as it breaks down the episodes by number and title. There aren’t many things to do with each disc other than changing the languages and the episodes until you get to the extras at the end. It works well both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this release are a bit simple as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a recording of “To the Shining You ~ Peace” sequence.
At the time when Negima! first landed, it was when Ken Akamatsu finished out his run on Love Hina and you were left wondering what would he do next and would it connect not just for fans in Japan but with the large number of overseas fans that he had. Taking what he learned from his time on Love Hina (and obviously seeing merchandising numbers in his eyes), he moved forward with a project that’s simply called Negima here, about a ten year old boy with obvious Harry Potter influences who arrives from England to teach at an all girls academy in Japan.
With Love Hina, I found myself enjoying his manga more than the anime in the long run so when Negima came out, I was surprised that I ended up really disliking the manga version and dropped it after a few books. That left me with a bit of dread about the anime version the first time I watched it, particularly since initial reports during its airing was that there were a number of changes and mistakes made to its adaptation during broadcast, some of which were fixed when it went to home video. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed this adaptation more than I thought I would since I didn’t like the manga and have to wonder if it was just a case of too much Akamatsu too quickly. Coming back into the show now, well over a decade since I last saw it, I have to admit that one word really describes it at this point.
Negima is very much a show that panders to its audience and plays up some popular worldwide trends at the same time. The basis of the show is about a ten year old boy named Negi Springfield who has come to Mahora Academy in Japan to be an English teacher. He’s able to do this at the recommendation of a close friend named Takamichi who is well respected older teacher at the all girls academy and because in conjunction with the dean, they’re both privy to Negi’s secret: that he’s actually a wizard (in training). He’s a gifted talent who along with his older sister have been going to magic school in England but he’s not sent off on an assignment by the dean there to go to Japan and teach in order to gain his full fledged license.
Negi is something of a prodigy who is quite gifted in what he can do but he’s dependent upon the staff that he has and part of the belief in him by others is his lineage, as his father is supposedly a very powerful wizard who along with his mother died some time ago. Having been raised by his sister for several years, his move to Japan is his first time on his own and his naïve nature really shows through which makes him all the worse to be in the position of a teacher. His initial contact with the students has him making basic fortune telling readings about one of the girls, the one he ends up living with in some forced twist of fate, who really doesn’t like him for a good part of the first episode or two. As it turns out, Negi’s arrival has meant that her favorite teacher, Takamichi, is no longer her teacher and she has the standard student worship love. Negi is so clueless about how real relationships work, as are most ten year olds, that he doesn’t see anything wrong in creating a love potion for her to use on his good friend.
Negi’s arrival in the school is the talk of the academy and some of the students are in mocking mode while others are in adoration mode as someone as cute as Negi is the source of much enjoyment by the girls in the class. With something like thirty girls in the class, the show is able to bring in just about every stereotypical character they want and have use of them for numerous kinds of plots. From the blonde and beautiful class rep with clout to the shy man fearing girl and all the other kinds in between, no stone is left unturned here. The advantage is that they get to do a wide number of things in terms of plots since each character can have a story and interaction with other girls, as well as providing for copious amounts of fanservice. The disadvantage is that is seems like they’re simply piling them on and it just feels like too much sometimes.
The main focus early on is with just a couple of girls and especially with his first encounter, Asuna. She’s in the same kind of position as Negi in that she has no parents but the situation has put her at odds with him. When he becomes her roommate along with Konoka, the dean’s granddaughter who approves the situation, she’s forced to deal with him more than she cares to but that dealing causes her to understand and sympathize with him more. And when you add in that she becomes the only person to find out his secret about being a wizard, she becomes something of a confident and someone who helps him hide his true nature from others. Even though she often does it so she can take advantage of it herself. The only other character that really makes an impact here is Nodoka, the man-shy introvert who even covers her eyes constantly with her hair. She has some very noticeable growth as she deals with the arrival of Negi and in a lot of ways is the most enjoyable character of the show. Though it does play up the older girl and younger boy taboos, there’s an implied sense of something bigger about their relationship that comes into it as the episodes progress.
And this is one of the two problems that I end up having with the series so far. Having a lead in the form of a ten year old boy just doesn’t leave me with much hope for good stories. A lot of the material early on in the series deals with Negi’s naivety, such as creating the potions, not realizing how to deal with people as a teacher and other age related gags. It also brings in the entire “sexualization” aspect as well which is always controversial. Certainly the majority of the girls in the class view Negi as cute and it’s completely non-sexual in how they feel about him (sans the potion moments). There’s a scene where Asuna plays up being interested in Negi to the point where she’s going to kiss him and you end up just really cringing. When the interplay between Nodoka and Negi gets moved to the fore, it has similar issues that the Asuna moments do but it also has something of a bigger feel to it based on what we learned just before that about potential Partners.
The other thing that I absolutely end up hating about shows like this, and this one in particular, is that they do make a big deal early on about Negi not revealing his powers. You know that it will happen with at least one or two people, so Asuna isn’t a surprise nor would Nodoka in the long run. But once that’s done, Negi almost seems to forget about keeping things a secret and he’s using his powers to avoid being caught in the school hallways, taking off into flight in the front schoolyard, flying through all of the students who are conveniently looking the other way and a number of other incidents. It’s almost like he should have a neon sign advertising that he’s a wizard because in any kind of reality this would be something where he’d be caught very quickly. It doesn’t help to sustain the sense of disbelief when Negi does this so frequently.
Early one we spend a lot of time dealing with Evangeline and the way she and Chachamaru have been after Negi since the discovery that she’s a vampire. The episodes play out pretty well as we get to see some of her background as it goes back to one of her encounters with the Thousand Master which has an amusing version of Chachamaru. Her character in particular gets a bit of nice exposure throughout this as she ends up facing off against Negi himself and finds that he may not be quite the bad person that they both believe that he could be. A bit of emotion in the robot character is an obvious way of making her more appealing.
As much as there is interesting things to be had in dealing with Evangeline and Chachamaru, I was more intrigued to see where things would go with Asuna and Negi. Especially when you consider how much the little white rat is doing to push Asuna down the path to becoming his partner. When the two do finally work together, they definitely are fun to watch and seeing Asuna dealing with all of it – from the kiss to actually having some sense of power in her – is something I look forward to seeing more of and how it’ll change their relationship. One of the best throwaway pieces to this entire part of the storyline is when Negi and Asuna are confronted with the fact that Chachamaru actually is a robot and they’re both surprised. Asuna and Negi even mention that they have no clue about robots in general and Asuna thought her ears were just something weird. You have to love the honesty of having characters that at times simply are stupid.
A good deal of the show is devoted to getting to know the big cast of characters in the class better. There’s also the sizeable campus that needs to be explored and not in quite as fast motion as some of the previous experiences have caused. Negi gets to do this when he has to go to someplace and the twins end up walking him all over campus in order to get there since they’re part of the Walking Club. It’s a bit forced at times but it is a tried and true method of getting to know a show like this. It touches base with other characters and does a bit of follow-up on some of what’s come before. It also keeps Negi away from Asuna for a bit so that they can get past part of their recent time together in battling Evangeline.
As the series goes on there are plenty of one-off kinds of stories with simpler character focuses. There’s also a two-part storyline that’s here brings us back to one of the areas I’m the most interested in, the Library island. It’s time for finals and Negi is finding himself in the unenviable position of learning that if his class hasn’t raised their ranking when the results are posted, he’ll lose his position. Class 2-A has come in last for some time now and his coming in has to have changed things. He’s intent on just teaching the best he can and hoping for the best, but when some of the students learn of this, Asuna and a few others head with him to Library Island in search of a supposed magical book that will aid them in their quest for knowledge. The Library is a really fascinating piece in that since it was originally built, it’s had numerous sub-basement levels added. A cutaway view of it looks intriguing and the designs of the various underground rooms are beautiful. But there’s an air of mystery to it as they search out the bottommost room where the book is, a place where nobody who has gone in search of has returned from. Over the two episodes, it covers their journey and trials along the way (English Twister being a plus) but it also reinforces the bonds between all of them.
The series isn’t immune by any stretch of the imagination from misunderstandings which is what the last episode is based on. It has a cute opening to it where Konoka accidentally drinks something of Negi’s which shouldn’t cause any problems but she ends up being fairly drunk and silly on it. Through the course of the night they end up trashing the place, but what gets everyone talking is when they’re out together in Harajuku the next day and seemingly going on a date. From a distance, a few classmates spot them and everything they do is misinterpreted as two youngsters in love on an afternoon date. It spirals out of control and has some goofy moments along the way but it’s surprisingly endearing. Of course, you have the entire problem of a sixteen-year-old being involved with a ten-year-old but by this point if you haven’t come to grips with that aspect of the series you’re probably not liking the show at all.
When the show moves further into its back half and gets past more of the standalone tales is where it works well, focusing on how the characters truly interact with each other. While many of them are underdeveloped or little more than archetypes, there are some that have been worked with pretty well here. While the problem of Negi being ten years old is always apparent, once you push that to the side the most interesting relationship has been that of Nodoka and Negi. With their potential magical bond there is already a lot there, but she’s been drawn to him from the start because he’s been able to get past her defenses unlike anyone else. I’ve seen this in the real world with people and it’s fascinating trying to understand the why of it all.
Nodoka’s confession of her feelings to Negi is a good change of pace to a show like this where such things are either kept going on forever or just fizzles out as the character finds someone else. Having her make it known to him gives him a chance to react but it also puts Asuna on the spot about her feelings for her previous teacher that she’s still trying to get a handle on. She tries to pass on the mature way to handle things to Negi with Nodoka but the same applies to her as well so the pair decide to actually deal with the feelings that they have and have been told about, resulting in some very good scenes as the characters actually have to talk to each other about things. While it doesn’t make this a great series, it’s a good development that’s been coming for some time but I was never sure would actually be executed.
Toward the end of the series, there’s a slow build up of information about Kyoto and a class trip that’s going to happen there and this finally comes into play here. The class in general has plenty to look forward to with the trip but there’s an element of danger in it as well on the magic side. The Hongaji group is intent on causing trouble with those that Negi belongs to and those at Mahora Academy so they have to be on guard there. As prepared as Negi tries to seem, even that’s never enough but even more so when some very skilled wizards come into play to kidnap Konoka. Though she’s been fairly minimal for a good deal of the series after it started, her place in it becomes much clearer during here as she and Setsuna have much more explained about them.
Though plenty of comedy and quasi-romantic moments are brought into the episodes with the class in general, it has a more serious undertone to the rest of it as they have to deal with a rescue attempt as well as some outright battles. Negi’s skills as well as his limits are clearly displayed which is a real plus. As strong as he can seem sometimes he’s not the type, at least yet, who has an unlimited well of power and ability that can dominate. He’s still very much early in his career and this realization through this encounter pushes him in an interesting direction for his learning. Having others with much stronger skills displayed so openly in front of him puts him in the right mindset, as does continually seeing how hard others are working at everything in their lives without complaint.
If anything on this particular arc disappointed me it was how Asuna didn’t get to really synch up with Negi properly and that Nodoka wasn’t involved with any of the battles. Both of them bring an interesting element to how Negi as a wizard operates and is part of the appeal to me for how the magic works in this setup. Asuna does get to have a bit of fun though and got more involved than she usually does in something as big as this, but she was outclassed by what Setsuna brought to the table both in action and in retroactive history. In a lot of ways she clearly stole the show during the Kyoto arc and gave the newly introduced villains someone with sparring with.
Amusingly, one area of the cast that’s been underutilized is Asuna’s ability to defuse magic, be it Negi’s or Evangeline’s. It’s come up at various times in ways that has helped but the reasoning behind it has long been kept out of the picture. That aspect comes in full bore for this story arc as it’s discovered that her ability to keep magic at bay was done as part of a pact with a very powerful demon. Asuna’s life as a child was one fraught with peril as she seemed to be like a magnet to demons that wanted to kill her. These incidents often ended up causing massive destruction on wherever her home was at the time until she came across a high-level demon who made her a deal to give her ten years of peace in exchange for her life. That moment has come.
Asuna being who she is at this point in her life you would think that she would fight back against it at every cost. Instead, she finds herself simply resigned to all of this and counting down the hours until it happens. The event ends up sending most of the cast into a depression as they don’t know the cause. For Negi, it sends him into a guilt spiral that pushes him into believing that he can make a deal or use magic in some way to bring her back. Even Evangeline is surprised at his going this route since she points out there is no such magic. If there had been, you can imagine that she would have utilized it by now herself. Negi’s youth works to his advantage here as he doesn’t give up easily and finds though some of his students a means that will allow him to go back into the past to rescue her.
The trip back in time is interesting enough as it brings in some small amount of closure to a secondary plot while also managing to extend it in a new way. It also brings the entire cast of characters in the class together to come to a realization about what’s going on which would make the show possibly more interesting if it continued on. But there aren’t any real surprises here as it is plainly obvious that a show like Negima would not allow one of their main characters to pass on. Getting to see a young Asuna is cute and fun as is finding out who her protector is at that point. Where it becomes a bad show is in how the entire class all works together using their various special skills to defeat the big bad demon. It simply becomes such a big production of wankery at that point that it just feels ridiculous. While some of the cast has obvious advantages and skills that would conceivably help, the cheerleaders, gymnasts and other various clubs that the girls belong to just become what they obviously are, marketing gimmicks of fanservice.
As I haven’t read much of the manga I don’t know if Asuna’s pact is something that was dealt with in there. In the context of this show it feels like a very bad fit when you take into consideration Asuna’s personality. As she discovered what Negi is very early on, it’s surprising that she didn’t bring up her problem to her once she trusted him. They came to a level of trust and understanding fairly early on, even with the romantic interlude with Nodoka getting in the way, and Negi could have provided much more help to her early on in figuring this out. Instead, it’s suddenly the day before the pact is due and she can’t bring herself to truly ask help of anyone she’s close to. The only one she makes even an ounce of comment to about it is Evangeline who would be the wrong person considering her style of magic. The concept overall of the pact is not one I find bad, but with its introduction here with little real build-up to it just helps to reinforce how mediocre this show truly is.
With any two-cour show that you look at in full you’re going to see a lot of the familiar structural pieces and how it works, especially with so many characters in the mix. There is a lot to like about Negima in total providing expectations aren’t kept high. The series is essentially fluff with some moments that hint at better material. With a solid cast on both sides of the language fence but with a bit more character because of how well the English accents work, Negima will certainly have it’s appeal but like other Akamatsu, works doesn’t truly sate the appetite. I’m definitely glad to have it in a tight collection like this in high definition so that it’s pretty much the best that it’s looked.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Recording of “To the Shining You ~ Peace”; Clean Opening Animation; Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 18th, 2018
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.