Negima! (Magic 401: Magical Enhancements)
Summer break is in full swing at Mahora Academy, where ten-year-old Professor Negi Springfield teaches the lovely, strange and incredibly rambunctious group of Class 2-A. Not surprisingly, duty calls in unusual ways for the littlest professor, leading to a battle between his heart and his head that’s more challenging than any external force.
Asuna has moved comfortably into the big sister/sidekick role by this point, demonstrating an entirely mellowed temper throughout these episodes, and even a bit of a soft side. This summer, we get to see the girls in more out of school environments and learn more about them in the process. In the first episode, the entire class goes to visit class president Ayaka at her huge palatial home. While this may seem like a standard excuse to show off the girls swimming about in skimpy suits, that isn’t what the episode is about. The rivalry between Asuna and Ayaka is examined and while it doesn’t keep them from scrapping about in future episodes, at least the viewer finally has an idea where it comes from. Winding down summer break, we see the girls participate in the Summer Break “Nerves of Steel Challenge” – a race through closed down Mahora Elementary to tie a ribbon on a skeleton that is residing in the science lab. That’s what they tell Negi, but as soon as he enters the building, the real competition is revealed – the Super Smoocher Pillow Fight Challenge! Those saucy lasses of class 2-A have constructed this elaborate charade and are really after Negi in hopes of a smooch while he’s off innocently hunting down the science lab. They’re all armed with pillows to duel each other as they encounter competition in the darkened hallways. While they’re racing to reach Negi, one of his spells goes haywire, sparks fly in odd ways, and it all leads to a rather odd, but amusing conclusion. Love dominates the second half of the volume, inching forward the overall storyline without too much action. It makes things predictable, but keeps the fluff levels turned up high regardless. An uncharacteristic amount of bravery is shown by several girls, giving them all a much needed infusion of depth.[a href=’http://fma.warcry.com/scripts/images/view_image.phtml?id=86577&site=76′]The schoolgirl commentary is done by Laura Bailey (Ayaka Yukihiro; Evangeline A.K. McDowell, and also the voice of Henrietta, Gunslinger Girl) and Brina Palencia (Yue, and Elsa, Gunslinger Girl). Since Laura voices two characters, she discusses the similarities and differences in characters and accents, laughing as she notes that she plays the only two blond stuck up girls of the class. Evangeline is also noticeably absent through the entire volume, not just in the commented episode and Ayaka is seen often. You almost forget there’s an episode going on as the two women chat about the people they know, getting started in the business, and previous projects they’ve worked on together. The two women discuss doing “walla”, Laura’s turn at directing, and even a bit of personal gossip as they take turns “interviewing” each other. Unlike the last time two of the cast got together, you get the impression these women are actually friends as well as coworkers and they talk through the entire episode.
Sentimental and fluffy, this feel-good anime isn’t fast paced at all but provides plenty of humor and awkwardly sweet moments to make up for it.
One thing that I don’t like is how the opening theme is sung by different sets of actresses per volume. It makes the quality vary considerably in bad ways, even though the theme song doesn’t change.
DVD Features: Episodes 13-18. English, Japanese with English Subtitles
DVD Extras: Character Profiles, Schoolgirl Commentary, Japanese Values, Textless Songs, Trailers