Negima! (Magic 101: The Basics of Magic)

Chimaera

At first glance, the synopsis of Negima reveals a plethora of clichés and implausible situations that threaten to explode this series into a hackneyed disaster, but fortunately, it works. Negima introduces us to the world and adventures of ten-year-old Negi Springfield, a wizard-in-training from Wales. Negi is a recent graduate from the Merdiana Magic Academy and as part of wizard training it is important that young wizards serve some sort of internship in the non-magical world- as a result, Negi is shipped off to Japan to teach English at the Mahora Academy, an all-girl school.

imageDue to a convoluted plot twist, Negi immediately ends up rooming with two of his students, Asuna Kagurazaka and Konoka Konoe (the granddaughter of the school dean). This situation sets him up to team up immediately with Asuna, notable for her bell tied pigtails, heterochromia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterochromia), and her pronounced lack of academic skill. A tomboy in a skirt, without Asuna’s ever-present neurotic crushing over another teacher at the academy and big sisterly attitude towards Negi, she would simply come off as the not-so-bright class bully with not much to offer but a swift kick of action when it needs it the most. Her roommate Konoka doesn’t have a lot to offer in these early episodes in style or substance, although the potential is there.

For the rest of the class, it appears every single academic stereotype is addressed in some passing fashion. There’s a bookworm, a ninja, a robot, some cheerleaders, martial artists, a set of twins, and more. While Negi is charming on his own, and a suitable lead, the real hook to this series comes from his interactions with the large class he has been set to teach.

While it could be real easy to dismiss Negima! as “Harry Potter and the Schoolgirl Harem”, this is probably an unfair comparison, due to the abundant similarities that stand out – the absentee parents, a young wizard in training, the accidental appearances of magic and the overall “secrecy” between the magic and non-magic worlds. While the Potter series takes itself seriously and is much darker, so far Negima puts a lighthearted spin on everything. Even the “non-magic” world Negi finds himself in is simply put, pretty odd. The fun similarities between Negi and Harry Potter become even sharper when in passing Negi reveals he is not even ten – he’s nine and three quarters, according to one episode.

imageThis anime definitely is fun, humorous and occasionally risqué with fan service – breast references? In abundance! Panty shot? It’s in there. Implied nudity? Can’t get away from it – and that’s just jammed into the first few episodes! It would be a good idea to not think too heavily on the fact that Negi is nearly ten and these girls are around fourteen and fifteen. At least these titillating teases get themselves out of the way in the first few episodes and things settle down into introducing Negi’s first nemesis, a vampire who previously tangled with Negi’s now-absent father. There is also substantial focus in finding Negi a suitable partner to battle the dark forces surrounding Mahora Academy.
As far as the animation goes, this is all 2D, but it works entirely for that style – Negima isn’t on the trendy and cutting edge of art just for the sake of being there. This anime knows its role and stays there – silly, not too multi-dimensional, and just flat out cute. The art itself is surprisingly varied to a large degree, each girl in the class manages to possess a bit of a “look” to her. This is most evidenced by the bikini-clad volleyball game in the opening title sequence (hey look, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball with 14 year old girls!). Unfortunately in large crowd shots there seems to be shortcuts taken here and there with the art, but it is done relatively quickly. This makes it enough to notice and point out, but not often enough for the viewers to be overly bothered by it. The music is bouncy and very J-pop. It is entirely fitting for the series.

While Negima is brain candy in the extreme, the darker tones of the last couple episodes in this volume finally get down to business and keep your mind from drowning in the cotton candy sugary goodness. This volume poses some interesting questions by the end of episode six that should keep the viewer intrigued. First of all, who is that ghostly girl we keep seeing and what is her purpose? Does anyone else see her? Secondly, if Negi’s magical secret is that critical to keep, how is it that everyone seems to know about it within a couple days? Even though the plot holes are huge and the logic is convoluted, the charm of this series is quickly evident and the series is worth a look for mindless light-hearted fun.

Entertainment: 8
Negima is definitely cute and fluffy, dishing up a little bit of everything all at once and doing a suitable job with almost all of it.

Technical: 8
Bright, cheerful art, good sound, good voice acting, standard extras. I particularly enjoyed the “Schools in Japan” feature. I didn’t know anime could also be an occasional learning experience.

Overall: 8

DVD Features: Episodes 1-6, English Dialog, Japanese Dialog, English Subtitles

[b]DVD Extras:[b] Character Profiles, Schools in Japan, Textless Songs, Trailers

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