Negi Springfield is a student of a magic school who has to start working as an English teacher in an all-girls school as part of his training. While there, he has to keep his magic background a secret, which isn't easy when you get such a bunch of variable personalities to keep an eye out for.
Akamatsu Ken should be no stranger for the anime watching (or manga reading) crowd. He is, after all, the creator of the Love Hina manga which later gave birth to the somewhat leniently transcribed anime version. Negima is pretty much the successor to Love Hina and before I start on the anime, I have to say a few words about the manga -- a manga that is a bit of a guilty pleasure with me.
One of Akamatsu Ken's staples is that his manga is rather energetic and action driven, with characterizations that make the whole deal work surprisingly well despite its inherent haremisms. Sadly, Negima was drenched in rather excessive amounts of fanservice, a lot of it rather unsettling since it involves girls that, despite their actual age, looks no older than ten to twelve at most. The girls in Negima, if you go by the manga, are actually all 14-16 years old (non-humans aside.) Nudity, pantyshots by the truckload.... the works. And with around thirty girls in the troupe, there sure was no lack of subjects for that kind of thing. Negima has been jokingly referred to as "Harem Potter", which is a bit off base, even though the main characters of both features are teenagers with magical powers. (Negi does at one point in the manga -- or at least the English translation of it -- make a Quidditch reference while flying with his staff.)
As irony would have it, the Negima ANIME gave me what I wanted the most from the manga -- the complete lack (or nearly so) of the kind of fanservice you find there (namely near-nudity and pantyshots from VERY underage girls.) Even Negi's clothes' flaying sneezes turns up very little in the way of panties or whatever. This is obviously done as a way to make the show itself more accessible for the younger audience. (The manga was rated 16+) Unfortunately, this also influenced the storytelling, but I'll get back to that a little later.
One of the most notable things about the anime is the rather cheap art and animation. The art is actually pretty close to how things look in the manga, but it looks cheap and is animated even cheaper. This really hurts the parts where the manga had a rather action oriented thing going, simply because most of the action and movement looked stiff and unrealistic. Enoch jokingly mentioned that they probably blew most of the budget on voice actors for the numerous girls in the show, which might not be far from the truth. I heard some rumors about the show improving later on, but this is certainly not the case. Much to my complete surprise, the MUSIC in Negima is actually quite good most of the time. (NOT counting the various opening and ending themes.) This wouldn't have been so notable if Negima didn't fail so solidly in most, if not all, the other areas.
Another thing that really annoys me is the way the anime is set up. While most of the anime adheres to the manga well enough, stories are dumbed down and a lot of blatant foreshadowing in regard to a few of the characters are put to use, which only serves to remove any actual twists the anime might have presented us with. (Which is probably the reason why the story arch of the third manga volume is played out so early in the anime.)
Among my main concerns about the characters (this was in the manga, so when I started on the anime, I had that concern covered. Still....) -- mainly in regard to Kagurazaka Asuna -- was that I was afraid Negima would fall back to using the general archetypes from Love Hina. This fear intensified when Asuna would lose her temper in the blink of an eye and didn't seem to be very hesitant in applying physical violence whenever she felt the situation called for it, mostly against Negi, a TEN YEAR OLD BOY. Surprisingly enough, she quickly did a complete 180, and is now one of Negi's closest confidants (and also the first person to find out about Negi's magic skills.)
Sadly, when we return our eyes to the anime, that's where the characterization weaknesses show themselves. For some bizarre reason, the opening of the show starts with Asuna dancing at the pool in a giant fish costume (in regard to a rumor that was settled notably less.... stupid in the manga.) What's worse is that a lot of characters seems to have been influenced by random acts of stupidity as well, which can easily be seen in the episode with the dodge ball match, the meet up at the class president's house or, worst of all, in the last episode I watched, the "Be the first to kiss Negi" contest. Along with the clunky foreshadowing randomly scattered about, it becomes even more of an annoyance simply because there was no reason they could stick closer to the manga and STILL discard the fanservice, which means we might have had a winner on our hands instead of a miss.
I don't think I can really recommend this anime adaptation of the Negima manga, not even if you're a Negima fan OR an Akamatsu Ken fan. Things move too slow, looks and moves just plain badly and generally does the manga no justice whatsoever except in the fanservice removal department. This, needless to say, isn't enough for me. I'll be sticking to the manga, icky fanservice notwithstanding, and so should probably you.
Negima the anime isn't a total disaster, but there are lots of ways it could have been much better. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Some slapstick violence and girls in swimsuits. That's pretty much it as far as objectionable contents go. In fact, the only source of nudity so far, the in-school pool scene, is so ingeniously covered up, I am speechless. If they only put this kind of effort behind the plot and the characters.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease Fansub
Review Status: Partial (16/26)
Negima! © 2005 XEBEC/Kanto Magical Society
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