Negima Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, August 01, 2006
What They Say
Vampires, Robots, Sorcery... And that's all before gym class! Wizard-in-training Negi Springfield is only 10 years old, but he also happens to be the newest English teacher at the all-girl Mahora Academy. Too bad a bachelor's degree and an enchanted staff can't prepare a lad for the chaos of being surrounded by dozens of Junior High girls!
Contains episodes 1-6:
The Blockhead in the Professor's Chair
Every Beginning is Difficult
No Place is Like Home
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Capitalizing on several popular trends, Negima introduces a ten year old male teacher in an all girls academy. Anyone want to take bets on how long until they have their first bath scene?
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. This track and the English track both sport a stereo mix and to my surprises that wasn't the usual 5.1 remix that's usually done for the English track. The stereo mix is pretty decent though as it uses the forward soundstage well since there are so many characters talking at different times across the screen. Dialogue is fairly well placed and discernable with no problems while the sound effects and music use the soundstage to good effect though not with anything really outstanding. Dialogue was clean and clear throughout and we had no 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. With six episodes on the disc and the move away from Vision Wise with this release, the video quality that we get here is decent but not problem free. Six episode discs always make me a bit concerned in general. The main problem that comes across with this release is a combination of a general softness to the show, which may be intentional but it's hard to tell, and a fair amount of mosquito noise in the backgrounds and in the solid colors of the characters uniforms and clothes. I was also surprised to see some bleeding in a couple of scenes, notably with Asuna's hair when set against night time skies or other dark blues. Cross coloration is very minimal though and aliasing isn't much of a problem but the noise in general was fairly distracting at times.
There's almost something of a book/graphic novel style to the layout of the cover art as it has a tan strip down the left side while using just character artwork for the rest of the cover, this time of Asuna in her school uniform set against some of the magic symbols in a greenish hue. The logo looks good and the character artwork isn't hugely eye-catching but it looks good and I like the focus on the individual characters for covers. The back cover is a bit busier as it has a number of shots from the show strewn around it as well as some character artwork to tie it together. The layout actually provides for the episode listings by number and title and listing the title both in translated form and the original Latin that's used in the episodes. The summary material isn't too detailed which is nice and the discs extras are clearly listed. The technical information, always far too small on FUNimation releases, is even worse off this time around as it's black text/borders on top of the dark green background, making a lot of it very difficult to read. No insert was included with this release.
In addition to the standard single disc release, a box + disc release is also available and it's a killer release. The box is made of a very hard material that opens from the top where it feels like a magic chest of sorts. The logo and the magic symbols are on almost every side of it and there are numerous characters placed around those done in the ten shading while the background of the box is in burgundy. It's the kind of box where you want to pull it out often and show it off, as well as the kind where just by holding it you can feel the weight to it and that makes it feel like something more than just another box. Inside the box, in addition to the DVD keepcase, is a sticker sheet that has fifteen of the characters on it. These are like colorforms in that they apply to the box over and over without losing their stick. Also included is a toy figure, I believe they are Figumate figures, of Asuna with a base. There's more of these to come with future volumes and they're just great; I'm looking forward to having a little collection of them lined on top of my monitors and shelves. The special edition packaging for this release is one of the best out there.
The main menu is a very simple but cute piece that has a foreground full color image of Asuna and Konoka in an embrace with some good smiles on their face while the background has a mixture of magical symbols and a shot of Negi in a greenish hue, all of which is set to a very mellow instrumental piece of music. The layout and design is simple but it works well in drawing the eye and having a very clean look between the navigation strip and the use of the logo as seen on the front cover. Access times are nice and fast and while the disc did read our players' language presets, it only picked up the language properly as the subtitle tracks are unlabeled.
The extras are a bit mild but unsurprising considering there's six episodes here. The opening and closing sequences are done up in the textless songs section and there's a round of character profiles as well. A small but useful extra for a show like this is a couple of pages of liner notes about how schools in Japan are different from what most region 1 viewers are used to. Most of this is fairly common knowledge if you've been watching shows like this for some time but newer viewers will get a lot of good us out of this section.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Ken Akamatsu finished out his run on Love Hina, you had to wonder where he'd go from there. It's not easy to create a single strong title never mind the overall sensation that Love Hina became, particularly in Japan. Taking what he learned from his time on Love Hina (and obviously seeming 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, especially 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. It's been some time since his last show ended here and his quirks haven't been quite as apparent.
That said, 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, at least in this first six episodes, 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 fortunetelling 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 so far has been dealing 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 know the double standard comes into play since a gender reversal would have lots of calls about it being completely inappropriate. 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 these 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.
With six episodes on the first volume, it almost feels like there's just a bit too much Negi for one sitting/viewing, especially since it may be affecting the video quality, but it does allow for some of the opening storylines to get nicely highlighted and teases with enough to make you want to see more. The anime version of the property has interested me more than the manga version as it does do some things well but with such a large cast and some problems in how it tells its story, I'm wondering how long before things just feel like they're too overweighted and it will all collapse. There are a lot of pluses to this release, particularly in its fantastic packaging, but some of the content makes me really unsure of how long or well it will last.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,School Notes,Textless Songs
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 150
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2