Negima Vol. #2 (also w/limited edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, September 04, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, September 05, 2006
What They Say
Negi Springfield is a 10-year-old wizard with an uncanny talent for spells and magic. Now, he must master his biggest challenge... teaching a class of rambunctious 8th grade girls!
Contains episodes 7-10:
The Appearances of Things are Deceptive
One Night Befalls All of Us
I'll Get You, Wascally Wabbit!
Where There Is Harmon, There Is Victory
School life starts to settle in but there's just that little problem a certain robot and a certain vampire.
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 four 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. 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. 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 Evangeline in her school uniform set against some of the magic symbols in a purple hue. The logo solid 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 + toy release is also available. The packaging for this is basically a thin cardboard box that pops at the top where you can take out the disc and the figures. The box is essentially a duplicate of the keepcase artwork for the front and back but just expanded a bit to hold everything inside. The figure for this release is that of Evangeline in her black outfit complete with a cape.
The main menu is a very simple but cute piece that has a foreground full color image of Evangeline from the cover while the background has a mixture of magical symbols and a shot of Negi in a purple 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 there doesn't seem to be too many Japanese ones to begin with. 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 communal bathing in Japan and why we see it so often in anime. 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. A commentary track by some of the actresses from the English version is included and it's amusingly called a Schoolgirl Commentary.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a fair bit of the opening episodes already behind us, this volume brings us up through episode ten and we make some progress into other storylines and some decent standalone material. Heck, ten years ago, the first volume would have been the equivalent of three VHS tape releases. Volume two brings us a bit more of the Evangeline story, fleshing out some of the background and focusing on the present but it also continues the long journey of getting us to know the rest of the cast.
The first couple of episodes keeps to some of what had been going on in the previous volume in 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, including the second half of this disc, 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.
The biggest problem that I think this show has is potentially its biggest asset in the long run in that there is going to be a fully fleshed out class here. Most shows either just focus on a couple of characters and often the rest of the class is just ignored, or very minor characters if that. Here there are lots of little secrets to be found and that means there is a wide variety of stories to be told but also a wide number of interactions among the characters as those secrets are revealed. Even as we do get to know the characters now, we're only getting to see certain layers of what they're up to. Kaede for example has her whole ninja training thing going on she's still got more to her as she seems to be aware of magic on some level.
Negima's first volume felt like a case of too much at once with the six episodes but now that it's dropped down to the standard four episode count these flew by and felt like a lot of fun to watch. The scope of the story is looking to be fairly large and they're bringing in the various elements of it slowly which is both good and bad but I'm enjoying the way we're getting to see the cast. Nodoka, who was so heavily favored in the first volume, has a much smaller role this time around but she still feels the same. Other characters come up to prominence for awhile in her place and Negi isn't quite so restricted in having to deal with the same issues episode to episode. This version is definitely proving to be more enjoyable than my manga experience with it and I'm looking forward to subsequent volumes both for the show and the neat figures.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Liner Notes,Textless Songs,Commentary Track
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: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2