Negima Vol. #3 (also w/limited edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, October 12, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2006



What They Say
Life a Mahora Academy is anything but predictable, a theorem which Negi Springfield and the girls of Class 2-A seem determined to test! When a class project incurs the wrath of one of their own, what follows is a virtual, digitally-enhanced popularity contest, no holds barred. How about a little war, world wide web style?

But not everything's fun and games, at least not with finals around the corner and the pint-sized professor at risk! Rounding up the Dummy Force, it's off to Library Island... but not to study?! An underground quest for a legendary cure-all costs the girls more than they bargained for as Negi learns that teaching's not all lesson plans and logic. And when a pre-summer shopping spree becomes a full-fledged reconnaissance mission, the resulting comedy of errors sends the girls into a frenzy and several friendships over the edge!

Contains episodes 11-14:
When They are Silent, They Are Shouting
Either Learn or Leave
We Live and Learn
I Hope the Memory of Our Friendship Will Be Eternal

The Review!
Asuna moves back to the forefront a bit but continues to share the stage with a very large cast of girls.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
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 Yue in her school uniform set against some of the magic symbols in a blue hue. The logo is solid and looks good, 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 difficult to read due to its size. 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 Ayaka which includes a very adorable little monkey with it.

Menu:
The main menu is a very simple but cute piece that has a foreground full color image of Yue from the cover while the background has a mixture of magical symbols and a shot of Negi in a blue 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.

Extras:
The extras are about on par for what we've seen in the previous two volumes though no commentary is here this time. The character profiles cover a couple of the girls that are more relevant to this volume with their bio as well as a bit about them personally. There is a new text section and this one provides some information about the Japanese educational system. And last but always welcome is the opening and closing sequences in their song formats.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bringing the series up to its halfway mark, Negima brings about a pair of standalone stories and a two part story that does a nice job of actually fleshing out the intriguing Library Island. Asuna makes herself a bit more prominent this time around as well but with such a large cast of girls, each with something different about them, she has a hard time holding a commanding part of the stage. If anything, depending on the kind of girl you like, she may not be holding her own at all.

Similar to the previous volume, I'm finding myself enjoying this show more than I thought I would based on previous experience with the manga and the general concept, never mind living through Love Hina. While some of the girls annoy me, either because of their basic stereotype or childishness, there are a lot of other ones that are fun to watch. And that ermite just makes almost any scene more fun. The opening episode has us getting to know Hasegawa better, a character that comes across as basically a very studios girl who keeps to herself and doesn't reveal much. As it turns out, she's leading a very interesting double life as she's also Chiu, a hugely popular net idol. Once she lets her hair down and takes off her glasses, she cosplays into online visitors hearts and racks up huge viewerships. This is challenged though when Negi has the class start up a new homepage to talk about themselves. They get massively competitive with Chiu and both sides put in a huge amount of effort.

Any episode that focuses on the internet in a "real world" setting will almost always be amusing, especially if you user the internet a lot and realize that things are being either highly simplified or just an outright joke. If you can get past that, the episode is fun in how it approaches things. You also have to get past the way that so much of what the classroom is doing for their homepage would be completely inappropriate and subject to, well, probably lawsuits for the school and/or the teacher for having the students in such compromising situations. Can you imagine a school in the US where the homepage has an all girls class dressed up in swimsuits in order to achieve more hits?

The two part storyline that's here brings us back to one of the areas I'm the most interested in, the Library island. It's time for finals and Negi is finding himself in the unenviable position of learning that if his class hasn't raised their ranking when the results are posted, he'll lose his position. Class 2-A has come in last for some time now and his coming in has to have changed things. He's intent on just teaching the best he can and hoping for the best, but when some of the students learn of this, Asuna and a few others head with him to Library Island in search of a supposed magical book that will aid them in their quest for knowledge. The Library is a really fascinating piece in that since it was originally built, it's had numerous sub-basement levels added. A cutaway view of it looks intriguing and the designs of the various underground rooms are beautiful. But there's an air of mystery to it as they search out the bottommost room where the book is, a place where nobody who has gone in search of has returned from. Over the two episodes, it covers their journey and trials along the way (English Twister being a plus) but it also reinforces the bonds between all of them.

The series isn't immune by any stretch of the imagination from misunderstandings which is what the last episode is based on. It has a cute opening to it where Konoka accidentally drinks something of Negi's which shouldn't cause any problems but she ends up being fairly drunk and silly on it. Through the course of the night they end up trashing the place, but what gets everyone talking is when they're out together in Harajuku the next day and seemingly going on a date. From a distance, a few classmates spot them and everything they do is misinterpreted as two youngsters in love on an afternoon date. It spirals out of control and has some goofy moments along the way but it's surprisingly endearing. Of course, you have the entire problem of a sixteen year old being involved with a ten year old but by this point if you haven't come to grips with that aspect of the series you're probably not liking the show at all.

In Summary:
Negima's a show that while it isn't something that I think is one of the most amazing shows I've seen before, it's surprisingly enjoyable and lighthearted fun. I'd almost call it a guilty pleasure but there's little to feel really guilty about. The show doesn't have anything that you'd really feel embarrassed about if you've seen any number of similar shows. This set of episodes was a lot of fun for a number of reasons, from the double life of Hasegawa to the design of the Library Island that appeals to an old mapmaker like me. Add in lots of cute girls and fun if generic situations and it's enjoyable and easy on the brain.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Liner Notes,Textless Songs

Review Equipment
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.
MSRP: 29.95/34.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Negima