Negima Vol. #4 (also w/limited edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, December 07, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, November 28, 2006
What They Say
It's summer break at Mahora Academy, but things are far from quiet. And while vacation means a break from the classroom, hassle and hilarity fill the class agenda. After all, Professor Negi Springfield's still on duty!
Contains episodes 15-18:
A Reliable Friend is Perceived in an Uncertain Situation
Love and a Cough are Not Kept Secret
Nothing is Difficult for a Lover
Love Does Not Recognize Rank
The series enters its midseason slowdown but manages to pull a few surprises in how the characters deal with things.
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. Overall the show looks decent on smaller sets but when you move to larger ones or use upconversion, you'll run into more problems. 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 Konoka in her school uniform set against some of the magic symbols in a green 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 Konoka in her blue kimono with ribbons in her hair. It's entirely too cute.
The main menu is a very simple but cute piece that has a foreground full color image of Konoka from the cover while the background has a mixture of magical symbols and a shot of Negi in a green 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 about on par for what we've seen in the previous volumes. This volume corrects things bit including a schoolgirl commentary once again. 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 also a text section and this one provides some information about the Japanese values. 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)
Negima is firmly past the halfway mark with this volume but seems to still be in something of the mid-series lull. The previous volume felt the same but managed to rise up a bit more with the interesting two part storyline that explored the Library Island. That alone made it worthwhile, particularly if you're a bibliophile and have dreams of owning such a place yourself.
This volume doesn't really hit anything as interesting and instead keeps to mostly standalone stories. It does have a few highlights though and I was surprised at some of the ways the characters have dealt with issues that have come up. We also get to see some of the characters pasts expanded a bit, something the first episode has a lot of fun with. The class rep (whose name is almost never spoken) and Asuna have been at odds with each other for quite some time so seeing how they met early on in school was just fun in general. The younger aged characters acting like middle school children do is entirely too cute. It's played out against the backdrop of Asuna and a bunch of the other girls going to Ayaka's home with Negi and just taking advantage of the place, but it really does a nice job of highlighting the adversarial relationship that they have.
What didn't surprise me with this volume was that they went and did a traditional story that deals with the dare game that seems everyone plays. Sending pairs of girls off to find something down a dark scary path isn't quite the same as sending couples to do the same so the twist this time is that they use one of the buildings on campus and the pairs of girls are sent in different doors and must find Negi first. Negi is unaware of what's going on but he's sent in there and wanders around, not knowing that the first girl that finds him wins and gets to kiss him. The competition is actually fun in how they each approach getting to where Negi is but it gets a bit weird and out of control towards the end when his powers get involved. Seeing all the girls getting so close to him in this manner and almost getting the kiss is cute but also enlightening since some of them really reveal themselves.
Where this set of episodes really works well is in how the characters truly interact with each other. While many of them are underdeveloped or little more than archetypes, there are some that have been worked with pretty well here. While the problem of Negi being ten years old is always apparent, once you push that to the side the most interesting relationship has been that of Nodoka and Negi. With their potential magical bond there is already a lot there, but she's been drawn to him from the start because he's been able to get past her defenses unlike anyone else. I've seen this in the real world with people and it's fascinating trying to understand the why of it all.
Nodoka's confession of her feelings to Negi is a good change of pace to a show like this where such things are either kept going on forever or just fizzles out as the character finds someone else. Having her make it known to him gives him a chance to react but it also puts Asuna on the spot about her feelings for her previous teacher that she's still trying to get a handle on. She tries to pass on the mature way to handle things to Negi with Nodoka but the same applies to her as well so the pair decide to actually deal with the feelings that they have and have been told about, resulting in some very good scenes as the characters actually have to talk to each other about things. While it doesn't make this a great series, it's a good development that's been coming for some time but I was never sure would actually be executed.
Negima's a show that I still find more enjoyable than the manga but this set of episodes made me work harder at enjoying it. Some of the clichéd episodes are just that but some of them do manage to find some nice twists to play into it because of the shows setup. The characters do get a bit more developed in terms of personality and background with some of these episodes and it helps a lot, but it also leaves a lot of the girls behind even more as they don't get what they need. FUNimation's release of this show continues to be stellar and I'm sure that alone is helping drive sales just from how it looks on the shelves and the goodies associated with it. Negima's got its pluses, they're just a bit harder to find for someone like me with this volume.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Liner Notes,Textless Songs,Schoolgirl Commentary
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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