Negima! Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Release Date: Monday, June 18, 2007



What They Say
Life at 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 a 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!

Episodes Comprise
11 - When they are Silent, they are Shouting
12 - Either Learn or Leave
13 - We Live and Learn
14 - I Hope the Memory of our Friendship Will be Eternal

The Review!
Another four episodes of Negima!, which sees 2-A creating a website of dodgy morality, Negi trying to save his job by making sure his students pass their exams, and Konoka seemingly developing a forbidden attraction to her teacher. Remind me, what do they all see in him again..?

Audio:
Audio is provided in both Japanese & English 2.0 stereo " I listened to the Japanese track for this review. There's good use made of the available channels for dialogue placement, which given the number of scenes where quite a few of the huge cast appear at once, works well and adds to the feel of the show. Background music doesn't play a huge part in Negima, but what there is doesn't drown out speech. There were no obvious problems.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect, and looks good. There's heavy use of bright colours, although there isn't a huge amount of detail either in the character designs or backgrounds. There's also a slightly soft-focus feel to the transfer, but apart from the there were no obvious problems.

Packaging:
Yue strikes a pose on the front of this volume, looking supremely confident as ever against a blue background with outlines of magical symbols and Negi just about visible. The rear has screenshots, the usual promotional material and the disc's technical info. The disc comes in a clear keepcase, with the cover artwork for all six volumes shown on the inside cover.

Menu:
Fairly straightforward menus this time around, with Yue off to one side of the various menu options (same piece of artwork as the disc cover), and a clipshow running in the background - although it's so obscured by the menu text there probably wasn't much point. Direct access is provided to each episode from the main screen, while submenus are provided for Extras and Setup. There are no transition animations, so it's all quick & painless to use.

Extras:
Along with clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, this volume provides a text extra explaining a bit about Japan's educational system.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Negi's been given a new laptop by the school, for help in preparing lesson plans and that sort of thing - but while he's a whizz with the magic, computers really aren't his thing. While he's trying to figure out how to use it, one of his students - Hasegawa - is trying to figure out how she landed up in such a screwed up class, what with all the strange transfer students and a teacher who's bound to be breaking labour laws. Given Hasegawa's out-of-class persona as #1 net idol & cosplayer Chiu-tan, she's not exactly one to talk about strange. When Chamo suggests Negi work on his IT skills by starting a class homepage - a page that soon rivals Hasegawa's for popularity - cyberwar can't be far behind.

Cosplay fans will love this, as "Chiu-tan" has a nice line in fanboy-friendly outfits that should flick the right buttons with a certain segment of fandom " as will the rest of the class' efforts to make their homepage attract as many hits as possible, regardless of what sort of person they may be attracting. Hey, kids, don't try this at your own school. Hasegawa's reaction to her new-found rivals " and her attempts to keep her net-personality under wraps " do provide a few good laughs, and the story provides an excuse to move the focus away from Asuna and the other "core" girls for a while.

Later, finals are approaching, and most of Mahora Academy is studying hard - except for 2-A, for some reason, who are instead making the most of the summer weather and messing around as much as possible. When the Dean finds out about this, he calls Negi in for a little chat, promising Terrible Consequences should 2-A not produce a decent performance in the exams. While Negi does have a few smart girls in the class, the Baka Rangers may just be enough to sink his chances. Can he really persuade the girls to hit the books and save his skin? Or will they resort to foul means..?

The one's a two-part story, and to be honest there's very little real studying going on, with Negi instead leading the Baka Rangers on a wild goose chase through the uncharted caverns under the school, searching for a mythical book that will help improve the girls' scores. There's a telling little scene here where, under pressure to prove himself as a teacher, Negi almost resorts to using magic to make sure the girls pass " until Asuna taps him on the shoulder and reminds him that there are some things you shouldn't use magic for. That's quite a good moment, with a lesson for everyone " until it's spoiled by the trip underground, where the only difference between what Negi was planning and what the book can allegedly do is that Negi wouldn't actually be casting the spell. To me, that would still count as cheating. The two episodes are enjoyable enough, but they're also the sort of little comedy diversion that's been done 1,001 times before.

The final episode on the disk will also ring a few bells with anyone who's been an anime fan for more than a year or two. When Konoka comes back to their room wearing a kimono, Negi wonders what the occasion was. Turns out her grandfather's been arranging marriage meetings for her - although she's just a little on the young side for such things, and would rather he cut it out. While getting her feelings off her chest to Negi, though, Honoka takes a swig of one of his potions - and soon begins to see him as a potential love-interest. Some of the other girls in class soon begin to think something's going on, and an undercover operation to keep an eye on the two "lovebirds" is launched.

Negima!'s biggest problem at the moment is that it's all be done before " highschool rivalries, magical quests and case of assuming something's going on when it's not are all staples of anime comedy, and these episodes are just the same old stories being recycled over again. Love Hina was written by the same author (Ken Akamatsu) and used all these themes at some point, which only adds to the sense of déjà vu you get when you're watching. The Evangeline story on volume 2 really made me think that Negima! was going to go off into some interesting territory, but this volume has unfortunately dispelled that hope and left me more than a little disappointed.

In the show's favour, the characters are still well worth watching, and the introduction of a few more here does the series no real harm. Eva unfortunately gets pushed into the background (way to treat your most intriguing personality) as the focus on the comedy side of things means other girls get the airtime, but there's still plenty of the series left for her to make a comeback. I can but hope. Negima! has its moments " but this disc is sadly lacking in them, and is at best average.

In summary:
This volume takes all the good that volume two did, and replaces it with some highly derivative comedy stories. They're okay, up to a point, but if you've been an anime fan for any length of time you'll find the storylines all too familiar. With Negima! having the potential to be a lot better than this, and having proved it last volume, it's hard not to feel disappointed. Hopefully the diminutive wizard will get back on form for the next disc.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Education in Japan,Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Revelation Films
MSRP: £15.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Negima