Rebooting the series with a new production studio and very different take on the property, Negima actually manages to be fun and interesting.
What They Say
Wizard Negi Springfield may be a boy, but he has a man-sized job to do! Fresh from the Academy of Magic, Negi continues his training as an instructor at Mahora Academy in Japan. But before he can get his Master's in magic, the 31 schoolgirls of Class 3-A are gonna keep him up all night cramming for a final exam in will power.
Temptation aside, Negi has more on his syllabus than flirting and spells. Darkness is closing in, and Negi is gonna need help from his student bodies to drive the ghouls from their school. These girls want to prove that they're best in class, and extra credit is available to the cuties that aren't afraid of after-hours phantom fighting - especially if it means more time with their favorite professor.
Contains episodes 1-13.
Negima’s audio mix is pretty straightforward as this release contains a pair of stereo language tracks encoded at 192kbps. Both language tracks are about what’s to be expected to a comedy series with a good helping of action along the way as there is some noticeable placement and directionality across the forward soundstage in a lot of scenes, but a lot of it is also basic center channel material. It has a good full sound most of the time, especially if your speakers are set far apart, but it all comes across sounding good and problem free. This isn’t a show that really requires a 5.1 mix, but I can imagine a few scenes having a bit more impact if they did have it.
Originally airing in 2006 and early 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This transfer is something of a mixed bag and it’s due to some source issues by all appearances. In general, this is a very pleasing transfer with lots bright solid colors that look great and some very strong animation. Some scenes do bring in a bit of noise, sometimes intentional, but it’s not unexpected with a seven/six episode count across two discs. Where the main problem lies, and it is sporadic across these thirteen episodes, is in the cross coloration. It sneaks into a few small areas here and there, sometimes more than others, and can be somewhat distracting both on large and small sets. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it’s a noticeable flaw on an otherwise very appealing looking show.
This collection is like most other ones FUNimation has put out in 2008 where it has a simple cardboard slipcover to hold the two thinpak cases. The slipcover is decent, but in the end you can forget it easily if you want to just run with the thinpaks themselves. The slipcover is bright and eye-catching with some of the colors used a lot in the Mahora Academy itself serving as the background while a group shot is in the foreground with a poor Negi looking abused by Asuna. The back cover works well in selling the show with some nice plus about the creator and a bunch of shots of the show. Amusingly, they do try to sell the fanservice side a bit, which is what the show doesn’t focus on all that much. The summary covers the basics of the setup and there’s a good listing of the discs extras. Production information is along the bottom of the back cover and the actual technical specs are on the bottom of the slipcover.
The individual thinpak cases are nicely done though a bit amusing when you start. The first cover has the same logo as the slipcover but a lighter and less busy background design. That lets you focus on the character artwork and the first volume has a very amusing visual of a Brit Negi alongside Evangeline and Asuna who at least look normal. The second cover has a group shot of several of the girls done up in their loli outfits. I also really like that each cover has the characters’ class numbers next to them. The back covers are very simple with just the episode listings with the full titles, which are admittedly fairly lengthy, as well as a listing of the extras that are on the second volume. Each of the covers are reversible and they each have a different set of three girls with different outfits; the second one in particular features some very fancy evening wear that’s quite appealing. No inserts are included with this release.
The menu design for Negima!? Is rather minimal as it uses the orange and yellow color pattern from the cover artwork along with different pieces of artwork for each of the main menus. The first menu for example uses the same character artwork as the front cover, though it comes across as a bit more colorful and vibrant here with more detail. The main menus have only the basics with episode selection, playing the whole disc and language setup while the second disc has the additional submenu for the extras. Submenus load quickly and episode selection is detailed due to the lengthy episode names. And as is usual, the discs didn’t read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English with no subtitles.
The second disc contains all the extras, and they’re somewhat of a surprise for FUNimation. The opening and closing songs are definitely great to have here in clean form, especially the opening song. The surprising extra is that we get the “Notes from the Classroom” extra. I wasn’t sure what this was going to be, but I was surprised that they were some rather decent liner notes about various gags and such in the show. FUNimation hasn’t done a lot of these that I can recall so I was quite happy to see those show up here and to be rather informative about several in-jokes.
The set does contain a commentary track for episode twelve, but as it’s not listed in the extras you may miss it unless you do individual episode selection or take note of it from the back cover. Would it have been hard to include a way to access it in the menu?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a problematic first series that caused quite a bit of issues with fans that were corrected for the DVD releases, a second series was eventually brought into being but not without some rather severe changes. The first is that it takes a lot of the elements from Akamatsu’s manga for this twenty-six episode run, but it abandons a lot of what the Xebec anime series was about, which was lots of fanservice. Instead, this incarnation (which also has a separate manga incarnation) is focused more on comedy. With series director Akiyuki Shinbo at the helm, this isn’t a surprise. His work on Pani Poni Dash alone makes this quite familiar, as does Moon Phase. At the same time, he’s done a lot of serious works which come across well here when needed such as Petite Cossette and Soul Taker.
Negima!? follows a lot of the basics from the original manga in its setup which is a good thing. The story revolves around ten year old Negi. Negi has just graduated from magic school and now he’s being assigned out to the world. Magic is still very much a secret in this world and he needs to learn how to fit in as well as finding a proper Partner that he can work with. He’s sent off to Mahora Academy in Japan where it’s basically one big school city that sprawls all over with all manner of grade levels through university. The library is actually a separate island in the middle of all of it that reaches down to unknown levels belowground as well. Negi’s time here is to be a homeroom teacher as well as an English instructor for the junior high level, grades two and three as events play out. With some on the staff also being wizards, he’s got help when he needs it but mostly he has to figure out things on his own while keeping a low profile.
But can a ten year old wizard from England keep a low profile in such a situation? Not really, especially since it’s an all girls academy that he ends up teaching at and the girls all find him adorable to one level or another. And Negi himself is a bit of a child which is obvious since his attempts at hiding his magic never work well and he ends up revealing himself often to the girls over time. What he ends up doing is striking up a partnership with each of them as it happens in order to keep the secret and that gives them some magic powers. Of course, the strike the pact, they have to kiss him on the lips and his little familiar, an ermine named Chamo, seals the deal for them. Each girl then has three “cards” within her that he can draw out for whatever encounters and problems that they face. Of course, not every card is useful and the act of drawing them out is amusingly sexual in nature.
Negima!? then runs through a lot of the basic kinds of situations we’ve seen in the other incarnations. Evangeline’s storyline starts things off and that gives it a wonderfully dark and serious feel as it starts to mix in some of the humor and weirdness. Evangeline’s situation sets up a lot of things for Negi’s past with his father as the legendary Thousand Master and it ties into some of the structural aspects of the wizard world. With thirty one girls in the class, all of which are given distinct personalities and roles in the show, the bulk of the series works over introducing them and giving them a reason to get closer to Negi in their own way. These stories range from brief to lengthy, with the key ones getting the most time. This again centers around the same ones as past incarnations such as Asuna and Nodoka, so the continuity aspect of it all is really pleasant to see, especially with the small twists done along the way.
While there’s a lot of familiarity with past series in terms of the storyline and setup, the stylistic side is very different. Negima!? is a very strongly animated show in a lot of ways, particularly these first episodes with Evangeline. With her vampire past and the dark nature of her hunts at night as well as the flashbacks to her past, it’s all beautifully animated with a sense of style that really is very striking. The character designs are all very well done, with a lot of fluidity to them when required and a sense of depth and presence to them. The color design is really appealing where they use so many bright and vibrant colors at times but also a lot of darks to bring it some contrast.
And just as much a character as the girls and Negi is the city of Mahora itself. With it being a practically separate state unto itself as a school city, it has everything it needs in it. Well, except for a lot of people since we typically only see the students and faculty that we know. But beyond that, the backgrounds for this series are highly appealing with its visual design. It feels like a very dense and tightly packed place but one with a very scholastic feel to it, a place where you feel that you could live and study and learn very well. The hallways of the school look great, the way they deal with the carpeting and the glass windows alone gives it a very strong personality. Between the interiors and the exteriors, the way it has a sense of history about it, Mahora is a place where you’d want to spend a lot of time.
The main difference with this incarnation of the series is the approach to how it plays out. The manga and first series played up the fanservice a lot, which is to be expected from an Akamatsu series. There is some to be had in here, transformation scenes and all, but a lot of what is here is comedy. It’s very reminiscent of Pani Poni Dash with how it deals with it, lots of short cuts, background jokes and gags and above shots that almost look like video game moments from old RPG games. It’s not as overdone as Pani Poni Dash however which is a big plus in its favor, and it has a whole lot more style to it because it’s not the same kind of school based comedy. There’s also the ongoing storyline that’s involved here and a certain darkness to a lot of it that’s still there even after the more serious Evangeline story finishes out its opening chapter. And most importantly, the jokes and gags aren’t as deep as they are in Pani Poni Dash so you can watch it without the liner notes and still laugh plenty. The notes help for some of it, but they’re not critical to the larger show at hand either.
I was really unsure of how I would deal with this particular version of the show. I disliked the manga, I liked parts of the first TV series and the OVA left me less than thrilled. But the new production team, the redesign of the visuals and the way it worked the humor into it made this a winner across the board. Some things still don’t appeal as much, such as there being too many girls and I really dislike the ghost character, But these are still minor things overall which doesn’t impede the main storyline. Negi is who we’ve seen before, but not quite as frantic and not running into as many awkward sexual situations outside of the kissing sequences. And even those aren’t really overdone. Negima!? hasn’t made me a complete fan of the franchise, but this particular incarnation is what I would have wanted to see from the outset and it’s going to push the others from my mind. Thankfully.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Liner Notes, Commentary Track
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.