If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. While the first attempt at a Negima anime wasn't all that bad, someone clearly decided it could be done better, and this is the end result. While it's pitched as a second season, it's a true reboot with the comedy aspect cranked up high, so let's see how it's turned out…
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.
Audio comes in English and Japanese versions, both in 2.0 stereo. Given that this is a comedy, and not an action series, there's not a lot that can be done by way of outlandish aurals – there's some decent use of the available channels to give directionality, but that's about it. Dialogue comes through clean and clear, though, and there are no obvious problems, so no complaints here.
Video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a bright and vibrant show, in most cases – there's some playing around down with splitscreen scenes and other little tricks that try to give the show a distinct visual feel, not entirely successfully for my money, but for the most part it looks decent. I didn't notice any significant problems.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
On both discs, the main menu is a static screen with a group shot of some of the main characters off to the right (Negi, Asuna, Nodoka, Konoha & Setsuna on Disc 1, Asuna, Nodoka and Konoha on Disc 2). Options are provided for Play All, Episodes, Audio and, on Disc 2 only, Extras. There are no transition animations when switching between screens, making the menus quick and painless to use. The show's closing theme plays over the top. These are fairly typical menus for a Manga release, and don't provide anything to complain about.
At the end of each episode there's a short comedy omake scene (Mahora Squadron Baka Rangers, Chupa Society, and others depending on the episode) – not strictly extras, perhaps, but a nice addition nonetheless. On Disc 2, you also get a commentary track for episode 12 featuring the English dub cast, creditless versions of the opening and closing sequences, and Notes from the Classroom, an extensive set of text notes that explain the many pieces of background grafitti that appear on walls and chalkboards throughout the series. Overall, a decent collection of extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
15 years ago, a vampire girl met the Thousand Master, the world's most famous magister magi who had mastered over 1,000 different kinds of magic. But he wasn't selfish with his powers, and travelled the world helping those less fortunate - until he disappeared, perhaps after losing a battle with that vampire. Now, his son Negi has graduated from magic school. His first assignment is a teaching post at a school in Japan, the all-girl Mahora Academy. Two things about this assignment, though, are going to make life difficult for Negi: one, he can't allow anyone to know that he's a magi, and two, the small detail that his students are all older than he is. Meanwhile, there are rumours that there's a vampire on campus - but that couldn't be true, could it..?
It could, and that vampire girl is the same one who had fought his father – and lost – 15 years previously. She's also one of his students – but Evangeline (for that is her name) is out for revenge. As it turns out, Negi is also hopeless at keeping his powers secret, which eventually leads to drastic consequences for the young wizard…
Right. The first season of Negima!? had a decent level of fanservice, laced with a little comedy – decent, but not as entertaining as fans of the manga expected it to be. This incarnation of the series (which has an accompanying rehash of the manga to go with it) has a high level of comedy with just a dash of fanservice to spice it up – and the series works a lot better that way around. All of the characters are still here, but for those new to the Negima universe, a few quick introductions. Negi is our diminutive hero, just 10 years old but possessing impressive magical powers for one so young – that'll be the influence of his father. As well as being the teacher of all our girls, he's also room-mate to feisty Asuna, whose temper is not to be trifled with, and playful Konoha, grand-daughter of the school principal. Other important characters include Nodoka, the "bookstore girl", who loves nothing more than being buried in books (well, apart from spending time with Negi), and vampire Evangeline, who mellows a bit towards Negi as the series goes on.
That's just a small sample, though – there are over 30 girls in Negi's class, all of whom get at least some screentime, and it's fair to say that it's hard to keep track of who they all are. That may be frustrating if you take a shine to one of the lesser characters, but there's so much else going on that you won't get much time to let it annoy you too much.
The show takes a fast-and-furious approach – each episode has a main storyline, with Negi tackling the threats facing him, but there are also usually a few sub-plots looking at what some of the girls are up to. The focus shifts quickly back and forth between the different threads, barely giving you time to take in what's happening before shifting before shifting back again. There are many scenes with what can best be described as grafitti in the background, writing that changes from shot to shot and almost insists that you try to read it, another way of distracting you. It's almost as though the show is going out of its way to try and prevent you from keeping track of what's happening – and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just frantic slapstick comedy, quickly moving from one gag to another and keeping you entertained. It's all wrapped around a more serious storyline, dealing with the theft of a powerful magical artefact from the magic school, that would be something you could get your teeth into – if there wasn't so much else going on.
It's also a little predictable in places – in almost every episode, there's a scene with one of the girls seeing Negi use his magic, followed inevitably by them becoming his latest 'probationary contract' partner as a way of making sure they keep his secret. Sure, that adds a certain magical girl aspect to the show that's fun in its own way (and provides most of the show's fanservice), but by the halfway point of the series it starts getting a bit tiresome. Fortunately the writers have seemed to realise this themselves, as the set ends on a cliffhanger to a story arc that should resolve that problem. We'll see when I get my hands on the next set.
While it does have its flaws, though, there's a lot of fun to be had just sitting back and going with the flow. Negima!? isn't particularly deep or meaningful, even though it's not without its darker moments, but it does know how to have a good time, and in doing so makes most of the characters a good bit more enjoyable to watch than they were during the original series.
I admit, I enjoyed Negima!? a lot more than I expected to – its sense of fun is quite infectious, and it doesn't take long for the show to get its hooks into you. Sure, there are too many characters and it gets a bit repetitive, but I found myself too busy smirking to really let that bother me. It's unlikely something I'm going to be rewatching in five years' time, but as a way of passing an entertaining few hours, it should do the trick.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English subtitles, Episode 12 Commentary, Notes from the Classroom.
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.