Time for another dose of Negima!? wackiness – but while it was all fun and games for the first set in the series, this set takes a slightly more serious turn - and unfortunately loses a lot of its appeal in the process…
What They Say
Negi Springfield has a classroom full of head-turning school girls to deal with and a lesson plan that spans dimensions. He and the cuties of Class 3-A are trapped in a world that looks familiar – but isn't. The mysterious and powerful Star Crystal has been stolen from the Academy of Magic, and the Black Rose Baron is driving all the girls crazy. But that's not the half of it; there are wild catfights to hose down, a giant vampire roaming the hallways, and Negi's been turned into a Chupacabra for acting naughty in public! Before the final bell rings, the young wizard will wear out his lips on an outrageous adventure he may never recover from!
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 (a laid-back Negi and Asuna on Disc 1, while Disc 2 features the same pair again, this time riding on Negi's staff). Options are provided for Play All, Episodes, Audio and 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. You also get a commentary track for episode 19 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. Add in the Go Mahora Rangers! Song (a dub version of the Mahora Rangers 'theme tune' set to a slideshow of mugshots of the dub cast and crew), and you get a set of extras that's worthwhile digging through.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
When we left Negi and his class at the end of the last volume, things were looking grim – he and the girls had been transported to an alternate version of Mahora Academy by the Darkness (or whatever entity is controlling it), while Negi himself had been stripped of his powers after being turned into a chupacabra. The immediate problem is solved by Chamo, who points out that, since he's been turned into a chupacabra as a consequence of his secret slipping out, forming probationary contracts with the rest of the girls in the class should return him to normal – and after much kissing, it's done, and Negi can get on with the business of teaching the Darkness a lesson.
Unlike other trips to the alternate world, though, defeating the Darkness this time doesn't return the gang to the real world – they're trapped here, and what's more, Negi's sister Nekane has somehow gotten herself transported to the alternate Academy as well. It's clear that whoever is controlling the Darkness is responsible for holding them here – but who could that be? And just how will Negi and the other go about defeating them, once their identity finally becomes known..?
Cue threatening music. The gang remain stuck in the alternate world up until episode 24 – which is also the end of the story proper, with the final two episodes feeling very much like non-essential bolt-ons. Moon Phase tried a similar approach a while back – the let-down that you feel from having the series hit its climax too soon didn't impress me then, and it doesn't impress me now, but that's something to look at later. For now, let's look at the alternate world 'arc'.
The first thing that strikes you here is that there's actually a sense of threat now, that the first set never really had even when the Darkness appeared. Now, when Negi and his partners go into battle, you feel like they mean it – and then, 30 seconds later, we're dropped into an entirely unrelated scene with some of the other girls up to their hi-jinks, and the feeling is lost. You could almost insert the sound of a needle, scratching across a record, and that would give you a good idea of how the scene jumps often feel. "WTF!?" wouldn't be a bad description, either. A lot of the time the comic side of the show just doesn't fit with the alternate world setting, and that did spoil my enjoyment of the episodes a little.
Add in an unhealthy dose of joke repetition (there's only so many times I can take the class rep calling poor Makie a failure, for starters), some issues with the alternate world that would drive a nitpicker – like me – mad, and the old problem of too many characters with not enough time to cover them all, and it's clear that this volume has some problems.
It's just as well, then, that the characters that get most of the focus in these episodes are the ones you want to see – and I'm not talking about Negi and Asuna. Evangeline gets more screentime than probably any other of Negi's students, and thanks to way that you're never quite sure if she's one of the good guys or bad guys she's someone I could watch for hours, with Chachamaru making a good comedy partner for her. The best moments come from the new characters, though, in the form of Nekane – a complete space cadet who brightens up any scene she appears in – and Anya, Negi's childhood friend whose over-competitive urges turn out to be the cause of all his problems. Anya's one of those characters who you just want to give a big hug to – even if her natural selfishness causes more trouble than it's worth. Between them, these characters make the show worth watching – just about.
As mentioned, the show's main story ends at episode 24, leaving the final two episodes to follow on in rather anti-climactic fashion. The first focusses on Anya, and how she settles into life at Mahora Academy once the gang have returned to the real world; while the second sees Negi try to track down his father – something the girls are going to help him with, whether he likes it or not. I much prefer shows to end on a high, and this "extended epilogue" really doesn't work for me (especially with Negi's search for his father ending on something of a downer), but in a way they do bring a sense of closure to the show that it may not otherwise have had, so it's not all bad news.
Negima!? ends, not really knowing if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama, and that almost ends up being its downfall, as the show's two aspects don't quite manage to mesh together. It's saved from being a mess by two interesting new characters, and some wise choices made in deciding who to focus on – but after a first volume that was great fun to watch, this volume falls flat in comparison, ends ends up as something of a disappointment overall.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English subtitles, Episode 19 commentary, Go Mahora Rangers!, Notes from the Classroom, Textless songs
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.