Bridging events by basically going for even more pure fanservice, it’s all about the skin and making sure every character gets a few seconds of screen time in these two episodes.
What They Say:
Two eye-catching episodes with TWICE the FAN SERVICE!!!!
The girls of class 2-C are up to their usual antics, and they've got poor Negi all kinds of hot and bothered! First Ayaka arranges a romantic getaway, determined to lift the little prof's spirits (and possibly something more!) But when the rest of the group finds out, their tete-a-tete turns into a no-holds-barred spring break! Later, a magic spell goes awry and Negi finds himself on a short leash - harnassed to Nodoka! And while it may be a dream come true for the soft-spoken bookworm, an impromptu trip to the spa ensures a hard-core nightmare for her sidekick.
Suck it up little man...let's get you soapy!
What We Say:
The Negima OVAs aren’t given a bump up in the audio quality for the English language mix so the release has a pair of stereo mixes for the two languages that are encoded at 192kbps. The show isn’t exactly all that expressive really when it comes to the audio mix so it serves it well enough if you bump up the volume enough. With it being mostly dialogue driven (as well as the occasional moan or two) and some basic instrumental music here and there, the mix doesn’t really do all that much but it’s competent enough to carry the mood and get done what it’s intended to do. Nothing really shines here, but it’s solid and problem free when it comes to issues such as dropouts or distortions.
Originally released in 2006 after some private screenings, the two Negima OVAs are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are enhanced for anamorphic playback. The visual change in the series as it went from one production company to another are fairly significant, but the quality of the materials leaves something to be desired. Throughout both episodes there are varying levels of cross coloration to be found which is rather distracting. Some of what’s done in the episodes is by choice, but within the confines of DVD it results in a poor looking picture. The opening of the first episode in particular is problematic with its black and white grainy look which causes a lot of blocking and unintended motion artifacts. Looking through the second episode, there are similar moments with other colors even as the bitrate hovers in the high eights and into the nines. The bulk of the issues appear to be source related, which is unfortunate since the quality of the animation and colors look so enticing. This is a release that looks like it’s practically begging for a high definition release. The show isn’t flawed to the point where it’s unwatchable by any stretch, but the larger your set the more noticeable the problems are.
Packaged in a white keepcase, the cover art for this release pushes the fanservice angle nicely as it has Asuna in her very nice swimsuit falling through the sky before her parachute opens as they’re in front of the island. The rich blues of the ocean and the sky are quite appealing but it’s the fanservice element that draws you in the most. It’s bright, colorful and eye-catching even if Negi himself is given the short end of the stick. The back cover uses more of the same blues along with the yellows for the background and text aspects which ties it all together very nicely while keeping it clean and readable. The summary is basic since there’s not much real plot here and they make up for that with a copious amount of shots from the show. Toss in a brief listing of the discs features and a scrunch section of production and technical information and you have a solid cover overall. What makes it even better though is that there is a reversible cover that deals with the second OVA on here as it features a lot of pink and purple and a different set of characters in the foreground to get you excited. It’s unfortunate that the keepcase wasn’t done with a clear one though as I can imagine some people never realizing this.
The menu design is very simple as it uses an expanded version of the front cover artwork with some very bouncy upbeat tropical music. The artwork from the cover certainly looks richer and more vibrant overall but the music makes you want to hit the selections quickly and get it underway. The navigation along the right is simple and navigation is a “tropical” breeze. Submenus load quickly and as usual our player presets were ignored in favor of the English language track.
This set of specials doesn’t have all that much for extras which isn’t a surprise but fans of the English language dub cast will be very happy as there is a new Schoolgirl Commentary included. Beyond that, all we get is the clean versions of the opening/closing sequences which is definitely welcome.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the controversial first series that came out, it was decided to try and reboot it in a way with a new production company and a new angle from which to do everything. In order to bridge the two series, to make sure that they were giving the fans what they really wanted, a pair of small stories were taken from the manga and adapted into this to test the waters. While the original TV series was not something I was extremely excited about, it was fun in its own way but I understand the issues fans had with it, including the new material at the end of the season. Add in all the screw-ups along the way in the original animation production (which FUNimation didn’t have to deal with thankfully) and a reboot was almost necessary for a lot of fans to even think about going near again.
Looking at these two OVAs from that perspective, where you’re trying to change the character design style to something more appealing and actually being accurate to the original material, I can’t honestly say how well that was done. I lost interest in the manga for this after the second or third volume and never really looked back. Looking at it from the perspective of being familiar with the first season of the show, I have to admit that I really enjoyed this on a most basic level. With these being small stories that are trying to cram in all the characters even for a few seconds, letting the viewer take in the tweaked designs by the new production company, I wasn’t expecting anything in regards to actual plot. The very meager plot we do get for each of them is essentially beyond fluff.
The first episode has the girls parachuting onto an island for a weekend away while Negi tries to get back on Asuna’s good side. The second episode has the gimmick of Nodoka and Negi being tied by the red string of fate after she and Yue mess up on some magical practice. That really sums it all up. Once you get past that and the little nods to the actual plot through each of these twenty-five minute episodes, the bulk of it focuses on the copious amount of fanservice in different ways. With the beach episode, it’s far more apparent as it’s skin everywhere, even from characters you really don’t expect it from that much. With some of the girls wearing little more than thongs, and being quite observant about each other in amusing ways, they don’t hold back about it. The second episode isn’t quite as blatant but everyone has their brief scene where they’re doing something that has them behaving in a little bit of a revealing way, be it through physical presence or their core archetype personality.
The layout of the episodes is somewhat awkward though as it pushes the show into the “four panel comic” mentality. While there is an overreaching “story” for each episode, it’s broken down into smaller pieces because of the numerous eye-catches that come up to highlight each of the characters. That keeps the show from having a smooth flow but it allows for a lot of characters to have their small moments. You also get to see the characters in different outfits through them and a chance for some really nice screengrabs in order to make wallpapers I guess. If you view the episodes as a bunch of short moments in time rather than an actual story, it’ll be fun. Considering the time since we last had any Negima released over here in anime form, it’s a solid enough reminder of the fun that the characters are.
The Negima OVAs are simple but awkward fun in the end. Getting back in sync with these characters isn’t difficult, but this isn’t exactly the best method by which to do it. They often come so fast and often without a reminder of their names that they breeze by before you reconnect properly. With the idea behind them seemingly to make sure they were on the right track for a rebooted TV series, it’s pure fluff with an eye towards pleasing the fans. While I can’t speak for fans of the manga and how they’ll feel about this interpretation, what I get from it is that it’s a slicker looking production with better animation and familiar characters. It’s certainly got me interested in trying out the new series after feeling ambivalent at best about the first one.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Schoolgirl Commentary, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.