April 14, 2009
by: Adam Beck
Taking a fantastic series, and throwing it into a blender.
Manga Description: Boy Wizard!
Negi Springfield is ten years old . . . and a powerful wizard! This boy wizard is the greatest prodigy ever to graduate from his magic school in England. After graduation, however, Negiís given an unusual assignment: teach English at an all-girl school in Japan. Now Negi has to find a way to deal with his thirty-one totally gorgeousĖand completely overaffectionateĖstudents . . . without using magic! Based on the Negima! anime, this is a fresh take on the beloved Negima! story.
Includes special extras after the story!
Content: (This section may contain spoilers)
I am a big fan of Ken Akamatsuís work; whether it is Love Hina or Negima, I always fall for his storytelling and artwork. Magister Negi Magi Negima?! Neo is a little different in the sense that it isnít an original pieceórather, Takuya Fujima, creator of Free Collars Kingdom has stepped up to take the reins on this Negima! spin-off, under the careful supervision of Akamatsu himself. But will this reworking of Ken Akamatsuís original series be a hit or an unnecessary revisit?
What Negima?! Neo does differently from the original Negima! series is that it follows the original storyline but at the same time breaks away from it for the sake of Ö well, weirdness for its own sake. What I really enjoy is that the series starts off before the events in the Negima series, offering a look at how Negi passes his examination and is assigned as a teacher in Japan. Itís a part of the story that weíve never seen before, a refreshing look at Negiís life prior to the events at Mahora Academy. Sadly, this is the only portion of the novel that had me interested as the rest is really awkward to read, not because I had the original series in mind, but because the action and events that occur are somewhat ridiculous.
Having past his graduation test, Negi is on his way to become a great magus, but he will need to travel to Japan and teach English to a class of junior high students first. His class is full of fun and intriguing characters that each seems to have their own identity (not to mention theyíre all females). Instead of picking one or two characters in becoming a lead or secondary character, each student seems to be unique in their own way and is never shadowed out. A young girl named Asuna is made a large part of the story right away as she suspects Negi of being ďdifferentĒ. Having a ten-year old child teach English to a group of female junior high students is out of the ordinary, yet no one seems to question it with the exception of Asuna. Either the class is full of paranormal activity, or theyíre just way too easily accepting.
The second chapter is a major disappointment; almost nothing happens, with the exception of setting up an event for a character named Evangelion, and it is just dragged on: Negiís promise to his students that he will protect them from a vampire, and going to the extent of Negi looking for Evangelion in the process. It feels like this is built for young girls who like seeing little boys nervous and sometimes tear-up. With that, I do enjoy that it shows Negi trying his hardest to become a teacher (even though it feels like he is about to give up), and some of his students pitching in too. Sadly, this comes off poorly considering how we still have no clue who some of the characters are, not to mention trying to connect with their feelings. I mean, Yue is given no introduction; she (plus Nodoka, Haruna and Setsuna) just show up at Asuna and Konokaís room and help Negi out without any knowledge of who they even are.
The third chapter starts off good, but continues into one of the most disappointing finishes Iíve ever read. This chapter introduces Evangelion, a magician or vampire as it would seem, feeding off the blood of students of Mahora High. Iím not the biggest fan of Evangelion only because her personality is far too twisted; one moment, she seems like some hysterical madwoman, and the next, she is sacrificing herself for someone she just pushed away. She doesnít seem to be very evil, nor does she seem to be very good. That said, she is leaning more towards the dark side as her actions are obviously not good in nature. The battle between Evangelion and Negi is strong as it offers some fast paced and flashy events, but this is also about when things fall apart. Because the first volume of Negima!? Neo summarizes (and alters) the first three volumes of the original Negima, there is very little room for character development, and it really shows. Asuna is obviously a large part of the series yet her character just seems to evolve faster than the story can handle. She first disliked Negi because he was a nuisance in her life, but all of a sudden, she seems him flying, accepts that and forms a pact with him that involves the two locking lips within a matter of pagesÖ yeah; I donít think so.
Things only get worse from here as in the middle of a battle, the newly introduced robot, Chachamaru jumps in the way of Evangelionís devastating attack on Negi to protect an abandoned cat that apparently moved its box in the middle of the battle? Badly wounded, Chachamaru still has enough power to jump up and protect her masterÖ that is if she was in danger. Basically, both Evangelion and Negi unleash a power attack only to counter each other out before Negi sneezes and strengthens his attack. Doing so, apparently the attack stops in mid-air or moves incredibly slow to allow Chachamaru to jump in front of Evangelion only for the two to exchange a couple lines to each other before the attack hits. Evangelionís attack not only disappears, but it would appear they have more than enough time to get the hell out of the way. It was Chachamaruís heroic efforts that first annoyed me the most, but then this came along shortly after, just urging me to throw the novel into my active fireplace.
So in the end, I am sorely disappointed with what Negima!? Neo has to offer as it displays a number of awkward and un-believable events, all in the name of being a new take on the old material. I mean, having a ten-year old child who is a magician and teacher is crazy enough, but creating some of the most head-shaking events possible annoys me to a great degree. It takes all the fun out of the series and offers a compressed and unexciting adventure that has no character development. I really cannot recommend this to anyone; Negi and Evangelionís fight is decent but that is interrupted multiple times by head-pounding events. Burn it.
Artwork: Artistically, Negima!? Neo has some really attractive visuals as it comes from the creator of Free Collars Kingdom, a series I particularly enjoyed in the artwork department. It is very detailed and resembles Ken Akamatsuís art style greatly. If youíve read any of the Negima! volumes, youíll find yourself at home here, just with a little less emphasis on scale. If you were comparing the two, you will notice that the emphasis is more on character faces rather than the scale of the world. Negima has always been about the character Negi, but it has also been about the magical world that lies hidden. The first volume of Negima!? Neo doesnít do anything to that value as it mainly focuses on characters and the so-so emotions that they display. The artwork continues to displease me as it does keep the clutter of the Negima name, but it executes it poorly as there really isnít a lot happening in the background. As you can tell, Iím pretty mixed on the visuals, but they are well drawn with solid outlines around each object and character, and if youíre a fan of the series, you wonít be too disappointed.
Translation: Del Rey flexes its muscles as once again as they do a magnificent job in translating Negima!? Neo into English. There are no apparent errors in the grammar or sound effects (and there are a lot of sound effects) making this a solid read. The dialogue is pretty loose and uses a lot of Ellipses throughout the first volume (and I mean a lot). Honorifics are use appropriately and so are contractions.
As for extras there is an honorifics guide at the beginning of the novel, some character art pieces in between chapters, and a short and cute comic about the baka rangers, an afterword from Takuya Fujima, English-translation notes, a class roster, and an untranslated preview into the next volume at the end of the novel. There is quite a bit to quench your thirst for extras.
The Bottom Line: I love Negima!. What I donít love is Negima!? Neo. There is just so much wrong with condensing and altering a deep and character-driven story such as Negima!, but adding some of the most unnecessary and awkward moments youíll ever read pushes it over the edge. The jokes that are expressed are not funny, the fights that are fought are not exciting, and the story that executed is not interesting. It is a shallow and unexplored series that rushes relationships and characters on screen. I have a better idea: take that $11 of yours, put it in a blender and watch it go. It will be a lot more enjoyable than reading this.