By Ken Akamatsu. Released in Japan as “Mahou Sensei Negima!” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
Since I wrote my last Negima review, the series has ended in Japan, and I’d love to talk about the fan reaction to it, but will have to wait till the ending comes out here a year from now. Till then, I will be content with talking about Vol. 34, which is pure balls-to-the-wall action, and gives lots of the ‘second-tier’ girls a chance to show off and be the hero. Perhaps that’s why this cover art is notable for not having Negi in it.
Let me start with Natsumi. Negima has featured a lot of shy, “normal” girls in its cast, but along the way any pretense of normality has totally vanished, with Nodoka and Yue commonly pulling off amazing feats. Natsumi, though, is the genuine article – even her artifact is a tribute to how she doesn’t stand out. Now that artifact is the one thing that might allow the cast to pull off Asuna’s rescue, which means it’s all depending on her. And she’s TERRIFIED. The way Akamatsu draws her emotions in this volume is really amazing – it’s taking every bit of willpower she has not to run away screaming. Then of course she gets to watch the cast, including the boy she’s fallen in love with, get taken down one by one. It’s no wonder she’s petrified by the cliffhanger. Keep going, Natsumi!
Where, you ask, is Negi in all this? Well, Negi is busy finding that while it’s all very well to embrace dark magic and say he’ll rely on his friends to break him out of any evil he might do, that in practice he’s still a 10-year-old boy easily controlled by his emotions. So, when he almost kills Shiori, he goes into an emotional coma. Even Chisame slapping him (which she does, AGAIN, to get him to calm down, even after he wounds her) doesn’t help. Luckily, Negi gets the traditional ‘visited by your dead family and friends’ coma flashback towards the end, and even though most of them aren’t actually dead, it’s enough to revive his spirits. Come on, he’s the hero.
The battle to rescue Asuna is pretty damn awesome, all the more so as they’re doing it without Negi. There’s several noble sacrifices, including Yuna and Sayo (petrified) and Kaede and Kotaro (beaten down), but they manage to grab the key *and* Asuna. (By the way, Natsumi, you fail as plucky girl compared to Makie. Makie just needed a pep talk, Natsumi had to be slapped and dragged away. Another reason she’s still the ‘normal’ one.) And then… oh dear. You’d think Fate’s real name, Tertium, might have clued us in, but the arrival of FOUR OTHER Fates really is absolutely no fair. The ease with which they dispatch everyone is actually rather unnerving – in particular, seeing Chachamaru blown in half is really horrible – and everything they gained since the start is seemingly lost.
Except, of course, Fate is not just one of many generic villains anymore, and he does not take too kindly to these last minute bosses stepping in and ruining his fun. Yes, in the end, Fate is much like Kotaro was 20-odd volumes ago, another young boy who simply wants to fight Negi to see who is more powerful. And if that means getting rid of the other clones who will stop that? So be it. The cliffhanger to this volume is well-paced, and it really makes you want to get to Vol. 35 as soon as possible. When, rest assured, we should begin the final Negi vs. Fate showdown.