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.
With this volume, we finally wrap up the Magic World arc that began almost half the series ago. Even Ken Akamatsu admits that it took a lot longer than expected (which may have ended up having a bigger influence on the end of Negima itself – more on that later), but at least the finale gives us a lot of the shonen tropes we like Negima for best: lots of shonen battles, enemies becoming friends, everyone reaching out with their bonds of friendship to save a fellow classmate… you know, the works.
First off, despite Negi’s best efforts, he and Fate are destined to fight for this final battle. Even if you get the sense that it’s less due to a difference of opinion and more because they really want to. This leads, as many shonen fights do, to a flashback, where we get a better look at the inner workings of Fate’s mind. He’s not just a stoic, he’s a cynical stoic, deliberately crafted to be different from the arrogant and hotheaded Secundus by his creator. This seems to annoy Fate, who I think wants some surety in his life. Unfortunately, part of being human is lacking that surety. As he flashes back to a girl he was unable to save, and to Nagi and Rakan talking about what humanity really means, he finally gives in, and agrees to at least listen to what Negi says.
If you know shonen, you know what comes next. That’s right, they’re both taken out by an influx of MORE enemies. Negima does seem to rejoice in hammering on its cliches, but it does so in such a assured way that you can’t really blame it. This is a Boy’s Own story, and this is how they go. So the enemies show up, and then our heroes have their own teachers and mentors show up to help them, and so forth. Meanwhile, the actual 3-A class is tasked with trying to wake up Asuna, who is still being a giant unconscious magic battery. Naturally, this requires the entire class, even those nowhere near the battle, as well as Yuna and Sayo (conveniently cured).
And it works, and thus Asuna enters the fray (the cover should have clued you in). And this… well, this is where Akamatsu starts to go a bit off the rails. He’d already had pacing problems earlier, resolving Setsuna and Mana’s fights in about 4 pages so he could get them out of the way (and we never see Tsukuyomi again, as the extras for this volume note). Now he has to deal with what happens when one of your characters is basically The Messiah. And, just like Usagi in Sailor Moon, he knows that if you’re going to have the Messiah card, you have to play it eventually. And so, after finally defeating the Lifemaker (whose identity is a plot point that isn’t remotely resolved here, so I’ll ignore it), Asuna proceeds to resurrect everyone and everything. And I mean everything – we hear her muttering about plants and animals as well.
And while this leads to many heartwarming scenes of our heroes being reunited with those who sacrificed their lives for them, it does bring up the point of where to go from here. Any ongoing threats are going to be next to impossible to take seriously. And by now the audience of Negima really is not going to be content to going back to the wacky “oh no, sensei saw me naked” Love Hina shenanigans. We have a giant pile of unanswered questions – Nagi, Arika, Asuna’s fate, Chao – but are those going to require a whole new adventure arc?
Despite the many, MANY unanswered questions, I’ll be honest with you – if you want a very open-ended but satisfying ending to Negima, Vol. 36 is a really good place to drop the series. For those who want to see how everything is resolved in the last two volumes, I will be reviewing them in time. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Still, this volume is recommended, provided you aren’t allergic to Asuna Ex Machinas.