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.
First off, I will admit that this reads a lot better in collected format than it did in weekly chapters. The parts of the story that really aggravated me are confined to the latter third of the book, and there is some honest attempt at character building and attempting to wrap things up. But overall, this is still Ken Akamatsu, after an exciting 18-volume arc of fighting and apocalypse, going back to Mahora Academy and simply coasting on fanservice for a while. And, at least in the West, he found himself up against a fandom that was now reading Negima almost entirely for the action and drama, and hated the fanservice. This is a big problem if you’re Ken Akamatsu.
Where the story works well is when it’s capturing the fallout from the Magic World arc. Setsuna, as Eva points out, can’t deal with being a soldier in peacetime, and is still (still!) upset with her base desires for Konoka, not to mention finding out that Asuna is a princess. Her heroic self-loathing can be quite amusing, but it’s also a very annoying side to her, and so I was somewhat torn between laughing and wanting to smack her. Of course, all that class distinction goes right out the window when she finds out what Negi and Asuna’s plan for saving the magic world is. It’s a big but workable sacrifice for Negi, but a huge and appalling sacrifice for Asuna, and Setsuna is justifiably appalled that she’s avoiding telling anyone what she has to do. More on this in the final volume…
There are some other good chapters. Chisame spent most of the Magic World arc filling in for Asuna as Negi’s tsukkomi and adviser, and now that they’ve returned suddenly finds that she hates being out of the loop. Yue gets shorter shrift, but finally manages to recover the memories from the past year, ironically triggering them by confessing to Negi. Unfortunately, this then leads to the rest of the book, where Haruna and Misa (a truly disastrous combination who should never be allowed to plan anything together ever) decide that Negi ‘leading on’ all these girls by his natural-born charisma, and not responding to any of their love confessions (despite his age – I wonder if he’s turned 11 by now) makes him an enemy of women.
Earlier in the volume we had a chapter or so devoted to a giant fight between Negi and Eva, fanservice for those who like that sort of thing. And at the end of the manga we get a giant wacky chase, which Akamatsu loves to do (see my recent review of the 4th Love Hina omnibus) and which never fails to annoy me, as it always has people acting out of character for the sake of comedy schtick. Combined with far more nudity than usual (let’s just say Negi sneezes quite a bit this volume) and you have Akamatsu specializing in many of my least favorite scenarios.
There’s also the fact that Negima ends in the next volume, and there seem to be an insane amount of loose ends that still haven’t been tied up. Negi’s parents, the whole plan with Asuna – it won’t end the way it’s suggested, unless this series goes really dark – and of course which girl wins. And behind the scenes, Akamatsu and his editors at Weekly Shonen Magazine are (allegedly) having a bit of a tiff. How will this all shake out? Well… see you next time.