Created by Ken Akamatsu, manga by YUI. Released in Japan as “Negiho (Ito) Bun” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
Some of you may recall that this is actually the 2nd Negima spinoff. Negima Neo came out in seven volumes, and was essentially a cuter, more comedic Negima with most of the action and threats to our heroes removed. Somewhere down the road, though, some editor at Kodansha must have decided that this was simply not adorable enough, and came up with this. I assume they asked Akamatsu, and he looked up from where he was creating the actual Negima manga and nodded vaguely. And so we have Negiho, which takes place in a universe where Negi and Kotaro are young adult men teaching a class of 31 five-year-old girls.
I will be fair, this series was not nearly as creepy as it sounded. There are no panty shots of pre-pubescents throughout, which I was kind of expecting. And no one gets their clothes sneezed off, mostly as magic doesn’t seem to exist here. Asuna has a giant crush on Negi, who hits her ‘older man’ buttons this time around, but it’s clearly the crush of a 5-year-old girl on a teacher, and is never meant to be serious except in a ‘look at how freaked out she’s getting’ sort of way. There’s even stickers in the front of the book! Of course, the book is still rated OT, probably because of the chapter where Asuna and Ayaka try to make their non-existent breasts grow so they can seduce their teacher… Have I mentioned it’s hard giving Japan the benefit of the doubt sometimes?
The main reason this manga exists is for the comedy. Characterization attempts to happen, and a lot of the characters are sort of like their canon selves (Setsuna still crushes on Kanoka, Kaede is a ninja, Chao invents things) but are basically slaves to the gags. Heck, gag humor is actually the point of Chachamaru this time around, who has decided that the best way to become closer to the rest of her class is to be a manzai comedian. I will give credit to the Nibleys, who as translators had to deal with this and try to work out Chachamaru’s terrible Japanese jokes and turn them into terrible English jokes. The endnotes are also helpful here, mostly as even translated it still feels that we’re missing something.
Then there are the characters who don’t translate to ‘adorable preschoolers’ so well, and that’s Evangeline. Which is ironic, given she’s an undead vampire with the body of a 10-year-old in the original. But here, in the body of a 5-year-old, she doesn’t have the ability to be evil or malicious in any successful way, and instead merely becomes the buttmonkey of the entire series. Which, in a series with Asuna in it, is impressive. That said, I suspect the number of Negima fans who thought “I like Evangeline, but wish she wasn’t as awesome and terrifying and did more anteater impressions” numbers in the single digits.
There were one of two other things I sort of smiled at – it’s nice to see Rakan and Theodora get married in some continuity, even if it isn’t the main one, and Konoka and Setsuna’s attempts at death metal are possibly the funniest thing in the book. But at the end of the day, I came away wondering who this was written for? I can’t imagine fans of the original, especially in the West, being enthralled by preschool comedy adventures. And the romance and occasional sexual gags means it’s not for kids either. Even the artist, in his afterword, notes that this series had a lot of flaws. If you love everything Negima, give it a shot. It didn’t actively offend me most of the time, but it’s pretty inconsequential.
Also, how are a 5-year-old Chao and Hakase building Chachamaru anyway? Did anyone think this through at all?