Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Vol. 37

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.

Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Vol. 36

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.

Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Vol. 35

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.

Sometimes when you’re reviewing Volume 35 of a series, it can be a bit difficult to know what to say. Especially when so much of the volume is people punching other people, sometimes with lightning. But as we head breathlessly towards the climax, we are reminded that Akamatsu always manages to make things interesting, even when we don’t expect it.

Note that Negi is not on the cover for the 2nd volume in a row. Instead we get Ayaka in costume, surrounded by the five girls who probably ended up getting the least attention in the series. I mean, even Zazie gets to be an actual demon. The twins and the cheerleader girls, though, ended up suffering from Akamatsu trying his best to write a plot that would feature 31 different girls and not quite making it. We get another brief reminder of Sakurako’s insane luck skills, but other than that, their main function is to be the ‘reassuringly normal ones’ when Haruna returns to Mahora Academy (even if, as Madoka intuits, that’s an insult by now).

As for the fighting, it’s rather interesting that even after all this time, Negi still wants to try to resolve things through discussion. It tends to separate out Negima from other shonen fighting titles – yes, there’s a love of physical combat, but every time we confront a villain and prepare for battle, there’s an offer to try to mediate. This doesn’t just extend to Negi, as even his followers do the same – Nodoka’s overture of friendship to Fate may get her socked in the jaw, but that doesn’t make it less sincere. (I would like to take the time to note, since I suspect I won’t get the opportunity again, how much I love Nodoka’s character arc in this entire series. She’s come a long way from ‘that one who’s like Shinobu from Love Hina.) But of course, for all the attempts at peacemaking, in the end it comes down to a lot of fights – which, luckily, Negi is also very good at.

One of the surprises in this volume is the fact that the connections between Magical World and the ‘real’ world of Mahora Academy have become so broken down that the fight is now literally coming to the school. This, of course, allows a lot of the cast who were left behind to appear again, as I noted above. It also allows Evangeline to finally give up and embrace her not-villain status. For a supposed morally bankrupt vampire, she’s really been one of the more noble characters in the series, and Negi’s influence has done her a world of good. As Zazie notes. Speaking of which, Zazie’s sudden penchant for conversation, and lampshading of Eva’s sudden affection for her classmates, is easily the funniest part of the book.

And yes, there’s people being stripped, and discussion on which of the girls Negi likes best, because this is still Akamatsu, after all. In the end, though, we’re left with another killer cliffhanger, as we find out what’s actually beneath that world tree. Oh yes, and Kodansha remembered to keep the extras this time!