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GENRE: Anime ORIGINAL AIR DATES: January 6 - June 29, 2005
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

A Magical Trainwreck.

The first time I watched Negima! Magister Negi Magi was back when I was a teenager, well before the show had received its dub courtesy of Funimation, back in the days of fansubs and sailing the high seas for the latest shows. Back then I didn't understand much of the appeal, considering it as nothing more than a boring show that failed to live up to the manga or follow its plot properly. It was watching this show that made me pick up the manga, in fact, and opened my eyes to the quality of Ken Akamatsu's penmanship. Over a decade has passed since those halcyon days, so out of familiarity and sense of nostalgia for Negima! I decided to pick up the entire series on DVD. I thought it was time I gave it another chance to impress me, but all it did was show me just how astute sixteen year old me was. The show is boring and does indeed fail to live up to the manga I so fondly remembered. Negima! was adapted into an anime long before the manga had finished, resulting in a new ending being written that deviated far from how the original manga would eventually close out. The anime was so bad that a new series called Negima!? was made afterward, though that series didn't address any of the problems, either. But that might be a topic for another review if I can bring myself to stomach it.

Magister Negi Magi - Mahou Sensei Negima, or just Negima! tells the story of a ten-year-old wizard named Negi Springfield, who is training to become a Magister Magi. Think Harry Potter but he hails from Wales. In order to complete his training, he's been placed into an all-girls school in Japan named Mahora Academy and has been given the task of becoming the teacher to the troublesome class 2A. While attempting to teach this troublesome trove of tenacious teenagers he might even stumble across his father, the fabled Thousand Master, who he has never met.

The 31 student class Negi leads consists of every waifu stereotype you can think of - from the timid and shy bookworm to the 300-pound food addict and just about everything in-between. Negi must teach this class while also dealing with the advances of the class president, attempts on his life by a vampire, and being the subject of many uncomfortable scenes playing up the tropes of harem manga but with a ten-year-old boy.

Ken Akamatsu set out to make something different to Love Hina, the work for which he is better known, and did somewhat succeed. Where Love Hina's lead, Keitaro Urashima, is a talentless piece of work that struggles to do well in exams, is constantly obsessed with girls and has ulterior motives, Negi is instead a kind young boy with pure thoughts, honest aspirations and is incredibly smart. That said, the same sorts of ridiculous situations that happen in Love Hina also happen in Negima!, because they happen to come as standard with the genre. There's no escaping them, and when the lead is a child, it's even more awkward than before. This is Akamatsu's writing, and whereas the manga was somewhat decent, I never was a fan of this animated series.

One area where the romance and harem aspects come into play is with the "Pactio", a magical pact made between the "magister magi" and their servant, the "minister magi". The pact is made in the form of a kiss, where the servant attains a new level of magical power and will fight to protect the head wizard in combat. Over the course of 355 manga chapters, Negi only manages to forge Pactio with 19 of his students, but in a mad dash to finish the failing anime he reaches first base with his entire class in the show. It's fairly apparent that from episode 22 onwards, the show is wrapping itself up and writing itself into a corner to end as quickly as possible - forgetting all things it has been carefully leading up to and instead shoehorning in a hastily scribbled time travel plot with more holes than a colander. I know I don't have to be embarrassed on the writers' behalf, yet I still am.

It is serviceable as a slice-of-life and a comedy anime, though barely. You can kiss all of that hard work goodbye in the last four episodes.

Fine by me.

The more Funimation dubs I watch, the more I wish to throw myself out of the window. While they have improved over time, earlier works can be like listening to nails on a chalkboard. The company had ten years to mature by the time they created the dub for Negima! yet they still managed to create one that is all over the place, and ultimately unlistenable. On the one hand, it features an abysmal job from Greg Ayres who is doing his best to sound like a wheezing puppy who smokes forty a day who just got kicked in the stomach by a professional footballer (and this is our ten-year-old lead), yet tangentially it features Laura Bailey providing the most condescending Hermione Granger impression you've ever heard complete with the seething vitriol one expects (which accurately matches the character she plays). In other words, it's a mess of varying quality. I would recommend switching that voice language to Japanese this time around, with no reservations.

If there is any one aspect of this show that stands out, it would be the soundtrack. Shinkichi Mitsumine is somewhat of a lesser-known composer in the world of anime soundtracks, but one who has created some stunning work of which Negima! is definitely an example. It's an upbeat soundtrack for the most part with some gorgeously darker sounding pieces for the more serious moments. It's a work of art compared to the rest of the series. It is also worth noting that the opening theme Happy Material comes in varying styles based on which month of the year the story is currently set. The ending themes are also fantastic, especially the catchy Please Teach Me, Master.

Out of respect for the original source material, I'd recommend skipping this series. Then again, any aspiring writers, translators, and adaption artists should really give this show a watch as it is a fantastic example of how NOT to turn a manga into an animated series. That's not to say Negima! doesn't have moments of sheer brilliance from time to time, because it does have them. I consider episodes 19, 20 and 21 to the better, if not the best, episodes of this entire series. Is it worth watching this series for the fleeting moments of quality?


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