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Mahou Sensei Negima! is, through 33 of its 38 volumes, my favorite manga ever, boasting several of my favorite characters and moments in all of fiction.
And yet, I can't really recommend Mahou Sensei Negima! to anyone, because it completely fails at generating any satisfying payoff for anything of what it ever built for over years. It's one of the most egregious wastes of potential ever published, and it starts with a major Jump The Shark moment near the end of the (admittedly far too long for the series' own good) Mundus Magicus mega-arc. And it only grows worse and worse from there, ending in one of the most disgusting and intelligence-insulting ways to ever finish a series.
If the series had remained as episodic at it was at first, that wouldn't be that much of an issue, like it wasn't for Ranma, but once it tries growing the beard and relying on arcs and mysteries to answer, the lack of resolution cripples it fatally.
Look, I get there were serious problems between the author and the publisher, but fandom often tends to use that as an all too easy and convenient free pass for all the problems with the end. Akamatsu Ken's next work, UQ Holder, starting from a mostly clean slate, has most of the same narrative and characterization issues Late Negima had, so it's clear it's more of a case of overall Author Decay at work here. Additionally, UQ Holder's use of Negima canon proves Akamatsu is able to keep using the Negima lore along Kodansha if he wants to, yet he chooses starting over a new set of mythos without properly adressing the previous, hanging ones first.
The characters start great, making a good use of their archetypic nature, and sporting tons of solid humor, both of the clever and broad yet sincere varieties, but all of them, even the lead, end up underdeveloped and truncated, their character arcs savagely chopped down, so anyone looking for actual resolutions will be sorely disappointed. At first, the author does a great job at handling a very big cast, alternating their turns at the spotlight, but once he effectively drops almost half of the cast for the Mundus Magicus arc, the series starts slowly going downhill, although that isn't impossible to salvage until the last few volumes.
The artwork remains gorgeous from the first to the last page, however, evolving very nicely.
As someone who's read Mahou Sensei Negima front to back, I'll be the first to say this, I think it sucked. I have a right to a damn opinion. Here's my reasoning, with the pros first.
The art is very nicely done and while it starts out somewhat choppily it grows in detail very quickly and noticeably over several dozen chapters and maintains that level of detail, very nicely done Akamatsu. Secondly the fights. The fights are pretty much what you expect out of a Harry Potter manga, big and explosive, practically leaping off the page. These are pretty much the main things I like about the series.
Cons, where to begin? Well first off, the romance SUCKS, all caps on this guys. I find myself getting somewhat queasy on this because we have a 10 year old being courted by a group of middle schoolers who are at least 4-5 years older than him. They also molest him repeatedly. While I'm not talking about sex, I am talking about touching and grabbing and all sorts of things that're considered sexual harrassment. This is a MAJOR drawback as this is kinda disturbing to me and repeatedly makes a lotta Squick real fast. The next thing I disliked was the plot. Rather the plotholes. Where the hell did Negi's father go, I'm STILL confused on that and his sudden reappearance is also tremendously confusing. Where did he come from and how is he the Big Bad, at least that's it looked like. The entire plot following the Chao Ling Shen plotline derailed within a few chapters in favor of getting back together after being scattered and defeating the new Big Bad. Its not til the end of the series that Negi gets back on track with finding his dad and even then it seems like it pretty much skips the finding bit and just brings him back, no explanation as far as I can discern.
Another thing that irks me on a personal level is the optimism. Even during the moments where things are "dark", the Power of Friendship SAVES THE DAY!!!!! This is a personal preference of mine, but I HATE excessive optimism and this as the general tone really grated on my nerves. The last complaint I have is that the series felt somewhat cheesy, like it never really took itself seriously and was all "look at the big tits flying out of the explosion!". On a side note Anya was a drag too, being the obnoxious character that doesn't do squat.
Wow. Just... wow. I never would've thought I'd be writing this when my friend first handed me volume one of Mahou Sensei Negima. I'd heard a lot about this series from this very wiki, and I didn't really pay much attention to it at first. And after spending so much time on Tv Tropes, I went in thinking I'd find more of the same Shonen, just with more Harry Potter and Fanservice. But, in the famous words of Will Smith,
AW HELL NAW
Negima is, in all its Trope Overdosed glory, the best manga I've read since Fullmetal Alchemist. I could just squee about this series for hours on end. It is just that good. But, this is a review, so I am obliged to look at this objectively. Or at least try.
(+) Great characters, all of which are entertaining and fun to watch on their own
(+) But are better together. This series has great character chemistry
(+) And pretty much every character proves themselves to be Badass, Crazy Awesome or some amazing fusion of the two, making every fight a treat
(+) The settings are beautiful and well designed
(+) The fights are well choreographed and fun, never overstaying their welcome
(+) The Fantasy Kitchen Sink is both funny and smoothly executed. You barely ever question in it. Instead, you revel in it.
(+) The plot ties together and is brilliant in its deceptive simplicity
(-) The Fanservice. I know the only way Ken Akamatsu got this past his editors was under the promise of another Love Hina. But the fanservice could definitely use some toning down
(-) The Myth Arc doesn't start until volume three, making the first three volumes or so sort of boring and bland
(-) Pactios. Nuthin' wrong with them by themselves, in fact they're a rather fun plot device. The occasional use of new Pactios to save the heroes at the last minute is a little jarring, but not enough to impede overall enjoyment of the series
This series had me hooked from the get go. 310 chapters and three months later, I can say it's as fun a ride as you'll find these days, from start to finish
I find that Negima—particularly after one gets past the somewhat cumbersome first two volumes—is one of the most amazing works I have ever read.
There is fanservice, yes, but there is also so, so much more than that. There is action, and friendship, and horror, and pain and humor and joy and a thousand other things that make reading this manga such a delight.
Although the plot may not seem present in the first couple of volumes, it reintroduces itself in the third, and only grows from there. The story is cohesive, and the characters within develop in ways that are miraculous and sometimes surprising to behold.
I have read a lot of manga, of seinen and shonen, josei and shojo... but I have never read a manga that tugged at my heart and resonated so perfectly with me as this one.
Recommendation: If the fanservice of Negima! or Negima!? really bothers you, you're safer not going any farther than those two. But if that's not an issue, and if you don't need One Plot To Rule Them All, watch / read everything (except the live-action) for the best experience. And get the soundtracks. (^_^)
Ah, Mahou Sensei Negima. What is there to be said that hasn't already? It is one of the most Trope Overdosed series on the wiki, after all, and the massive Genre Shift is brought up practically every time the series is mentioned. To sum up briefly anyway: Ken Akamatsu, creator of Love Hina, has created a manga series that has gradually morphed from a rather squicky harem comedy with a 10-year-old boy as the protagonist to quite possibly the most epic Shounen action series in years. In the process, he's packed it with 40-something different characters, nearly all of whom have received at least some degree of development and one or two spotlight chapters. (Akamatsu being Akamatsu, he has also packed it with staggering amounts of Fanservice, including countless panty shots and gratuitous Anime Anatomy nudity. If that stuff bothers you, well, you have been warned.)
Things I like about it:
Things I don't like:
This is one of my favorite series ever.
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