Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 315 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
Harem Potter … I mean, Professor Negi is back and slightly better than before.
Here’s a confusing bit of information that might trouble those anime fans new to the Negima! anime and that is Negima!? (with the exclamation and question mark) is actually a retelling of the original manga tale rather than a second season. Yes, it features many of the same familiar faces but the story has been re-imagined to the point that Negima is now just slightly recognizable but those who loved the original tale will find enough reason to check this one out.
Negima!? still tells the tale of Negi Springfield, a ten-year old boy from Whales who just so happens to be the graduate of the Academy of Magic and the son of a powerful mage known as “Thousand Master.” In order to continue his training, Negi is asked to fill in as an instructor at Mahora Academy somewhere in Japan. What Negi doesn’t expect is the fact that it’s an all-girls school and that he’ll be in charge of Class 3-A that contains a roster of 31 female students that find him so utterly cute. Unfortunately, there are dark forces in Mahora Academy that includes magical creatures and even a vampire that has a connection to Negi’s long lost father. This is but the beginning of the events that will have a young Professor battling dark forces while kissing his way through the all-girl student body.
You see, Professor Negi is the type of boy-wizard that requires a partner that enters into a contract with him and thus helps out said boy-wizard with the partner’s unique abilities. The first girl he takes as his partner is a girl named Asuna who just so happens to witness Negi using magic. Because of this incident, the Academy of Magic sends two representatives (that end up taking up the body of a cat and a toad) to make sure that Negi doesn’t perform magic in front of non-magic users. The punishment for being seen using magic is being stripped of all magical abilities and be turned into an animal. Yet because Negi is still not a full-fledged wizard, he can enter a contract with as many partners as he likes.
The problem is that to seal the contract, Negi must kiss the girl in question. He quickly finds that there are quite a few very willing participants that become his partner in the 13 episodes that make up Part 1. With the aid of his new partners, Professor Negi takes on the vampire named Evangeline (whose story arc is rather briskly brushed aside) and a number of evil fairies. Along the way, they meet the ghost of a student named Sayo who later joins the class as if she were living.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a retelling rather than a new season and there are a number of changes that sets itself apart from the manga and earlier series. Apart from a few physical changes in some of the girls, the biggest change has to be most of the key characters’ behavior. Asuna, for instances, is a lot loopier in this version instead of the helpful, tough and determined girl we met the first time around. Here, Asuna serves as comic relief seeing as she’s not only clumsy but hilariously obsessed with all things pertaining to the supernatural being called the Chupacabra. Asuna feels that all the strange occurrences in the school are attributed to the Chapacabra that she even starts her own club. Of course, later the club is used as a cover to hide Professor Negi’s magical pursuit to save the school from evil fairies and later even a mysterious figure calling himself the Black Rose Baron.
The best part about the series is the girls themselves who many of them have gained better personalities. This is great seeing a Chamo – Negi’s talking ferret-like companion – is actually more annoying than comical. When the action and drama is overshadowed by the characters you know a series is in trouble and this is the case of Part 1. I actually found the interaction between the girls of Mahora Academy (such as ninja girl Setsuna protecting Konoka or Fumika and Fuka trying hard to become adults) a lot more interesting than Negi’s battle with the first fairy.
Oh, and there’s some fan service here but it’s not as prevalent as it is in the original or manga (that is rated 16 and Up). The fan service comes mainly from Professor Negi invoking each of the girl’s individual abilities that somehow ends up with the girls going nude but totally in a Barbie doll kind of way that isn’t at all too graphic but enough to warrant an TV MA rating. There are some sexual references as well but seeing as Professor Negi is a child and the girls are young Junior High students, the student-teacher relationships don’t go any further than flirting and kissing.
The series also has a wonderful sense of humor that shines through some of the slower paced episodes and some of the more comical moments actually even outshines the more intense action from the better episodes in Part 1. From Asuna trying to blame everything on the Chupacabra to Class Representative Ayaka Yukihiro – who has a monster crush on Negi – putting out a slew of merchandise with Professor Negi’s face on it, most of the girls are downright hilarious. Even the Narrator, who raises his voice to a comical pitch when he’s excited, is actually laugh-out-loud funny. Negima!? definitely would have been better as a comedy rather a fantasy/supernatural/action series.
In the end, Negima!?, Part 1, isn’t as great as it should have been considering how exciting and fun the manga is but the retelling simply doesn’t feel too original or unique. That said, Negima!? is still fun to watch thanks to its great sense of humor and cute flirty girls. We just wish this series had a little more substance in the magical and supernatural department. If you’re a huge Negima fan then buying this one isn’t a bad idea but the more casual fan should definitely consider renting it before considering a purchase.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
There’s still some fan service in this retelling of the story but it’s not as abundant as the original series. The Evangeline story arc feels like its been hastily pushed along but the characters are still so much fun to follow. Some generic plots and supporting characters aside, Part 1’s uncut 13 episodes are still good fun.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The video quality is excellent and that’s good news seeing as the colorful characters and backgrounds are really good.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The original score is just outstandingly beautiful but the opening and closing theme songs are definitely not my cup of tea. There’s some great voice work in both the Japanese and English dub and the Narrator will not fail to make you laugh.
Too bad the audio commentary is just limited to one episode (which is Episode 12) but we’re grateful for the Notes from the Classroom feature that covers and explains all of the writing found on posters and the chalkboard. There are also trailers and textless opening and closing theme songs as well.
Part 1 of Negima!? doesn’t lack the charm of its source material or the goodness of the past anime series but it doesn’t feel like a major improvement either. Whether you’re a returning fan or new to the series, this retelling isn’t bad but it just isn’t as good as we had hoped.