Sunday, 5 June 2011

魔法 先生 ネギま! / Mahou Sensei Negima (original series)

Negima is one of the more popular manga series in Japan at the moment. However, it would seem that nine out of ten fans agree: the anime is vastly inferior to the original. Still, I don’t feel much compulsion to read the manga version. It’s a cute show, and certainly entertaining, but the premise is so daft that I feel I’ve now been exposed to it long enough to have little interest in going any further.

Negi is a ten-year-old magician from Wales. Part of his magical training is to be a teacher to a class of thirteen-year-old Japanese schoolgirls. Naturally. I mean, how can you be a magician without being a teacher on the other side of the world? And why wait until you’re older than your pupils, after all? But there’s more – the girls are all anime archetypes! I don’t just mean ‘the shy one’, ‘the athletic one’ etc. (though they’re all present and correct) – here we have ‘the ghost’, ‘the ninja’, ‘the vampire’, ‘the robot’ and even a scientist girl who can invent things far beyond the boundaries of current technology. So far, so silly, cliché comedy show. And for a while, that’s what this is. Somehow, several of these 13-year-old girls develop a heavy crush on this 10-year-old, and pretty much all the rest think he’s totally adorable. Yes, it’s a harem anime with a 10-year-old protagonist.

Luckily for the girls, not only are there baths for everyone to get naked in as often as possible, but for Negi to awaken his true magical power, he needs to fight with a girl who enters a ‘pactio’ with him by standing in a magic circle (drawn by Negi’s annoying ermine/ferret/stoat-type-thing sidekick) and kissing him. The story centres around the relationship between Negi and Asuna, the one girl who doesn’t seem to like Negi too much, but always seems to be with him just when disaster strikes.

And the series bumbles along in this manner for a while, which is perfectly agreeable. In last few episodes, a bombshell falls, and all of a sudden, the series becomes dark, intriguing, brave and quite moving. It seemed like it was genuinely going to be something quite special. But then the last couple of episodes made the ending of Mai-HiME look sensible, and the writers extracted from a certain cavity a time machine, some sort of rite that mysteriously solves a problem that no-one else had ever solved in a matter of minutes, and a ridiculous battle where ALL the girls get powered up by the pactio and defeat hoards of demons with their individual skills. This includes the fat girl who makes them eat so much good food that they die. Yup.

It’s a shame, because for a while, there, I thought Mahou Sensei Negima was going to be genuinely daring with its ending. Instead, it was a total cop-out. Still, the impact of episode 24 remains, and there’s fun to be had in total ridiculous excess.

(originally written 22.11.05, before the announcement of the Shaft reimagining.)

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