First impressions - 11.10.06This remake, more an Alternate Universe retelling, is called Negima!?, based on the same manga as last year’s Mahou Sensei Negima but in a different style. The manga’s fans insist that the original series, which I thought was a dumb but occasionally charming throwaway comedy with little substance and a lot of brainless fanservice, was a hideous slight to the masterpiece that is the original manga (but I’m doubtful anything based on the premise of a preteen magician teaching a class of risible harem-anime clichés, including ghosts, samurai and technological geniuses, can ever SERIOUSLY be good). The new version wasn’t a hit with me. The jokes, especially the big comedy reactions, were just lame and badly-timed, and the little references to other anime on the blackboard, while amusing, didn’t suit the tone of the scene, dragging the whole episode down. The art style also isn’t as cute as in the badly-animated but nice-looking original version. Ah well.
Final thoughts - 15.04.12
Given that it was way back in the October of 2006 that I started to watch this, and I can only blame the fact that I lost a lot of episodes when an external hard drive died so far for it taking five and a half years to get through, I have to conclude that though Shaft’s version was more entertaining and far more sophisticated than the Xebec Mahou Sensei Negima, I actually found it quite boring. Not in a good way.
For whatever reason, when Shaft got hold of the Negima property and gave it to their leading light Shinbou Akiyuki, he decided to make it very much like his Pani Poni Dash!, which had ended a few months before. With Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei, it became rather his signature style, though now has reached the point where it has further evolved into something a bit less zany, making something more straightforward like Madoka have a unique aesthetic.
While it took it further from its roots, Negima wasn’t a bad thing to adapt in this way. It’s about one little magical boy and his immense harem of anime clichés – from robots to ghosts to ninja to acrobats to scientist girls who can make large mecha. If ever there were an anime that leant itself to abrupt style changes, exophoric references and pastiches, it’s this. And the parodies are laid on thick – Negima!?’s style happily parodies just about any anime subgenre you can think of, plenty of film ones and even has a
scene, which while
not especially necessary or insightful at least seems more affectionate than FLCL’s
stab at the same. Add in a great opening track (‘1000% Sparkling’) that seemed to
be a real hit in Japan (if remixes, stepmania/osu et al maps and Nico
Douga medley spots are anything to judge by) and you seem to have great
But it just…missed, for me, in a way Pani Poni Dash! just managed to avoid and Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei seemed to have outgrown – not that it didn’t have problems of its own. Here…I think the problem was with the story. With PPD you had plots where there was a problem to be resolved each episode, be it a bus teetering on the edge of a cliff or an alien trying to conquer the world: they were episodic and there were numerous tangents, but it went back to that at the end. Zetsubou-sensei similarly kept things episodic, usually focusing an episode on a particular issue facing society (or blown out of proportion by the media) and exploring it. But Negima!?...well, it tries to have more of a contiguous story, centred at first on the general concept of Negi and his pacts, then moving to a series of antagonists, with Evangeline, a ‘black rose baron’ and some family members providing adversity, but the snatches of plot progression there are largely buried under endless skits, some of which raise a smile, a few of which made me laugh aloud, but most of which just got in the way and failed to amuse – and not just because jokes were going over my head (though I’m sure that happened more than once).
Taken as a whole, I’d say I liked Negima!? and what Shaft did here. I liked the stupid new animal characters. I liked the useless mascot forms some of the girls took, and the cosplay cards. I liked the way the antagonists were by and large relatable and interesting. I liked the odd surrealism, pacing and switching. But I’ve never much liked the premise of 10-year-old-genius-teaches-class-and-makes-magical-pacts-by-kissing-them-and-making-them-transform-into-fanservice-friendly-outfits. I’ve never much cared about the characters beyond liking some of the peripheral ones, especially when they have manzai-like routines. And I will go on to watch the OVAs (eventually). But I would not dream of rewatching Negima!? from the start, and certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wasn’t already acquainted with the Shaft/Shinbou way of doing things and certain they liked it watch this. Too much confusion is seldom a good thing.