Story & Art: Ken Akamatsu
Translations: Douglas Varenas, Toshifumi Yoshida, and others
Adaptation: Peter David, Trish Ledoux, Kathleen O’shea David, Ikoi Hiroe, and others
Publisher: Del Rey
Over the last month I have been reading Negima Magister Negi Magi just about every chance I got. After reading the first 15 volumes of this series and having read the entire Love Hina series, I have come to the realization that Ken Akamatsu has made a living off of underdog boys and girls who inexplicably adore them. I really have no idea how something like this could work in real life, these wimpy guys get all the chicks. That’s it I’m going to stop working out and see what happens. But anyway, I have heard this book called plenty of things, but by far my favorite way to describe this book is by calling “Harem Potter” (that’s something I came across on the internet). While I consider myself rather witty, I’m not that witty.
So the premise “Harem Potter” is not really far off. A 10-year-old prodigy wizard is sent by his Hogwarts-like school in Britain to Japan, there to teach English to14-year-old Japanese schoolgirls at an all-girl’s school. Negi Springfield wants to test himself to be like his father, a famous mage and for some reason a teacher is what he chooses to be. This is all in the hopes that one day he will meet his father or just an excuse for Akamatsu to have a setting at a high school. Oh yeah, we get to see those underage girls in this high school uniforms we have all come to love. There are 31 girls in the class, well one is a ghost and one’s a robot, but come on its manga. Negi has his work cut out for him it’s not an easy obstacle he has to overcome and over time he gets help from his students. Ohh yeah and his goal is to hide the fact that he is a wizard.
I guess we can talk about these 31 girls for a bit. This is probably the biggest cast I have read in a manga. It was sometimes hard to keep up with who is who and the fact that some of them look identical and they all wear the same clothes don’t help. Negi’s students consist of a wide array of smart students, athletes, cheerleader, academically challenged. But what class doesn’t have those types of girls in there? This class however, also includes several martial artists, a vampire, a ghost (like I mentioned before), a ninja, a robot, at demon, a time traveler (who also happens to be a Martian), a web idol, and plenty of witches. The thing that does make each student stand out is their involvement in different clubs. Many of these girls are eventually drawn into Negi’s world of magic or have long been involved with the magic world. Through interaction, Negi learns about his students in depth. Even though his goal is to hide that he is a wizard, that later gets put aside because each girl finds a way to help Negi.
Now, I have mentioned that there is a robot a vampire, and a ghost, but most of these girls share another attribute, and that is that some of these girls have crushes on this 10-year-old boy teacher. I think this is why Asuna stands out, because she doesn’t see what the other girls see. There’s a lot of slapstick grabbing of his crotch, boobs smacking in his face, and as with Love Hina there’s just scores of bath scenes. There’s a basic gross factor in the main romance that’s difficult to get past, though it helps that Negi has no sexual desire for any of them, whatsoever. Once we get past that in the first few volumes, it’s a basic adventure story, with Negi getting to know a new classmate every 3-4 chapters and going through some sort of bonding. By the end of Volume 9, half of the 31 girls are aware he’s a wizard, so he no longer feels the need to keep his secret. But Negi is likeable in a genuinely likeable way, as opposed to Love Hina’s Keitaro, who seemed merely hapless and a loser who can’t get into any University, but for some reason you find yourself routing for.
This isn’t just normal classes these girls are attending. While yes there is plenty of book study and field trips, there are also plenty of heated battles and magic fights. In the Evangeline story Arc we are introduced to the Pactio system. The Pactio system is a system of magic. It’s any magic user who can select a companion. These companions then attain abilities related to their personalities. It enables the magician casting the spell, the Magister, to transfer some of their magic power to the other person involved in the “pactio”, the Ministra, improving the Ministra’s natural capabilities, by an average of ten times their normal capacity, according to Chamo (Negi’s pet/familiar). They can then summon a magic artifact if they wish.
After the heated battles, Akamatsu mostly focuses on fun and games. And of course, lots of magically-induced goofiness, such as Asuna beating her head against a boulder for being interested in Negi. And the final gag is Konoka tackling a terrified Setsuna with proclamations of love. Good thing the other girls, especially Ayaka, didn’t get a hold of them. Probably by far my favorite two characters Konoka and Setsuna. They have been friends since childhood, the problem is, as the two have grown up, Setsuna’s friendship has turned into a full-blown crush. Which is a big problem, as not only is Setsuna trying to remain detached and failing miserably, but she’s also been brought up to believe that feeling such things for another girl is wrong. It doesn’t help that, once their initial ‘I’m avoiding you’ difficulties are settled, Konoka is nice, sweet, and unselfish and basically doing her best to be lovable, if completely oblivious. The wonderful thing about these characters is that they have sounded the same since volume 1. Even after a handful of different translators and people that have adapted the book, the characters have sounded the same from the beginning. Towards earlier volumes I thought I noticed a little of Peter David humor he puts in his own books, but in reality it was just the characters themselves.