Today’s entry is a guest review! Written by Sean Gaffney, none of the opinions in this review are mine *at all*. I have asked Sean to review Mahou Sensei Negima for you, because I utterly loathe all of Ken Akamatsu’s work with a firey passion. Love Hina so enraged me that I am incapable of even attempting to read or watch anything else by this man. Why? Because the characters were VILE. The lead character, Keitaro, is SO utterly, horrendously, stupid and useless that the idea of anyone, ever, falling in love with such a complete yutz makes me physically ill. And the endlessly unfunny gag of seeing girls half-naked over and over and over and over, and zOMG, this is so funny the way he accidentally catches girls half-dressed or falls on them, ripping part of their clothes off and they beat him up, let’s see it again! still makes me see red.
So, many thanks to Sean for writing this review. :-)
This review only covers the Negima manga released in the US to date:
Negima’s from the creator of Love Hina, Ken Akamatsu. The basic premise has been called “Harem Potter”, and that’s not far off. A 10-year-old prodigy wizard is sent by his Hogwarts-esque school in Britain to Japan, there to teach English to14-year-old Japanese schoolgirls at an all-girl’s school. There are 31 girls in the class (well, one’s a ghost and one’s a robot, but you know what I mean), and Negi has his work cut out for him – not only does he have to bring their grades up, but he can’t let them know he’s a wizard!
Being from the creator of Love Hina, yuri fans weren’t expecting much from this series. But there’s a lot to find here once you get past a few basic problems.
The first, and most obvious, is that a lot of these girls have crushes on a 10-year-old boy. There’s a lot of slapstick grabbing of his crotch, etc, and as with Love Hina there’s just scores of bath scenes. There’s a basic ‘ick’ 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 past that, 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 8, a good 13 of the 31 girls are aware he’s a wizard, so the secret thing? Not so much. But Negi is likeable in a genuinely likeable way, as opposed to Love Hina‘s Keitaro, who seemed merely hapless. And Akamatsu is genuinely trying (and succeeding a good 75% of the time) to make each girl distinct and separate from each other girl.
Anyhow, on to the yuri factor. Nonexistent for the first 3 volumes, it kicks into gear in the 4th Volume, where we meet our Repressed Swordswoman, Setsuna Sakurazaki. On the Kyoto trip, she is paired with Negi and several other girls, including Konoka Konoe, who seems delighted to be going with her. Setsuna, however, is reluctant and aloof, and avoids Konoka as much as possible.
In the 5th Volume, we discover part of the reason for this: Konoka is the heir to a huge magical school, and Setsuna was introduced as her friend/bodyguard when the two were small. However, one day Konoka was almost drowned in a river, and little Setsuna couldn’t save her. Setsuna vowed to make herself stronger, and also to become more detached, so she wouldn’t let friendship interfere with her mission to protect.
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 and sweet and glompy and basically doing her best to be lovable, if completely oblivious.
There’s more I could add, but I’ll wait till Volume 6 comes out in June to reveal the other big reason why Setsuna wants to keep herself separate from Konoka. It’s a doozy.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Negima to the shoujo yuri fan. It’s filled with gratuitous nudity and slight shouta overtones. However, there is a good plot underlying this, and the Setsuna/Konoka pairing, while one-sided, is quite well done for both comedy and angst/drama, so for those who like shonen yuri, it’s a good one to pick up.
Art: 8 (Akamatsu’s a very good artist, and his fight scenes are actually easy to follow)
Characters: 7 (lots of girls, and with a few exceptions they’re each their own person)
Story: 6 (This may go up as more of the huge brimming backstory is revealed)
Yuri: 5 (Setsuna’s pretty much it so far, but her yuri arc is well handled).
Overall: 6.5. Not as bad as you might think, especially once past Volume 3.