After graduating from magic academy, ten-year-old Welsh wizard Negi Springfield dreams of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a Magister Magi. The last thing he was expecting was to be sent to Japan to become a teacher in an all-girl junior high school- but that’s exactly where he has been assigned! Can the pint-sized teacher cope with a class of thirty-one teenage girls?
Given my experience with Love Hina, and the whole creepiness of a ten-year-old boy surrounded by fanservice, I initially wasn’t interested in venturing into Ken Akamatsu’s juggernaut. Nonetheless, curiosity eventually got the better of me, and when combined with yet another chance to raid a sibling collection, I decided to give the series a go.
As I feared, fanservice was indeed to be a big part of the Negima experience, and although it greatly reduces after the first few volumes, it never entirely goes away. Normally, this wouldn’t be too much of an issue if the series had something else to offer, but there’s something creepy about fourteen-year-old girls getting naked in front of a ten-year-old boy- especially when they start peeking under his towel and taking a look at his ‘tackle’.
If you can live with this, however, Negima isn’t actually too bad a story, although it counts as ‘solid’ rather than good. Seemingly a mix of various different elements such as magic, romance, shounen-style tournaments and enemies, nothing is particularly original, but it is varied and well-paced enough to keep you reading. All in all, it’s not something you should prioritise if you have better series waiting, but if you’re stuck for something to read, then this will fill a gap.
Fortunately, Negima does have one trump card to play- compared to the usual run of dislikeable male lead, Negi is actually a rather pleasant character. Of course, he does have the usual destined powers and tragic past, but beyond this he is a hard-working, determined and optimistic person, far from the irritatingly arrogant or clumsily incompetent leads that we have seen so many times before.
Negi aside, there are also 31 girls to get to grips with (and that’s before considering any other supporting characters)- a mammoth task for the creator, let alone a reader. Admittedly, even after thirteen volumes I can’t remember all of their names and some are blanks in term of personality, but it’s surprising how many characters have had the chance to move into the spotlight and have their back stories revealed. And with so many to choose from, everyone is bound to find one or two characters that they like- whether it’s hot-headed ‘main girl’ Asuna, quiet librarian Nodoka, warrior Setsuna, class rep Ayaka, android Chachamaru or one of the many other choices on offer.
Artwork has always been Akamatsu’s strong point, and Negima is no exception- say what you like about the content, the character designs are always attractive, and amazingly enough, apart from a couple of lesser characters, it is easy enough to tell everyone apart. Settings and backgrounds have all been designed on computer, and are all highly detailed without feeling cluttered- there is enough content on each page to ensure that reading one volume takes longer than average, but at the same time it never feels too eye-achingly packed or crowded.
Despite appearing to be some sort of unholy fusion of Harry Potter and Love Hina, if you can get past the initial stigma attached to the series, Negima isn’t all that bad. It may not be poised to win any awards for quality or originality, but if you fancy some light reading and attractive character designs to while away a few spare hours, you could do worse than occupy yourself with this.