Monday, August 9, 2010

First Impressions: Negima! Magister Negi Magi

Negima! Magister Negi Magi

Company/Studio: Xebec
TV Station: TV Tokyo
Licensed By: Funimation Entertainment

Main Characters (Of the Episode):
• Negi Springfield (Greg Ayres)
• Asuna Kagurazaka (Luci Christian)
• Takamichi T. Takahata (Mark Stoddard)
• Konoka Konoe (Monica Rial)
• Nodoka Miyazaki (Leah Clark)

Negima! is based off the manga, Negima! Magister Negi Magi, written by Ken Akamatsu, who is also know for the famous harem series Love Hina. The manga was first debuted in 2003 and then the anime adapted followed in 2005 (Not to mention the OVA that came first). The manga series would become even more popular, spawning an additional series different from this one; more OVAs; a live action TV drama; and in 2011, an animated movie!

This anime in question was created in early 2005 and by then, about 9 volumes of the growing 30+ volume series were out. As such, the anime ends quite early and ends differently than the manga.

Our episode begins in Mahora Academy, where in the girls’ bath/pool we spy our female lead, Asuna Kagurazaka trying to perform some sort of magic spell given to her by her best friend, Konoka Konoe. The ‘spell’ is supposed to make Takamichi T. Takahata, Asuna’s English teacher who she crushing on hard, fall in love with her. Any spell involving sponges and a fish costume cannot be considered a real spell and Konoka is, amusingly, quick to point out how desperate her friend is.

The two of them then head off for school, as it is the first day of the semester. On the way there, they run into ten year old Negi Springfield, who informs Asuna that she’ll be very unlucky in love. She confronts him angrily about his statement and during which, Negi sneezes. When he does, a large gust of wind appears from nowhere, blowing her skirt up. Like one can guess, this only infuriates her more. Before she can pound him hard, the school bell rings and the two girls take off for class before their late.

We cut to Class 2-A, Asuna and Konoka’s homeroom. This point, we introduced to a few key players throughout the show that’ll be of importance from the class representative Ayaka Yukihiro to the quiet Setsuna Sakurazaki (Though none of them are important for the moment). Their new homeroom teacher steps in and it turns out to be Negi Springfield. However, as he steps in, an eraser falls onto his head, but for a split second, Asuna sees that after he mumbled a few words, it had stopped in mid air for a few seconds.

Once the class discovers he is their new homeroom and English teacher, they are overjoyed and excited (Perhaps a bit too excited by what some say) about having a little kid as a teacher, but Asuna is sadly heartbroken (What over obsessed girl wouldn’t be?) and naturally suspicious about the eraser incident. Throughout the rest of the class, Asuna tries to see if he can stop anymore things by flicking erasers at him.

After an extremely exhausting day (Breaking up classroom brawls between girls is hard work after all), Negi relaxes outside by a fountain taking a look at his classroom roster. As he does, he notices one of his students, Nodoka Miyazaki, carrying a ton of books down a bunch of stairs. She takes a misstep accidently and tumbles off of the stairs, towards the stone ground. As she falls, Negi pulls out a magic broomstick and says a spell that manages to catch her from crashing to the ground hard.

She gently falls now and Negi manages to catch her, who has now passed out from the shock. However, things still haven’t gone completely right though. The episode then ends when he looks up and discovers Asuna standing nearby, stunned by what she just witnessed.

The Good, the Bad, and Everything Else in Between:
For those who have read the Negima, they’ll notice a bunch of differences right off the bat with the first episode. For most, the beginning is much different, starting off with Negi instead of Asuna and Konoka. They also discover Negi is their new teacher much sooner than they did in the show. However, these moments and a couple of others (Ones that tone down the fanservice quite a bit) do not hurt the episode in anyway, they are just noticeable.

The animation is fine, if not a bit bland. Everything is very bright and colorful in the episode from the settings and to the characters themselves. Curiously, the girls’ hair colors are all over the place, from blonde to blue to light green to even magenta. I point this out since a couple of their hair colors are a bit different from the covers on the manga and other series of the show. Again, this does not hurt the episode anyway; it is just something I noticed.

The music is oddly unremarkable and doesn’t really do much to set certain moods in the scenes. The music that played when Nodoka fell is a good example, where there was very light and sounds like there was a toy piano (Could have been a xylophone though) being played among the other instruments used.  The opening song is a sort of catchy, but the closing one was a bit uninteresting. Overall, the music was the weakest link.

Turning to the English dub here, I think we have an okay job here. Now every girl in the sounds age appropriate, even the ones who didn’t say much and were mostly in the background for the episode. Konoka was the odd girl out however, sounding more like a soft spoken 10 year old with a pinch of a high pitch in it. Doesn’t bother me, but it could bother some others though. Takahata was the only other male performance and he was good here as well. A soft, but firm voice that matches the character I think well.

Regarding the two leading characters for the show, Greg Ayres plays Negi and Luci Christian is Asuna and their performance are mixed. Greg gives Negi an accent that does match up with him considering Negi’s background and where he came from. However, the performance felt lackluster and didn’t strike me. Though it is a first episode and he does get better as the show goes on admittedly. Luci was just pure gold as Asuna though and fits the character quite well, capturing her intense and angry personality very nicely.

Finally, let’s wrap this up with a look at the episode in general. The episode’s story is based off the first half of chapter 1 of the manga and it is more or less follows it well. I mentioned there were a few changes to it, but the episode still got all the main points down that were important from it. Strangest thing about the changes was that they tried to make it a sort of big reveal as Negi being the new teacher for the school and that he knows magic. Seems pointless since everybody watching the show probably already read the manga or already has a basic understanding of what the show will be about.

Overall Impression:
The episode does indeed work and set everything up for the upcoming series right. We established the female lead well and leave us interested in knowing more about Negi, if you don’t already know tons about him already. While the animation and music are unimpressive, the voice work is decent enough to probably average these issues out.

If you are a fan of Negima and Ken Akamatsu, you’ll probably want to check this out. If you are hoping this story will be following the series exactly, even given the fact the show ends even before the manga hits its tenth volume; you’ll probably be a disappointed at some parts in this episode and in later ones as well. However, if you don’t like the first episode, you probably won’t be sold on the series even with the things coming. I personally recommend just sticking with the manga though.

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