Negima! Magister Negi Magi Vol. 17 (Del Rey)

negima17-header.jpgWizards! Mechas! Magical cat girls! It’s a battle to the finish and boy magician Negi has to fight them all in this fanservice-laden harem series.

 

 

190 pgs. B&W, $10.95

(W / A: Ken Akamatsu)

 

Negi Springfield is a genius, a wizard, and a teacher at Mahora Academy. He’s also ten years old. Unfortunately, when you’re that talented, you have to expect some challengers, and Negi’s no exception. Chao, a Martian warrior, is determined to destroy the world, and she just might have the magical skills to defeat Negi, her one true opponent. It’s magic versus future technology, and there can be only one winner. Everyone is fighting on the field, but will it be enough to stop Chao?

Negima is, quite frankly, one of the strangest shonen (comics which typically appeal to boys) manga I’ve read in a while. Writer Ken Akamatsu—who also wrote the popular Love Hina series—hasn’t gone with just one genre with Negima, but instead has thrown everything together with wild abandon. Robots and futuristic weaponry mingle with magic, which is at the heart of this story arc’s conflict. Shockingly, his tactic worked. Negima, although initially disorienting for one expecting a purely magic-themed manga, is nonetheless highly entertaining.

No, that's not suggestive at all! The cover to Negima vol. 17 by Ken Akamatsu. Click for a larger image.Anyone who has come in on the middle of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball series can sympathize when I say that Negima has enough characters to make your head spin. There are at least fifteen main characters, and, being seventeen volumes into the series, Akamatsu doesn’t waste any time on expository background for anyone. This is purely a Giant Battle issue. Still, even though the sheer volume of characters nearly bowled me over, as I continued reading I did find it admirable that Akamatsu gave fairly even weight to each person introduced, and I suspect that each character’s background was nicely fleshed out in previous issues.

Negima, being an Akamatsu series, includes lots of fanservice—i.e., scantily clad women, panty shots, and even some disintegrating clothes—and therefore is probably not the best manga for younger readers. I did find the constant skin exposure a little tiring, but keeping in mind the target audience (teen boys) I’m sure it’s spot-on. Also, Akamatsu’s gorgeous art gave some weight to the series’ credibility, and prevented it—at least for me—from coming off as too creepy. Akamatsu’s work is highly detailed, from the town architecture to rune casting, and every costume is well drawn and innovative, even in their various states of decomposition. Still, the fact that nearly every female character in the series has a major crush on Negi (who looks a little too much like Harry Potter for my taste) made my eye-rolling turn to twitching when I found out he was ten. If Akamatsu had made Negi, say, fourteen, I wouldn’t have that much of a problem, especially given that Negi in no way looks or acts like a ten-year-old. I thought for the longest time that he was just a very diminutive teenager, perhaps like Yugi Moto of Yu-Gi-Oh!. But no—he’s ten. And he has a harem.

These complaints aside, I found myself inexplicably drawn into the story of Negima, and I fully admit to loving the great fight scenes—which this volume is full of. While I didn’t understand everything that was happening in Negima, and I don’t recommend grabbing a random later volume due to the sheer complexity of the series, I could definitely continue reading Negima and recommend it. It’s fun, well-drawn, and has mechas and magic enough for any fan. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

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