Negima! Magister Negi Magi Vol. 18 (Del Rey)

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It’s the final battle between master wizard Negi Springfield and Martian magician Chao-san. The existence of the world hangs in the balance, and it seems that Chao’s ultimate spell has just kicked in. Will there be anything left when the light fades?

 

 

190 pgs. B&W; $10.95

(W / A: Ken Akamatsu)

 

Negi is a ten-year-old boy wizard/genius and a teacher at Mahora Academy, an all-girls school. And, while Negi would love to get on with his lesson plan, when you’re that talented it seems life just won’t leave you alone. Chao is a formidable Martian enemy from the future, every bit a magical marvel as Negi, and has just dealt the final incantation for her "End the World" spell. Who will be left standing?

Well, given that the battle ending is only at the very beginning of the book and the main character’s name is the title, it’s a pretty easy guess. Besides which, there appears to be a Quest for Negi’s missing Father afoot! Ah, the old missing-parent search, a tried and true mainstay of shounen (manga aimed primarily at young male audiences). The prodigy mage is following in the footsteps of his vanished-and-possibly-dead Dad, and in this volume Negi gets a hint from his magic master that makes him more determined than ever to find out what happened.

The cover to Negima vol. 18 by Ken Akamatsu. Click for a larger image.But writer Ken Akamatsu (creator of Love Hina) isn’t content to spend the rest of this volume letting Negi get on with his (I’m sure) arduous and magically-challenging chore. Instead, we are next treated to Misora, a young nun and one of Negi’s students, impersonating a priest and getting loads of juicy insider info about her classmates inside the confessional. For those interested in character development and dying to know who likes who, this is the chapter for you. Finally, there is a completely random (and silent) short "story" that is pure fanservice. It’s also just shy of being pornographic thanks to conveniently-placed strands of hair and steam. Although I knew Akamatsu was prone to panty-shots, this hot springs bit shocked me. The sixteen-plus rating on this manga definitely applies. What disquiets me the most, as always, is Negi being in the middle of it all. Even though this entire "story" is obviously meant to be a lighthearted series of comedic errors, I can’t decide—does his being ten make the bath scene with his female students less or five times more creepy? (I lean towards the latter.) In all, I wasn’t nearly as engaged with this volume as I was with the previous one, mostly because there was no central story. I suspect volume eighteen to be of a transitional nature, however, and so can let it slide.

In any case, I cannot fault Akamatsu on his artwork; as in previous volumes he does a great job with everything, and although the panels are sometimes cramped I don’t feel cheated for detail or forethought. I did learn something surprising, however: Akamatsu uses 3-D imaging for several of his backgrounds and panels, including the cover art. While I am not necessarily opposed to an artist employing CGI (after all, it’s their manga and still their artwork), I was slightly disappointed to learn that Akamatsu did not hand-draw absolutely everything on the pages. The overall effect is certainly delightful and beautiful, but I still feel as though he’s cheating. Perhaps it’s just art snobbery on my part…

Negima! volume 18 finishes up an epic battle, regroups all the characters, and sets the stage for Negi’s next adventure. Beyond that, there’s not much else that goes on, except for some character exposition and a hot spring scene. Obviously, if you want to know how the battle ends between Negi and Chao you’ll want to get this volume. If you’re just venturing into the world of Negima!, I’d suggest starting elsewhere. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

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