Sometimes it seems like harem anime is a dime a dozen. You know the drill, a single guy surrounded by beautiful girls who fawn over him and desire nothing more than to get his attention. We've seen it countless times before, and through many variations, in shows such as Tenchi, Shuffle!, Oh My Goddess!, El Hazard, and Sorcerer Hunters are fine examples of harem series. When you're talking about harem though, you simply can't forget Love Hina and its creator Ken Akamatsu. It's probably the most beloved example of the genre doing everything right and helped put Akamatsu on the map. His next effort, Negima pretty much did the same thing.
With a more fantastical theme under its belt, Negima was a popular magical harem variation. It has seen numerous series, manga, and OVA since it originally came out. FUNimation has already released the original series and some of the one-shots, but recently they started digging into the second series entitled Negima!?. This one was more of a reboot of the franchise and it served as a way to bring the show closer to its manga roots. The humor felt better, the relationships seemed more natural, and all around the show was slightly more entertaining than the original. We already checked out the first part with episodes 1 through 13 though, and today we're looking at the second DVD boxed set with episodes 14 through 26.
In case you're unfamiliar with it, the concept working behind this version of Negima is more or less the same as the original. The series centers on the adventures of young Negi who is a ten year old graduate from an academy of magic. He's been sent out into the real world to teach and has the unfortunate distinction of getting a class at Mahora Academy in Japan. Considering he's a little kid from England it's not surprising that he sticks out like a sore thumb, especially when you consider he's teaching an all-girls class. It makes him even more unique with regards to show, creates some light harem aspects, and gives him plenty of opportunity to interact with the students in hilarious fashion.
Throughout the first part we discovered more about the bizarre students poor Negi has to teach and bond with. He reveals the potential of each girl by forming a pact with them through a kiss, which is one of the series' recurring gags. More of that continues with this installment, but at the beginning with episode 14 the show picks up right where it left off. Negi has been turned into a chupacabra and he and the girls are still trapped in another world. In the first episode of this set the girls he's with have to figure out how to get him back into human form, but just when everything seems like it's back to normal the rug is pulled out from under them again. On their way home they hit a snag and wind up in another alternate world.
These kinds of magical high jinx continue for a while and in all honesty there really is no big happening until you near the end of the show. The series meanders around for far too many episodes during these DVDs, and we receive a little too much filler for my tastes. Granted it's nice to break away every once in a while and just have a laugh for the sake of comedy, but when these breaks come back to back to back it kind of gets old. Luckily the show comes around towards the end and puts on a dramatic showing that I feel trumped the original show's ending.
Whether or not you appreciated the first series of Negima your reaction to this version will undoubtedly be more or less the same. The show itself is nothing special really, it doesn't break any molds and it doesn't push the envelope. Fortunately it does have enough personality and it is entertaining enough to stand on its own so in the end it's an easy recommendation. Like the first part, this second one is a hot. I do feel that the show strayed a little too much during some of the episodes, but when it's on track it is great fun.
Negima!? is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The show looks pretty good on DVD with some vibrant colors, great animation, and a relatively solid video transfer. I'm not going to beat around the bush; FUNimation packed too many episodes onto each disc (7 on the first, 6 on the second) which means higher than normal compression artifacts and video noise. It's not to the point that it's very distracting, but it is noticeable and more care could have been taken with regards to improving the compression rate. Despite this flaw the season as a whole looks good so far and it's visually pleasing though it's not going to knock your socks off.
The audio presentation for Negima!? comes in the form of two 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo packages with English and Japanese languages as you'd expect. This is a dialogue driven show for the most part, but there are some elements of action here and there which could have used a greater sense of immersion. Overall the show doesn't feel lacking because of this, but it doesn't necessarily stand out either. Thankfully the presentation is otherwise solid with fine enough quality and dubs that are equally effective with what they attempt to do.
Much like the first part of the series, the second includes a decent selection of bonus features to peruse. First up is "Notes from the Classroom". This one has a few pages dedicated to each episode and breaks down the kanji that appeared on screen. It also helps fill you in on some references to pop culture items and whatnot that you may not understand. "Go Mahora Rangers!" is just a bit of music from the show set to some photos of the English cast during recording sessions. There is also an audio commentary for the 19th episode available as well. This one is very similar to the commentary found on the first part of Negima!? and is worth checking out. Closing out this release's supplemental content are the standard trailers and textless songs.
Negima!? is a fun show in its own right. Though it's technically the second season of the franchise it stands completely on its own, or as a fine accompaniment to the original. It has its own sense of style and features many original aspects to it, despite being firmly rooted in a genre known for being cliché. Not every episode in its 26 episode run is a hit out of the park, but there's more than enough laughs here to keep you coming back for more despite the filler. Consider it recommended.
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!