we got it wrong

(Sorry, spoilers for Negima ahead.)

Having an archive of old posts is both a blessing and a curse. Well, mostly a curse. ;) I was reading an LA Times book review on Negima (and a few other series) that compared Neggie to Harry Potter and ranted about:

However, a pack of nubile females pursuing a prepubescent boy may not play as well in the U.S., where some might consider these images slightly suggestive of child molestation.

Ok, that’s fairly similar to my post from over a year ago:

Negima is Love Hina meets Harry Potter, which was pretty much what I expected. Yes, I’m still bothered by the fact that Negima is 10 years old, and the class is mostly slightly older than him, but the manga is 16+.

Well, we both got it wrong. Negima isn’t about child molestation, and it certainly isn’t like Love Hina or Harry Potter. It’s Naruto. It’s DBZ. It’s typical Toriyama-style shounen mindless action, and only because Nodoka looks like Shinobu do we quickly affix this harem genre tag to it. Yes, there’s plenty of fanservice, and Neggie does indeed have a “harem,” but the manga has really taken a turn for the DBZ with all the powering ups and the “I wanna be stronger angle.”

Typical Toriyama-style series will have powering up and trying to be the greatest whatchamacallit ever, like Naruto trying to become the greatest ninja ever. Yep, Neggie wants to be the best magician. It will have the hero outset on a master goal, like Ed trying to restore Al’s body. Yep, Neggie is trying to find his dad. It will have battles that span many, many chapters and probably stack team against team, like The Straw Hat Pirates against Arlong Park. Yep, Neggie does that too… fights everyone from the girls in his “harem” to his dad’s friends to sinister organizations scheming behind the scenes.

Asuna vs. Setsuna, chapter 102

So the style of Negima has really shifted from the early chapters where he plays volleyball to the current arcs where it’s fight -> power up -> repeat. Fanservice? No more than what Orohime or Robin Nico would provide… and certainly substantially less than what Love Hina featured around chapter 100. Harem? More like his version of the Straw Hat Pirates than the Motoko-Mitsumi-Naru all-star team. Light-hearted series? People die. I guess Akamatsu really threw us for a loop… he threw a jab that looked like Love Hina with 10 year olds but ended up sucker punching us with Bleach (if memory serves me correctly tonight, which it probably doesn’t since I’m tired, Asuna’s sword is named the same as Ichigo’s…).

Usually, first impressions with anime and manga is tricky, but series typically don’t fundamental shift as drastically as Negima. But it happens… and thin-slicing an anime can be very deceiving. Judging Evangelion by its first few episodes, it seemed very much like giant robot vs. monster of the week. Well, in the end, it somehow managed to be substantially more than monster of the week. Or how Mahoromatic started as maid ecchi-fest and somehow turned into Cowboy Bebop (though I blame Gainax for it). Also, Initial D started out as part love story as Takumi started racing only because he needed an escape after seeing Mogi with an older guy, but she got written out of the story and soon it became 100% ricing. Then there’s Full Metal Panic which somehow started with a terrorist hijacking, goes into an arc involving Sagara stealing Chidori’s underwear, then into yet another terrorist hijacking (of a sub at least), then into Sagara running around in a bear costume training a rugby team, and now with TSR, there’s incestuous twins. So, sometimes, don’t write off a series too quickly as “this” or “that”… because it may not be either.

3 Responses to “we got it wrong”

  1. This almost makes me regret deciding to drop collecting Negima, because immediatley I thought, “Rehashed Love Hina.”

    But I’ve been burned by manga developmental plots before. (Yuu Watase! SPLECK!)

  2. Well retracted, sir!

    I must admit that Negima has had much better staying-power for me than Love Hina, which got old and tired much faster. Much of this has to do with the “harem” having a plausible, reasonably-fixed size at the beginning of the series (his classroom), and variety of cliches — I mean character archetypes — used in constructing said harem. Having a male protagonist that isn’t some hapless twerp is a big plus, as well.

  3. Not to be years late in responding to a post, but I could have sworn that I read somewhere a rumor about the Negima manga that went something like: Akamatsu Ken wanted to write an action manga from the start, but he got himself archetyped due to the monstrous success of the Love Hina brand. So, he pitched it as a harem/comedy/action universe, only to pull the switcheroo (admittedly multiple volumes in, perhaps once a fanbase developed or too late for the plug to be pulled) to make it an ACTION/harem/comedy. I like it a lot, especially because of the quality of art and action pieces. Very few mangas are as successful at portraying action, so it’s a welcome relief from the speed lines and simple hit-for-hit brawnfests in so many other “action” stories.

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