Negima! – Magic 201: Magic and Combat
Extras: Commentary Track, Character Profiles, Textless Songs, Trailers
FUNimation Entertainment has presented us with another eccentric anime series with magic and mayhem to spare. The 2005 series, "Negima!, " mixes comedy, romance, and a healthy dose of sorcery to create a thoroughly entertaining and lightweight diversion. In this second installment of the program, labeled "Magic 201: Magic and Combat" for the DVD, we get the next four hilarious episodes. Following the exploits of a young wizard-in-training straddling the threshold between boyhood and manhood, "Negima!" is a manic cartoon that is easy on the eyes and mind and features a bevy of colorful characters.
Negi Springfield is the young wizard, 10 years old to be exact, who travels to Japan to develop his craft. Employed as a homeroom instructor of English at a local middle school for girls (yes, at 10 years old!), Negi soon finds that his students are a mixed bag of outrageous personalities. Seeing him more as a playmate than a mentor, the girls cause quiet a bit of trouble for him, especially one named Evangeline, who turns out to be a vampire. With her trusted sidekick, a kind-hearted android named Chachamaru, almost constantly by her side, Evangeline plots to suck the blood from Negi. If this sounds like a lot of nonsense, we haven't even reached the heart of it, yet. There is also a talking ermine!
Episodes 7 through 10 are spread over one single-sided disc. They are (7) "The Appearance of Things are Deceptive," (8) "One Night Befalls All of Us," (9) "I'll Get You, Wascally Wabbit!," and (10) "Where There is Harmony, There is Victory." Although it all looks quite innocent and adorable, keep in mind that some of the material is a bit risqué and not particularly aimed at children. The DVD package does sport a TV-PG rating, and that is certainly appropriate. The schoolgirl antics depicted are just a tad sophisticated for the youngest members of the family, but this should appeal to the tween crowd, especially girls. Overall, this is not the type of hardcore Japanese animation that one regularly sees on TV, but it is a refreshing bit of escapism that is easily gotten into and just as easily forgotten.
Delivered in a fullframe presentation, the image on FUNimation's release is clean, but not spectacular. Several scenes appear to be somewhat faded or washed out, while others are bold and vibrant. Black levels are not always strong, but they are serviceable. In general, however, these are only minor gripes, and the picture appears to be free of artifacting and blemishes.
The audio comes to us via English and Japanese stereo tracks. Both sound pretty much the same, with warm voices and thundering music blaring through. The Japanese track sounds a little bit clearer, but neither is bad. It all comes down to the taste in language. Sound effects are well distributed and make for a more atmospheric presentation. Of course, English subtitles are provided.
Kicking off the extras, an audio commentary is provided for the first episode by voice actors Caitlin Glass and Clarine Harp, who supply the English voices for Kaede (one of Negi's more demonstrative students) and Chachamaru. The two women are bubbly and talkative, but nothing of great interest is revealed here.
We also get written profiles for three characters—Kaede, Chachamaru, and Evangeline. These are followed by a surprising feature called "Communal Bathing in Japan," a written overview of the well-known Japanese tradition of public bathing. I could not figure out the connection with "Negima!," but it may have something to do with the first DVD installment.
Textless versions of the opening and closing songs come up next, followed by a string of trailers.
For anime fans, "Negima!" may be a worthwhile venture. It is funny and whimsical, though perhaps a bit too silly for some. This is certainly not a complex work, and, for me at least, does not incite further interest in the rest of the series, but a few episodes are worth a look. It is escapist entertainment, pure and simple, with funny characters, racy humor, and a paper-thin story that is easy to pick up and follow, even if you haven't seen the first episodes.