“Negi Springfield is ten years old . . . and a powerful wizard! This boy wizard is the greatest prodigy ever to graduate from his magic school in England. After graduation, however, Negi’s given an unusual assignment: teach English at an all-girl school in Japan. Now Negi has to find a way to deal with his thirty-one totally gorgeous–and completely overaffectionate–students . . . without using magic! Based on the Negima! anime, this is a fresh take on the beloved Negima! story.”
As a faithful reader of the Negima! manga, I was curious about this new release. At first glance, it didn’t seem to line up with the Negima! I’d grown to love, nor did it seem to be a sequel of some sort. I decided to pick it up and give it a read to see what it was all about. Negima!? Neo is a retelling of the Negima! story by Akamatsu Ken. More accurately, this manga is based on the Negima! anime that was based on the Negima! manga. So a manga based on an anime that was based on a manga.
This rendition is penned by Fujima Takuya, and the differences are immediately clear. While the art and character designs are heavily influenced by the work by Akamatsu-sensei, there is a distinct style that sets it apart from the original work. Overall, the art has a lighter and more childish feel. The girls, in particular, are drawn to look like their actual age (no one is overly endowed beyond what is expected at their age). This leads me to believe that there will be far less fan service in this version. I guess one can think of it as a PG version of Negima (whereas the original work was PG-13).
In terms of the story, both the cover and foreword make note that this is an adaptation of the anime. Since I hadn’t watched much of the anime (wasn’t a big fan, honestly), I can’t really comment to how well it sticks. From the first volume, a lot of the main scenes seem to line up with the original manga, though it does seem a bit faster paced. Evangeline shows up much sooner and the Pactio with Asuka happens rather quickly. Side character development seems to take a back seat to action and primary storyline, so you don’t get as much disposition of the other students in Negi’s class.
In addition to the quick story progression, a “chapter 0” is included that provides some interesting back story on Negi and his graduation from the Magic Academy. Anya (Negi’s childhood friend) is introduced here as they set off for the graduation exam. There seemed to be a bit of Harry Potter influence here, with the atmosphere and Negi’s aspirations to become a great wizard like his father. It is also at this point where he really awakens as a wizard and expresses his power and potential.
After going through the first volume, I’m not sure who the intended audience is. Fans of the original manga (like myself), aren’t likely to enjoy the retelling with modifications, while fans of the anime would likely go for the original manga to experience the stories that didn’t make it into the animation. So that leaves me with one conclusion. This manga is for those who want to enjoy the parts of the Negima story that weren’t written by Akamatsu Ken. This is probably also aimed at readers who wanted to read Negima, but were turned off by the fanservice and overly busty junior high girls.
I’ll likely not be picking up the second volume, though if you’re interested in checking it out, Negima!? Neo can be had at your local bookseller or any of the online retailers. Retail price for this Del Rey release is US$10.99/CA$12.50.