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Negima Post Mortem

Hello everyone! Today I’m going to talk about something that I’ve been reading for the better part of a decade, and that came to an (abrupt) in early September. The series in question is Negima! a manga first serialized in the spring of 2004 (almost exactly 9 years before when the series will end). This series follows the adventures of child prodigy Negi Springfield, as he attempts to earn his stripes as a mage, by taking over teaching a class at an all girls academy (because that’s what you do DUH). Initially more about exploding clothes and gags, Negima slowly evolved from Akamatsu’s gag ecchi roots into something… else. More like a fan servicey battle manga really. How do I feel about the end of a series? Pretty desolated. Let’s give this story some context.

The first manga I ever read was Love Hina. I started reading it somewhere around when they released volume 4 of it stateside (It was published by the fledgeling Tokyopop, starting in May of 2002, take note that means I wasn’t quite 15 yet). This series was my introduction to manga, and my beat-to-hell copies of it still have a very special place in my heart. This was sort of my introduction to a lot of things, not the least of which was agonizing while I waited for the next volume of the manga to be published (in hindsight, they put out new volumes of Love Hina pretty fast compared to the pace Del Rey kept with Negima) When Love Hina finished, despite it only being a journey of less than two years, I felt… well like a space had been hollowed out of my chest. I should also say though that I thought the ending to Love Hina was great, and I was crushed by my feels. It was a glorious end to something that, to my still green 15 year old otaku mind was profoundly amazing.

Around a year later, Negima! was picked up by Del Rey, which was trying to get itself a slice of the anime boom pie, and I naturally latched right on to it. The art was familiar, the setup was familiar too, but Negima grew into something else. It was clear from something like the last quarter of Love Hina, that Akamatsu was interested in some more… fighty elements in his manga. Negima was his chance to do that. Sure it was couched in the same harem ecchi style, but that was just I think his comfort zone. As the story progressed, there was a lot more fighting, mixed in with all the fan servicey outfits and shipping (Negima is a shipping MESS let me tell you what). I absolutely DIED waiting for the next volumes to creep out at a glacial pace (38 volumes over something like 8 years averages to about 4 volumes a YEAR) and become more and more invested into the characters. Good so far right?

Well yeah, for a long time it was. At some point late in the final arc though something happened. I was still craving the stories of these characters, but it seemed clear that there was some hasty wrapping up going on. This was… not how I wanted to see all these characters and their stories ending. After 38 volumes, all we get is a vague wave off for our trouble? “Stuff happened and then the end they lived happily ever after.” What the hell man. What happened here? This is a series that was so popular that was adapted to a second freaking manga (Negima! Neo in the US), so why can’t the manga get a proper ending? I feel like I don’t understand a lot of what happened with Negima! behind the scenes really. It’s seen numerous animated adaptations (all of them pretty lousy) 2 different mangas, and a live action drama (I haven’t seen it no) and several game adaptations, but the general quality was always kind of low outside of the original manga. Eventually that too seemed forced into an unsatisfying ending that’s squandered something like 35 volumes worth of build up with a resolution that felt really half thought out. After some research, I’ve discovered that copyright issues from Kodansha were responsible for this. In order to protect the rights to his own work, Akamatsu was forced to end Negima abruptly. While that’s understandable, I am still filled with regret.

 It’s been a little bit over a year since Negima! ended it original Japanese run. Since then, Akamatsu has had his hands in several pies, working on various projects but not actually announcing or starting a new manga of his own (one of these projects is the launching of J-Comi, a web service that will allow readers to download PDFs of and read manga that are out of print, free of charge. Love Hina’s 14 volumes were the first posted to this service, and I think it’s a fantastic idea). This has me nervous. For one, I have ALWAYS been reading a series written by him, since I’ve been reading manga. It would be sad after all that time to end on such a sour note, with nothing to wash that taste out of my mouth. I know that he can do better, he HAS in the past, and I want to see something new and good from him. His recently launched stealth sequel to Negima, UQ Holder! has me filled with hope, but chances are we won’t see it stateside for some time (it only debuted in the end of August in Kodansha).

At this point I’m ready to regretfully let Negima go, and hope for a bright new beginning on some other series. (As an aside Bakuman got its last volume, Volume 20 released in August, so this past summer was rough all around for my reading list).

I believe that he has another Love Hina in him, and the 15 year old goober in me wants to see it. I hope I’m not left out in the cold.

In case you’re interested, Love Hina has been collected in Omnibus format by Kodansha Comics, check it out here (the last volume was released last month): Love Hina Omnibus Vol. 1

Negima is also being gathered into omnibus, and even if I wasn’t thrilled by the end, its worth a read for all that came before: Negima! Omnibus Vol. 1

That’s all this week, see you later gang!

JT

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