Negima! started as a popular manga by Ken Akamatsu that was then made into a popular anime that has been made back again into a popular manga with the title Negima?! neo. From reading about the breakdown of this new title’s history it sounds a little like a back translation. In the translation business a back translation is sometimes requested by a client and it means that after a translation is done (say Japanese to English) the client wants to pay for a translation (obviously by a different translator) back into the original language to compare how accurate the translation is.
From what I understand Negima?! neo is directed to a wider audience (read: younger) than Negima!, though in English it is still rated for older teens. I have never read the Negima! manga or seen the anime series, so Negima?! neo is my first exposure to Negi Springfield’s universe, and this seems to allow me a perspective (or lack of perspective) that is different from other reviewers.
Our story starts at the end of one journey. Magical child prodigy Negi Springfield is just finishing his U.K. magic school at the ripe old age of 10. His is focused on one thing and one thing only: following in his missing father’s footsteps. After graduation Negi is assigned to continue his studies (for some reason) at a Japanese all-girls junior high school. Only Negi isn’t going to be a student, but a teacher. To be more specific he will be an English teacher and a have his own home room. (Note: In Japan students have home rooms through high school, which means all day is spent with the same classmates mostly in the same classroom, rather than the Western style of the students changing rooms and classmates each period.)
Regular readers of shojo manga will easily look passed the unlikely set up (10-year-old magician becomes teacher at Japanese school, is told not to use his magic, and is assigned to live with two of his female students), and will probably be forgiving of the high volume of asides and SD action in the first chapters that make this anime adaptation feel just like that: an anime adaptation. However as the plot unfolds things move away from a gag-a-frame to a more coherent and comprehensible story.
One thing I always dread about first volumes of harem-style stories is the massive volume of characters that are often introduced. But one clever accidental boob grab and the running plot point of the non-Japanese Negi having a hard time remembering his students’ names told me that writer Ken Akamatsu has done this before, and I appreciated these two of several attention-grabbing techniques that kept this non-shojo loving reader interested to the end.
We got battles. We got moe. We got humor. And finally, after a couple of chapters, we got a story. That’s the main thing that is going to keep this series going.
From reading reviews of actual Negima! it sounds like this lighter version is a bit of a disappointment to some established fans, though more is explained in this version (if more was explained what were they doing in the original?). However, as a first introduction to the Negima! universe, by the end I had little to complain about. Actually from reading some of the reviews I am less inspired to pick up Negima! the original series. I generally have nothing against fan service, but it sounds a little over my top.