Negima is Xebec’s 2005 anime adaptation of Ken Akamatsu’s fantasy manga, Negima! Magister Negi Magi. The 22-episode run follows recent mage-graduate, Negi Springfield, as he attempts to live up to his father’s name by becoming a Magister Magi, which essentially means you’re goated in the wizarding world.
He’s also 10-years-old and is teaching English to Mahora Academy’s all-girl Class of 2A. You know? Because teasing the possibility of Negi in totally zany ecchi-fanservicey situations with a bunch of teens was an actual creative decision actual people made. I’m not as knowledgeable in the school life harem sub-genre as someone with my type of patchy facial hair should be. Still, it doesn’t take an expert to notice the mixing of sexually suggestive themes and weird age-dynamics running rampant across the medium.
The first few episodes play for comedy. One of Negi’s students, Asuna, finds out he’s a mage and presses him to use his magical abilities to help her win the affections of Takahata-sensei.
There’s also a perverted rodent-like creature, a stoat or ermine named Albert, who appeals to my most childish comedic sensibilities with his brash attitude and chain-smoking habit. None of these scenarios are all that engaging, but the chemistry between Negi and Asuna is believable, and they share some fun moments of banter. The English voice-dub is interesting; it’s as if several characters are doing their best bad English accents to make fun of the posh affect. It’s so bizarre-sounding, it actually carries the often stilted animation.
Shortly after the light hijinks and awkward ecchi-tropes, Mahora’s first supernatural threat appears. One of Negi’s students, Evangeline, is revealed to be a vampire feasting on her peers. She was imprisoned by Negi’s father years ago — condemned to live her life as a student for eternity. Asuna forms a Pactio with Negi to help fight Evangeline. The Pactio is a temporary partner contract with a mage that grants the user a strength boost and some sort of weapon unique to their personality. This contract is signed with a kiss because, ugh. Negi ends up forming Pactios with all of his students. This character roster runs thirty-deep, and unfortunately, leaves most of Mahora’s students unexplored, forcing them to sustain off their quirks. Quirks include: being a robot, being a ghost, and being a streamer. All void of any real, meaningful character writing.
Anyways, Asuna gains some special abilities through the Pactio, though its suggested she has some innate ability to dispel magic on her own. The battle with Evangeline is entertaining enough, but it’s resolved quickly, as are most of the conflicts in the show. Ultimately, there are no meaty stakes or seismic, perilous threats to overcome. It also doesn’t seem like Negi is making any tangible progress in becoming a Magister Magi.
In the final few episodes, the whole show is just like, “Yeah, we don’t know either.” Asuna dies because of a deal she made with a demon as a child; there’s a time-traveling pocket watch, and all the students do those kiss-Pactios with Negi so they can travel through time, fight the demons and #FreeAsuna? For sure, seeing all the students with their powers square up for the final brawl is a cool moment, but the late-series pacing and tonal shifts are elephantine in their jarring presentation. Apparently, this is an issue of the anime going into production before anything of significant substance happened in the manga.
There are other adaptations of this series, as well as a spin-off titled “UQ Holder!” From what I’ve gathered online, the manga becomes a far more complex fantasy epic, rich in magical lore and strong character relationships.