Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Negima! (manga, vol. 18) by Ken Akamatsu

The Mahora Festival finally concludes with the defeat of Chao and those who sided with her. Negi, being a nice boy, invites Chao to stay in this time period and become a Magister Magi along with him. Although she is touched by the invitation, she declines and goes back to her own time. Not long after the festival is over, Negi and the various girls with which he has temporary contracts go to Albireo Imma's home deep inside Library Island. Albireo confirms what Negi has always hoped, that Negi's father is indeed still alive. If Negi wants to find him, he should begin his quest by traveling to Wales.

The plot takes a brief break, while all the students stop by and confess at Misora's church - many of them aren't exactly sure what it means to confess, but that doesn't stop them from saying everything that's on their minds. Several of the girls express their deep concerns and feelings involving Negima while confessing, unaware that they're talking to Misora and not a priest. The plot continues to take a break with the next, nearly wordless story about Negi's attempts to rescue his ring from the other students with the help of Akira, a member of the swim team. After that, it's back to the plot, as Negi finally decides what he's going to do about the knowledge that his father is still alive. He will go to Wales, and he's not sure if he'll be coming back. He invites Asuna to go with him, but other girls with which he has temporary contracts also tell him they'll go with him.

I can't say how relieved I am that the Mahora Festival is finally over. It's not that it didn't have its interesting points, it's just that the whole thing took much, much longer than I felt it should have, and the whole time travel aspect made it even worse. I was disappointed that, after all that hinting about Chao's terrible past and her relationship to Negi (he's her ancestor), nothing actually came of any of it. Akamatsu never tells readers any of the specifics of Chao's past and he doesn't reveal who Negi will end up having children with.

I enjoyed the bit on Library Island. Not only was Albireo there (Albireo is one of my favorite characters), but this part also forced the plot to move forward. Beginning in the next volume, unless Akamatsu decides to bog things down with filler, things are going to change. Besides that, I also enjoyed the interaction between Albireo and Evangeline - I imagine that all that teasing (on Albireo's part) and anger (on Evangeline's part) is going to fuel a lot of Albireo/Evangeline romantic fan fiction.

The parts that weren't directly related to the plot at least had the benefit of showing emotions and relationships. The confessions part dealt with emotions a great deal. Several of the girls had a lot of things happen during the Mahora Festival that they couldn't actually process and deal with at the time, because of all the danger and action - their confessions gave them the opportunity to work through whatever was bothering them. For instance, Nodoka had to deal with her feelings of guilt over her jealous reaction to the bond between Yue and Negi. The nearly wordless story was much less related to the plot, but it was a nice, sweet way to show Negi's relationship with yet another one of his students, one who I don't think has gotten much story time before now.

Overall, this volume was okay, but it was really just setting things up for the exciting changes coming up in the next volume. I can't wait to see what happens when Negi and the girls travel to Wales. The squealing fangirl in me hopes that Albireo will somehow find a way to show up in future volumes, in flashbacks if nothing else (there's a preview of the next volume that is encouraging in this regard, since it shows Negi's father and his companions, including Albireo, battling something).

As far as extras go, there's four pages of fan art done by fans in Japan, information about some of the 3-D backgrounds used, a page of Lexicon Negimarium (explaining Latin used in the volume, plus any spells), an updated Class Chart (several new comments), the line drawings used for the front and back covers, a little snippet by Akamatsu about the character Satomi Hakase, her voice actor, and the next volume, a page of translation notes (I wish there had been more), and a four-page untranslated preview of the next volume.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Sabriel (book) by Garth Nix - This is the first in Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy. Sabriel is in her last year at Wyverley College, which is located in an area where Magic doesn't work. When she finds out that her father is somehow trapped in Death, Sabriel must journey to the Old Kingdom, where Magic does work, in order to find him and save him. Sabriel, like her father, has the power to lay the dead to rest, and she must use this ability to save herself and those she befriends as she attempts to help her father. Those who'd like another story featuring magic, action, and a main character on a quest to find their father might like this book. Just be warned, it's not nearly as light and humorous as Negima.
  • Inuyasha (manga) by Rumiko Takahashi; Inuyasha (anime TV series) - Kagome is an ordinary schoolgirl living in present day Tokyo. One day, she travels to feudal Japan by way of an ancient well and discovers that she is the reincarnation of the priestess who once guarded the powerful Shikon Jewel. After the jewel is accidentally shattered, Kagome, a half-demon named Inuyasha, and others team up in order to recover all the shards. Those who'd like another series with magic, action, and romance might like to try this manga/anime. Also, Inuyasha, like Negi, has some father issues that he needs to deal with.
  • Love Hina (manga) by Ken Akamatsu - Keitaro Urashima has been trying to get into Tokyo University for two years because when he was a child he promised a girl that they could go there together, but he keeps failing the entrance exams. After he is kicked out of his parents' house he goes to live at his Grandmother's inn, which has apparently become an all-girls dorm. Keitaro becomes the dorm manager and gets into all kinds of trouble with the girls, including Naru Narusegawa, who has her own reasons for trying to get into Tokyo University. Those who'd like another manga in which one guy is surrounded by a bunch of pretty girls, many of whom like him, might like this classic harem manga, created by the same guy responsible for Negima. This manga is focused much more on romance than Negima.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (book) by J. K. Rowling - After spending 10 years with his uncle, aunt, and their bully of a son, all people who hate him, Harry Potter learns that he is a wizard and has been invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Although things don't exactly become easy, as he tries to deal with a new magical world he knows nothing about, his celebrity status in the world of witches and wizards, and a powerful enemy who tried to kill him when he was just a baby, Harry still manages to enjoy himself and make friends. Those who'd like another story about a boy wizard with a mysterious past and questions about his parents might like this book, which is the first in a series.

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