Reviewby Theron Martin, Oct 5th 2006
DVD 2: Magic 201: Magic & Combat
Stinging from his defeat by Evangeline and Chachamaru, Negi discovers Kaede training solo up in the mountains and spends a day with her, one which renews his determination. Meanwhile, Chamo is busy convincing Asuna to become Negi's partner so that he can successfully tackle the vampire and her robotic minion, which is going to involve kissing Negi as part of the “pactio” ceremony. Things aren't all magical battles, however, as Negi later gets taken on an unintended tour of the campus by the twins. New conflict arises when some high school girls start to get pushy with Class 2-A members about use of some courts, which results in a determined dodge-ball match with Negi caught in the middle.
Although it got off to a good start, with episodes 7-10 Negima's formula for fun starts to flounder.
It's at its best whenever Chamo, the talking ermine, is in a scene or Negi gets to interact with various members of his homeroom class, such as his encounter with Kaede in episode 7 or his sojourn with the twins in episode 9. At times it is funny, and it does greatly reduce the presence of the fan service that was so prominent in the first volume. We also get to see Negi's father for the first time and learn a bit more background about Evangeline.
Where these episodes are most deficient is in the action scenes, such as the lame and predictable magical battles against Evangeline and the equally unimpressive and predictable dodge ball contest. The animation is still the weakest part of the series' production, but these scenes also suffer from dull choreography and a lack of visual flashiness. The pathetically tired set-up for the dodge ball competition, and the numbingly predictable and feel-good follow-through, also don't help matters.
In fact, the whole “goody-goody” sub-theme becomes tiring after a while. While Negi's emphasis on always considering his duty and responsibilities as a teacher is commendable to a point, it's overdone to the point of being annoyingly obsessive, as if the writers couldn't come up with any other personality trait to work with. The pattern of Negi learning more from his students than he's teaching them might work if it wasn't handled so bluntly, and his spineless good-naturedness is too typical of the standard archetype for harem series heroes. The obsessing of the female students over how adorable Negi is also quickly wearing out its entertainment value.
Another problem is the dearth of screen time given to Asuna. The first volume and plot circumstances clearly set her up to be the #2 character in the series, but she spends nowhere near as much time on the screen or interacting with Negi as she did in the first few episodes. Better-handled is reducing the emphasis of Class 2-A girls to a mere handful, as the full cast is too big for even the majority of them to have meaningful parts. The lack of any details on the ghost character, who only briefly appears once, is also disappointing, but presumably her story and those of others who have received little attention so far will be dealt with as the series progresses.
The artistry maintains Negi and Chamo's cuteness and does a commendable job of clearly differentiating between all the girls (even the twins!) but isn't especially praiseworthy beyond that. Exterior renditions of buildings and campus views look good, but otherwise the background art is only acceptable. Beyond the magical circles drawn for the “pactio” ceremonies, none of the magical effects are particularly impressive. Animation, as noted above, is particularly unimpressive. The musical score is also not particularly distinctive. It does its job, but that's about it.
What saves the volume from total mediocrity is the quality of the dub work. FUNimation's English dub does an excellent job of casting and defining all the key characters in this volume. The English version of Evangeline has an aristocratic, vaguely British accent well-suited to a century-old character, an accent which the English version of Chachamaru more or less shares. Greg Ayres is adorable as Negi in a performance which sounds vaguely Welsh and definitely less girly, and Luci Christian is certainly a good fit for Asuna. Alison Retzloff, who is probably best-known as the English voice for Conan in Case Closed, does a noteworthy job in a starring role as the twins in episode 9, as she makes both sound appropriately girly. The unquestioned top performance, though, is Chris Cason as Chamo, whose Brooklyn-accented take on Chamo is done with great enthusiasm. He is the reason why Chamo steals every scene he's in. The dub is still quite loose through these episodes, but the changes here are less drastic than in the first volume.
As with the previous volume, Extras include profiles of three important characters, clean opener and closer, and company trailers. The informational entry this time is one the structure and etiquette of public baths in Japan, and a commentary done on episode 7 by two of the English VAs is also included.
The second volume of Negima isn't bad so much as it's not as consistently sharp as the first volume. Here the series is showing signs of descending into mediocrity, but it still has enough entertaining moments to merit a very weak recommendation.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Good English dub, some good humor.
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