Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 8th 2007
DVD 6 - Magic 601: Magic and the Dark Arts
At Negi's instigation, the girls organize and throw a surprise 14th birthday party for Asuna, one which caps with the unexpected (by everyone except the victim) and seemingly inexplicable death of one of the class 2-A members. Everyone seeks to cope with the loss in their own way, but school – and plans for the upcoming Culture Fest – must go on. Negi, perhaps hit hardest of all by the tragedy, desperately seeks a way to reverse it, and ultimately finds only one possible solution: go back in time and discover the circumstances leading up to the girl's death and prevent them. As with anything involving class 2-A, however, nothing goes according to plan. Ultimately the entire class must band together to save one of their own.
The final installment of the first Negima! anime series takes so many dramatic left turns that it ultimately ends up where it started: with all the girls in class 2-A doing what they do best in one big preposterous display of craziness. So ridiculous are certain parts of the final episode that they cheapen the good storytelling evident through the previous three – or they would, if earlier volumes hadn't proven that the final episode is more true to the spirit of the whole series than the much more somber and serious episodes 23-25. Even so, the climatic battle ranks amongst the most distinctive examples of a jaw-dropping blend of cleverness and stupidity; few are those who will watch that without staring aghast at the screen.
What sets this volume apart from earlier ones, though, is the life-and-death drama in episodes 23-25. A bit of lead-in to this can be seen in the previous volume, but for the most part the reasons behind what happens in episode 23 don't become clear until later in the volume. The lack of build-up and foreshadowing prior to this point make the character's death feel a bit incomplete, and the way the surprise revelations unveiled in the time travel part are handled feel a bit rushed and forced, but there's no denying the impact on the story and characters caused by the death of one of the more prominent girls. It also affects the structure of the episodes; episode 23 uses an alternate closer and epilogue to set things up, the nearly wordless Next Episode preview dispenses with the normal silliness, and episode 24 wisely doesn't spoil the mood by skipping the normal cheery opener in favor of a much more somber piano-based tune set to additional scenes. Whatever else the series may have done wrong so far, it does handle this part of the show well.
Not lost amongst all the sadness are relationship issues. Yue's simmering feelings finally come to full boil, the Setsuna/Kodoka relationship gets some stretching, and Ayaka finally has to confront that she and Asuna are more than just rivals. A couple of girls that have seen little screen time so far finally make appearances, and the series also finally gains a true villain. Detracting are a somewhat rushed feel and an ending that some will certainly see as a cop-out (while others will find it pretty) even though it's clear that the series does not take itself seriously enough to end with one of its major characters staying dead.
Little can be said about the visual aspects of the series that has not been said before. The demons that pop up in the last two episodes look cheesy, and some of the costumes that come up are mind-bogglingly dumb. In general the artwork is decent but not exciting, and as before the animation shows its weakness in the action scenes. It does quite a bit better in scenes showing Negi bawling and other characters displaying their emotions, however.
The deeply serious aspects of these episode requires some major adjustments to the normal soundtrack elements, but those are handled well, giving the tragic aspects the kind of somber, melancholy feel they deserve. The opener used in the previous volume continues for episodes 23 and 25, while the closer remains the same for episodes 24 and 25. The same visuals remain for episode 26's opener but with an entire ensemble cast singing it, while the ensemble also sings the alternate closer for that episode. Do be sure to watch it through for the Epilogue.
If you've liked the English dub so far, it will not disappoint in the final volume. VAs for key characters handle the emotional aspects well and occasional episode director Chris Cason steals scenes as Chamo. The English script virtually rewrites some scenes, giving them roughly equivalent meaning but saying something entirely different, but if that does not bother you then you should find the English dub to be quite satisfactory overall.
This volume's allotment of Character Profiles feature Chamo and the scientific geniuses Lingshen Chao and Saotome Hakase. The “Schoolgirl Commentary” this time is on episode 25, and the cultural notes this time focus on the cross-cultural Tree of the World, which figures prominently into the background of these episodes but has appeared throughout the series. Textless songs are also back, and the new feature this time is an English dub blooper reel spanning the entirety of the series.
Although it has issues which still hamper it from achieving a true level of quality, Negima! nonetheless closes out a bit better than it has been going so far. It does not shine, but is a worthwhile view for those who have followed the series thus far.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Handles character emotions well, musical score proves up to the task.
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