Reviewby Theron Martin, Nov 22nd 2006
DVD 3: Magic 301: Practical Application of Magic
To help him get used to his new laptop, Negi makes it a class project to create a class homepage, a project which ultimately competes for being one of the most popular Net Idol sites on the Internet. This irks Chisame Hasegawa to no end, for she has a secret alter ego as Chiu, whose homepage is the most popular Net Idol site and is now faced with serious competition. As finals approach, Negi is led to believe that his continuing position at Mahora Academy is dependent on raising the test scores of Class 2-A, which last year ranked dead last on test average. Vowing not to use magic to aid his students, he instead forswears his magical power for the last three days, only to find himself dragged along by the Baka Rangers on an ultimately very dangerous expedition into the depths of Library Island's massive repository of books, where it is said that a magical book capable of making people smarter lies. Once tests are over, an excursion by Negi and Konoka gets interpreted as a date by her fellow students when she seems to be getting awfully friendly with Negi.
The first two volumes of Negima at least pretended to have some degree of serious content or ongoing plot, but its third volume, which covers episodes 11-14, dispenses with both in favor of delivering almost pure, straightforward comedy. Surprisingly, it works pretty well as it progresses from one screwball concept to another. This is hardly quality material, but at least it is funny; the mere fact that such a thing as the Library Exploration Club has reason to exist is amusing in of itself.
The third volume also mostly dispenses with its magical component. Magic doesn't come into the picture at all in two of the episodes, and in most of the other two Negi has sealed his magic away so he won't be tempted to use it to help his students – who, of course, go on to seek their own source of magical help. In fact, Negi only casts two spells in the entire four-episode block and only gets involved in one fight, which also means that Asuna gets little chance to kick butt, either (although the rest of the Baka Rangers do see some action when they must confront a formidable foe in the Library Island mini-arc). She does at least have a lot more screen time in this volume, but she regularly shares it with a gaggle of her classmates, so there's little chance for further character development.
In fact, only two of the girls receive any significant development in these four episodes. One is Konoka, who is strongly hinted to have some kind of secret important enough that she had (and maybe still has) to be protected. The other is Hasegawa, who stars in episode 11 after having little screen time in earlier episodes. Her alter ego allows the series an excuse to insert some cosplay content, but it's also a relief to see that at least one of the students appreciates how ridiculous this class is. The only other noteworthy development is Nodoka's increasing tendency to allow her face to show and further coming to terms with her feelings about Negi. The cast of available character is just too big to allow more than this kind of spot development.
Not absent in this volume is its fan service. While it doesn't come in big doses, the homepage war offers convenient excuses for flashing some skin, the girls continue to let their imaginations run wild concerning Negi, and several of them strip down in Negi's presence at one point (although nothing is really shown and the reasoning behind it is ridiculous). Also still present is the series' trademark stupidity. If you're looking for intelligence in your anime, this is not the place to find it. Although the series continues to make a stab at showing Negi learning things as well as his students, it still isn't more than a half-hearted effort.
The artistic quality remains constant from earlier volumes. It does a good job of making the characters look distinctive and easy to differentiate from one another, which is no mean feat when more than 30 teenage girls are involved. It is not otherwise especially noteworthy, however. The animation continues to take lots of shortcuts and generally doesn't look very smooth; it remains the series' weakest production aspect. The musical score acceptably supports the light tone and comedic mood, and while the opener song and graphics remain constant, a new quintet of singers rotates in with episode 14. A new frilly, upbeat love song also makes its first appearance as the closer in episode 14.
As with the first two volumes, the English script is practically a complete rewrite of the original Japanese script, as it varies decidedly from the subtitles in many places. This is more than just accounting for differences in humor or shifting languages on an English Vocabulary Twister game, as some scenes play out differently in English than they do in Japanese. It stands as the most extreme current example of FUNimation's script tinkering, but it is still basically the same series and plays out smoothly, so a viewer isn't likely to notice the discrepancies unless the subtitles and English dialogue are actually compared.
The actual dub performances are generally good, with some roles still being slight improvements over the originals (especially Chamo and Evangeline) and others being slight problems. For instance, Caitlin Glass gets the heavier tones of Hasegawa right, but doesn't transform into the cutesy voice that her corresponding seiyuu does when assuming her alter ego. Pronunciation nit-pickers will note that “Melchizedek” (the name of the magical book in episodes 12 and 13) is pronounced more or less right in Japanese but wrong in English, giving it an “r” sound where it should have an “l” sound. This is a Hebrew rather than Japanese name and isn't unique to this series, so just a tiny bit of online research would have prevented this error. On the plus side, the greater differentiation in vocal styles on the English dub makes the girls a little easier to tell apart by voice, even with some VAs tackling more than one role.
The Character Profiles this time around in the Extras cover Hasegawa, the Narutaki twins, and Konoka. Clean opener and closer are also included, as is another edition of Education in Japan, which this time comments on the structure of Japanese schooling and the status and pay of Japanese teachers relative to their American counterparts. The accuracy of the latter part is debatable, but overall it's still very informative.
While not a great (or even good) series in general, the third volume of Negima fares well as an exercise in stupid fun. The faint odor you may detect while watching these episodes comes from your decaying brain cells, but at least you'll be entertained.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : B
+ The humor generally works.
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