Original Concept and Story by Ken Akamatsu with Art by Takuya Fujiima
Published in the US by Del Rey
Slugline: A manga of an anime of a manga
Brilliant ten year old mage Negi graduates from his British school of magic and has to go to Japan to teach at an all girl school. If that is not the set-up for a Harry Potter fanfic filled with Mary Sue overtones, I don't know what is. Negi has to help the various girls at the school deal with their problems while advancing his own magic by 'partnering' up with someone. Since he surrounded by teenage girls, guess who his partner will be? Let's not forget he has to keep his magic secret from the students even as several of the students have magical natures. This is a harem comedy, with all of the negatives that implies along with the above slugline literally being true. This is not the original manga that the TV and various OVA series are based on, but a manga based on the anime that was based on the original manga. Sometimes the multiple versions can be a benefit to a property, with each iteration allowing the story to become ever more focused and removing distractions. But there is also the possibility the story will lose focus like a photocopy, as each iteration gets further away from the core of the story. I am not sure here if the various iterations is helping or hurting the story.
My rating from Negima!? Neo comes from several different aspects of the story. Harem comedies have a hard time being believable, as in if you can believe whether or not people will act these way. Here there is not much of an attempt at believability, with everyone embracing their inner stereotype and going with it and the characters being all surface. The plot reads like a bad fanfic (yes, there is good fanfic) with a thinly disguised Harry Potter stand-in. If you already love Negima, here you get some more, but other than that, this is just not a very well done manga.
It is almost if this was the culmination of the search for the best way to deliver fan service, cutting away of everything else that can get in the way of delivering fanboy goodness but may also have other uses, like story or subtext, or even text for that matter. While that may be fine for some, there is no reason that a manga can not also deliver an interesting story because that does not necessarily have to interfere with delivering fan service, it is not an either/or equation.
Negima!? Neo, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga