Negima! and its Graduating Class of 2012

3-A Forever

Considering the response to the end of Mahou Sensei Negima! has been far from positive both within Japan and abroad, I definitely think most people can agree that the ending of the series was a cop out. It’s unfortunate because Negima! is to me the manga equivalent of what Harry Potter is to much of the English speaking youth born in the 90s—which makes it a very special series among my favorite series. I’m also a huge fan of Akamatsu Ken’s work, starting with A.I. Love You and Love Hina. Yet after reading the final chapter, all I can say is: Give me back 9 years of my youth. Seriously.

For more recent news regarding Negima that has come to light, please see here.

Now, I’m not sure if it’s possible to compare Negima! with Love Hina apart from a very generalized one, but criticism based on comparisons have continuously been made. Despite the scale of their settings being completely different in scope, with the former’s narrative reaching cosmic levels (literally) while the latter focused mainly around a strong cast of a few girls, I can’t help but think that Akamatsu should’ve paired Negi with a specific girl at the end, much similar to how Keitaro ended up with Naru. Another reason for Negima!’s final chapter not satisfying readers revolves around the fact that it doesn’t really resolve many of the subplots very well at all; the choice to revert Asuna back to present times was interesting as a plot device, but doesn’t rely provide any resolution to issues arising from construction of a new world of the denizens of Mundus Magicus. Even Negi’s dad pops up at the end out of no where.

Setting aside all of the issues in regards to Negima!’s plot and my gripes, I’d like to devote the rest of this article to the idea that the series ending may partially have been motivated by the one year anniversary of last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. I don’t think this consideration will necessarily vindicate the series (I certainly will grade the series lower due to the somewhat poor pacing of the story towards the end), but I think there was a reason behind the choices that Akamatsu and editors at Shounen Magazine made apart from the author himself running out of steam, declining ratings, or other less auspicious factors.

Last year I wrote an article about my experience during and after the Great Tohoku Earthquake, taking two recent disaster-centered works I had read and watched prior to the events on March 11th. This year, despite continuing efforts being made to clean up the large swathes of land still left ravaged by the tsunami, Japan continues to search for ways to revitalize not only its northeastern areas, but also its still stagnant economy, political deadlock, nuclear situation, and a ridiculously strong yen. This also means that the young generation of Japanese is growing up aware of the mountain of problems that they’ll have to deal with as a nation eventually.

For those of you who don’t know, March is the end of the year for many schools, businesses, and even the government. Spring, with its iconic cherry blossoms representative of Japanese culture and history, is an important season. Often, when we see those long scenes in anime and manga of characters meeting under a whirlwind of cherry blossoms, it’s symbolic of a brand new start. Sort of like how autumn is for students in many other parts of the world.

This means that the March 11th earthquake fell at a time when students of all educational levels were about to or had just recently graduated from primary or secondary education. But last year, for students in Tohoku, graduation ceremonies would come to mean something different than what they have been to previous generations of children. Some ceremonies, conducted two weeks after the devastating tsunami, were missing students; other ceremonies were conducted despite the refugees and dead bodies.

This year, as cities across Tohoku host graduation ceremonies that also serve as remembrance of last year’s events, students can be a bit more hopeful of some of the change that has happened in their local areas. According to Asahi Shimbun, employment percentages of students from disaster-struck areas have neared the national average. A recent cut in the salaries of government employees will provide increased funding to the affected areas. Recent news of the weakening of the yen to the dollar may signal stronger exports for Japan’s major manufacturers in the near future.

To relate this all back to Negima!, it was fairly obvious from the beginning that the manga would most likely deal with the idea of growing up as an important theme. The youthful middle school age characters in the series embody the sense of fun, passion, and hope for the future that we no doubt would want the younger generation to have, while the girls’ graduation and subsequent maturation served as an important element of closure. I think that the timing for this final chapter, released in Japan on March 14th, was calculated in that it comes at a time of hope and recollection for students in Japan. Negi’s 3-A students, depicted in sequential frames with vignettes of their lives as adults, are all functioning well as members of society. They have found paths for themselves after all of the happiness and sorrow, excitement and melancholy that come with coming of age.

Even if the last chapter of Negima! wasn’t the most successful in terms of narrative closure, I think it’s still important to realize that there may have been at least one meaningful reason to end it the way it did nine years later, now in 2012. Perhaps in regards to its central message, Negima! did not end up straying from one of its most fundamental themes: youth and the hope that comes with it.

Notes

Image at the top is copyright of Akamatsu Ken. I don’t own it. Taken from Google.

Please contact me on Twitter @KylaranAeldin for discussion.

5 Responses to “Negima! and its Graduating Class of 2012”

  1. Ah, Negima! I remember there was a time, long ago, when I read Negima. I stopped reading around Chapter 260, simply because I lost patience. Stories need to end, at some point.

    I do agree with you that comparisons between Love Hina and Negima are generally invalid. I also remember I felt incredibly discontented when I first started reading Negima because it was so different from Love Hina. (Specifically, there were titties, but not enough making out going on.)

    But I digress. I don’t quite agree with your contention that Mr Akamatsu, et al, conscientiously planned the ending of Negima to serve as a memorial and a reflection for 3.11. I think that many gakuen stories end with graduation, and vignettes of characters being grown up and moving past their school lives aren’t rare. I do agree that these scenes take on special meaning in the wake of 3.11, so ultimately, perhaps I’m just splitting hairs here. The final effect upon the reader is the same. Though, I gotta say, I’d bet most readers of Negima are our age, and not school-aged.

  2. Unfortunately my experiences with Negima! are limited to the two rather bad TV anime adaptations (I never bothered with the OAVs). Then again, it never looked like the kind of thing that was going to interest me from the start, so maybe I never gave it a fair shake.

    That being said, JAPAN Y U NO CAN DO ENDINGS? It seems like a lot of endings are really flat, uninspired, confusing as hell, or just flat out fucking stupid. This is true of anime original works as well, and something I’ve been griping about for years. Hell, I can’t remember the last anime or manga whose ending I really liked.

  3. @Akira

    I wasn’t arguing that they made it for 1.) middle school/high school kids or 2.) I don’t think they planned on it being a memorial or reflection for 3/11.

    What I thought I was saying (guess this isn’t clear) was that I think 3/11 may have shaped their perception of whether or not the ending that Akamatsu had planned would be good. Really, it was obvious the ending would be related to graduation and growing up, and I never said that what Akamatsu did was ground breaking. At the same time, much of the national discourse in the past year has been about Japan as ‘post-quake’ and such, so I wouldn’t be surprised if such a way of thinking pushed the editors to accepting such a shitty ending.

    @TIF

    Yeah, it seems like a lot of series suffer from bad endings because serialization or funding was cut short in some way or another. Either that or Japanese artists really need to get better at making good endings.

  4. Hey everyone. Akamatsu-sensei’s ending of the popular Negima! manga has left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans, especially since there are so many unresolved plot threads. While many fans have focused their anger on Akamatsu-sensei for what they feel is his giving them the shaft, I’ve always felt there was something else at work. Since his exclusive contract with Kodansha had come to an end, culminating with Akamatsu-sensei having ALL of his manga shipped from Kodansha to his home, I figured that was the sole reason for his ending Negima! so abruptly. However, it appears that there are more things going on, which you all should be aware of.

    Negima! fan Hata, who’s long been an excellent source of information from Japan, noted that in addition to Akamatsu-sensei taking a much needed rest, he’s also fighting a newly proposed copyright law in Japan. From Hata:

    right now the biggest thing that occupied most of Ken’s time (at least on twitter) is his fight against publishers, which including Kodansha, in trying to impose a new law by creating “neighboring copyright”, for people who are not creator but has a hand in “helping” the creation of the work gets automatic right, meaning editors, researchers, printers, etc. or plain speaking, a power grab by the publishers to take right away from the author, this is something VERY SERIOUS and has long unforeseen consequences if pass through, (the publisher can and will go after second hand creation/dojin without need to ask the permission of the author, etc. (it was one of the state benefits of this law) meaning the end of dojinshi as we know it., or after a serial is over the author can not retain exclusive right to it while the publisher can hold onto to it forever to keep making money for itself, etc.) and Japanese works readers (be it novel or manga) need to pay attention to this development just like the Tokyo Child Protection law, [sic]

    Akamatsu-sensei wrote more about this on his Tumblr site.

    Hata provides a “quick translation of a quick Chinese translation” of what Akamatsu-sensei said.

    [sic] there were two Kodansha editors for the showdown debate with Ken in “explaining” the neighboring copyright law, Ken brought George Morikawa, the author of Hajime no Ippo with him in case he needs some muscle backup. one of the editor were together with Ken in opposing the Tokyo Child Protection Law.

    Kodansha’s position:

    publisher will share “equal” copyright with author. because it helps the mangaka to promo, typeset, proofread, research, edit, and printing the manga, and by having the right automatically, the publisher can:

    1. when there is going to be an e-book release of the same paper product, no longer need a second negotiation one by one again for the right, which can speed things up.

    2. the publisher can go after pirate and 2nd creation violator without spend time consulting the author in the first place, again speed things up.

    Ken’s reply for #1 is the current contract model works fast enough, no need to give publisher extra right, for #2 all it takes is a phone call between publisher and author.

    and the danger for #2 of course is all dojinsh and all 2nd hand creation will cease to exist, Kodansha did say clearly, that it is their goal with this law to go after places like PIXIV and Toranoana, (basically, like how Disney operates.) but what happen as in the case of Ken, who gives his approval and don’t want them to be sued?

    Ken’s position:

    1. what happen if the publisher went under, and the right falls into some strange debtor?

    2. if an old manga is to be republished (paper or e-book) on another publisher than the original one, what would happen if there is interference from the old publisher?
    (Kodansha guarantees this won’t happen, but of course Kodansha cannot promise the same for all the other publishers, this is quite important for Ken when you consider the nature of J-Comi.)

    3. even with this law, there is no way to stop the pirating.

    4. too many people who own the same right will only complicate things

    Kodansha’s reply: they can’t answer Ken’s questions, they admit, while this law would be convenient for the publisher, they can’t find a reasonable argument to convince all authors,

    the truth is, the original proposal is not from the manga industry, but pushed by the literature fiction sector to Japanese culture ministry, or course then you have unforeseen problem developed across the board, Ken’s argument is this law’s benefits can be achieved with current model, and to give the publisher the extra right is too dangerous.

    I happen to agree with Ken on this. Japanese (or substitute any other nations under the sun) government officials and legislators are a bunch of idiots.

    As usual in these copyright debates (whether in Japan or the U.S.), it is all about control, with the giant publishing companies using the pretense of concern over piracy to in fact dictate how, when, and where a product is delivered. The author is on the losing end, as is the consumer. No wonder Akamatsu-sensei had no desire to sign a new contract with Kodansha, and made sure to get all of his works out of Kodansha’s archives. It would also explain why he was willing to end Negima! in the way he did, just to protect his copyright claim.

    Whether that’s the reason Negima! ended the way it did or not, I had no idea that this new law was even in the pipeline in Japan. Unlike the Tokyo Child Protection law, which received a lot of attention among us Western anime/manga fans, the new “Neighboring Copyright Law” doesn’t appear to have generated much of any notice outside of Japan. This is kind of surprising, since this new law would pretty much kill the doujinshi market in Japan. No doubt if this law passes, Japanese publishers will come after us Western bloggers too, for any number of reasons (screen captures; sharing promo art; providing detailed summaries, etc.).

    Hopefully, this post will help raise awareness of this proposed new law. If someone wants to provide a complete translation from the Japanese of what Akamatsu-sensei on Tumblr, I’d be grateful.

    -source : \astronerdboy.blogspot.ca/2012/03/new-proposed-japanese-law-reason-ken.html/

  5. I couldn’t stop crying when I read the last chapter. Sure it wasn’t that perfect of an ending, but I wished that the series could have continued in for a few more volumes at least.

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