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.
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.