I’m back from the premiere of the Negima/Hayate double-billed movies. I’d be happy to hear your impressions from those of you who also went, but in the meantime, a review/preview for those who will wait for the blu-ray release. Starting with Negima – Anime Final…
Warning: The following post does not reveal the ending of the movie, but does contain several smaller spoilers.
The first thing to get out of the way is the “production issues” fiasco. For those who still haven’t heard – twenty minutes of the movie were cut out (most likely because Shaft screwed something up, but I wouldn’t know). Akamatsu Ken, the author of the original manga, even felt the need to comment on this on his twitter account, stating that the script of the movie was changed in a way which makes it difficult to understand. Since your average Japanese author doesn’t usually make an effort to discourage viewers from watching their own creation a day before the premiere, most of us were really afraid it was just that horrible.
Well, it isn’t. There’s no gaping hole with something obviously missing in the movie. And I found the premise perfectly understandable from the dialogue at the beginning of the movie. They do get through the setup pretty quickly, but everything in this movie appears to be moving in fast-forward anyway…
The aforementioned premise: Negi has to choose one, and only one, partner to form a permanent pactio with. All his other provisional contracts will be removed along with the memories (concerning magic and Mundus Magicus) of the girls not originally involved with the magical world. With this setup, you could expect half an hour of Negi’s emotional struggle mixed with the girls vying for his affection… but thankfully nothing like that happens.
All the girls are actually highly accepting of the incoming resolution, Many of them are shown alone, making peace with their memories and trying to leave themselves something connected to their magical adventure – photos, manga pages, data backup on a usb stick…
We actually get more drama for the people who do not need to fear losing their memories. How will they be able to speak with their classmates once the worlds they know become so different? This repeated question gets different answers depending on the character mulling it over. Surprisingly (to me, at least) Natsumi x Kotaro fans get a treat in the form of a meaningful discussion between the two, analyzing the weight and meaning of memories and the trial the students have to face. Kotaro and philosophy?
Those few quiet moments are the only part of the movie where the pace is slower than a roller coaster. The remaining part of the first half of the movie is filled with all kinds of what could be considered (under a very broad definition) fanservice for fan-favorite characters. Kaede and Mana suddenly decide to fight each other, which is as visually impressive (and budget-devouring?) as it is pointless to the plot at large. Nodoka and Yue, weirded out at their classmates attempting to murder each other for no apparent reason (I’m with you on this one, girls), decide to investigate. But first they get long magical girl transformations… which again prove to be completely pointless plot-wise.
And if you’re wondering what the remaining characters are doing… well, they’re attempting to mass rape Negi. Not anything contract-related. It’s just that it’s their last night using all those funny pactio artifacts, so they want to take full advantage of the opportunity. This involves blasting Negi’s room to shreds (without confirming if he’s even inside). As in, they are running around using magic to destroy school property. Nobody attempts to stop them. Vandalism? Keeping magic a secret? Who cares?
In the middle of the movie, Negi looks up and notices that the world is about to end. Yes, you’ve read the previous sentence correctly. Armageddon comes, but luckily Negi manages to notice by looking up at the right time… It’s so ridiculous I don’t even want to spoil the details.
So, we’re informed that the only one who can stop the disaster is Negi, and the only way to do it is to improve Negi’s power level by getting that permanent pactio done with. This part also implies Negi is the only one (in Mahora, at least) who can become a Magister Magi… I thought that was just a title full-fledged mages got, not something legendary. Did I get confused on that one, or did they just make it up?
Regardless, what follows is a stream of fallacies so rapid it could easily carry Shaft’s studio away with it. Remember last time Negi broke the laws of the universe by kissing one of his students hard enough? Now it’s enough to hold hands, but there appear to be unfortunate side-effects to his students’ intelligence levels. Asuna forgets she has the ability to completely negate even the strongest magic (that’s a useless ability, anyway) and Yue dramatically yells that even a very powerful barrier isn’t infinitely powerful, so it will break if they all keep hitting it hard enough (is this the same Yue that came up with a devilish plan against Fate? Really?) Or maybe everyone is just too stunned to think straight after seeing Makie throw a ball at armageddon (an orbital bombardment wasn’t enough, but a ball might just do the trick… maybe). Some of the most powerful fighters in the magic universe watch this mess unfold without lifting a finger to help (they are not Magisters, after all, so they can’t do a thing. Unlike balls.) Not even the appearance of one of my favorite characters can do anything to salvage this climax scene.
It’s not that the movie is horrible. The army of seiyuu is a treat. The battle and transformation scenes are visually impressive. All the popular girls get at least one scene to themselves. But it’s not what Negima has gotten us used do. No ingenious twists, clever tactics and subverting the genre. Instead we get gratuitous beam throwing and convenient Hollywood logic. The pacing of the movie could probably greatly benefit from the lost twenty minutes, too. I think we can expect at least that part to get fixed for the blu-ray release.
Bottom line: Concluding an epic saga like Negima in a movie under two hours long is no easy task. But I get the impression that Negima – Anime Final gives up on living up to the Negima name without even giving much of a fight.