Ken Akamatsu has always been one of my favorite manga artists, so I was thrilled to learn that Del Ray would be releasing an English-language version of his new series, Negima!, as part of its debut manga line-up. Akamatsu has only two prior titles to his credit, the largely overlooked A.I. Love You and the insanely popular Love Hina. Those series were excellent combinations of comedy and drama, and I’m happy to report that Negima! continues Akamatsu’s tradition of excellence. What’s more, translator Douglas Verenas and adaptors Peter and Kathleen David have done an excellent job making sure that the original story, dialogue, and humor all survive in their English form.
Negima! is the story of Negi Springfield, a 10-year-old wizard who has just graduated from wizard school and received an assignment teaching English at an all-girls Japanese school. The set-up will be familiar to fans of this genre, with a lone male character surrounded by a plethora (thirty-one, in this case) of female characters all competing for his attention. While the romance angle is tuned down significantly in Negima! due to Negi’s age, it doesn’t stop the students from finding other reasons to chase after him.
The story isn’t exactly original, but the attention to character development and intricate plotting should keep most readers entertained. Akamatsu’s somewhat perverted sense of humor may offend some (Negi has a tendency to blow girls’ clothes off with his magic when he sneezes), but it is all in good fun. Still, each version of the book has been slapped with a “For Mature Audiences – Ages 16+” sticker. It’s certainly not for kids, but there’s nothing in the art and dialogue you wouldn’t see or hear on prime time television.
As for the translation, it appears to be impeccable. The team Del Ray assembled to adapt this book seems to have taken particular care to stay as true to Akamatsu’s original work. The book itself is presented in the “true manga” right-to-left format, which is becoming more common from all publishers. But where the team’s work really stands out is in the dialogue, which maintains the original honorifics (-sama, -sensei, etc.) after names, rather than trying to substitute “Mr.” or “Teacher,” as other translators have done. Because the original sound effects are often a integral part of the artwork, they have been left intact, but are subtitled in English as a transliteration of the original, an especially nice touch.
Each volume contains at least six of the original manga together, more than a bargain for the price. But you also get character sketches, translation notes, and previews of the next issue in the original Japanese in each book.
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