The “Journey to the Magical World” OVA set has been my favorite adaptation of the Negima manga, by far. The problems with the first series were well-documented (great OP notwithstanding) and the second SHAFT series never lived up to its magnificently stylish beginnings. Why, oh why, couldn’t anyone just adapt this hugely successful manga more or less faithfully?
Well, Shinbo and his acolytes and SHAFT have more or less done that with this OAV run, and the “Magical Girl Yue” extra chapter is no exception. It’s the same winning combo of Akamatsu’s lovely character designs, shameless fan service and Shinbo’s quirky visuals and stellar action sequences. Yue has never been one of my tip-top favorites in this series, but I like her just fine – and she’s a worthy enough subject for a pleasant detour from the main storyline. In this instance, she’s been separated from all her classmates and Negi and lost her memories. She ends up at an all-girls magical Knights school, a kind of Hogwarts for girls with non-stop panty shots. By pure chance, she sees a picture of the legendary Nagi Springfield in history class and it triggers something in her memories. This sets off a chain of events where she and her friend Collete (who was responsible for wiping her memory in the first place) wind up trying to get to far-off Ostia, the “Abandoned Capitol” where a Nagi lookalike is competing in a gladiator competition, by winning a kind of Quidditch match against the Linchou and her maid-servant.
All this gives Shinbo a chance to both return to his Nanoha roots and prepare for his mahou shoujo series next season, as Yue gets her very own transformation sequence. It’s quite odd seeing dour, cynical Yue all charged-up and energetic – but she did lose her memories, after all. There was always a bit of an off-kilter spoof of Harry Potter to Negima – one look at Negi is enough to see that – but this story takes the satire to a higher level. It’s well-animated and beautifully drawn – all the SHAFT OVAs are – and very much consistent with the tone and spirit of the manga, albeit with an extra dash of Shinbo ADHD. Shinbo tempered by someone else’s source material always seems to work better than Shinbo unfettered, and this is no exception.
My only regret is that this in an OVA series and not a TV, because the months-long wait between episodes is rather irritating. Still – it’s awfully nice to see Negima on-screen that looks and feels like the manga I know and love.