Ahhh, Negima. Before I start, a quick disclaimer: I’m going to focus on the ending as a whole, primarily from when Asuna goes to sleep in chapter 351 up to the final chapter, 355. I’m also going to try to remain objective. However, by the end I expect I’ll get subjective as hell. You see, this manga has special meaning to me. It’s one of the stories that first ignited my love for writing, so I can’t pass up the chance to wax poetic about it. I’ll try to confine the wistful junk to the final paragraph, though.
So, that ending. When it was revealed back in chapters 342 & 343 that Negi was no longer human, and that Asuna would have to go to sleep for a hundred years, it was a shock to me. Though the story had dipped into some dark and serious territory a few times before – Negi being impaled by Fate at the beginning of the Magical World arc, for instance – it had generally kept a lightness of tone that said, no matter how crazy things became, people weren’t going to start dying left and right. This revelation changed all that in a much more fundamental way than a simple character death would have. Now we had Negi potentially trapped in adolescence forever, and Asuna stuck in a coma for an entire century. The thought of Asuna waking up after a hundred years to find that everyone she knew was dead was a thing of nightmares. Only Evangeline and perhaps Negi could save her from that fate.
And then it happened. Asuna went to sleep, and woke up, and everyone was dead – including Negi. Ayaka had managed to live for over a hundred years waiting for Asuna’s return, but Asuna overslept and her best friend died before she awoke. For a manga that started off as Love Hina redux (starring a shouta), and evolved into a shounen series that still featured strip lasers, to have something so dramatic happen was powerful. Asuna had done her part to save both Earth and Mars, and now her reward was to start over from scratch, with the rest of her long life ahead of her and everyone she loved dead.
That was Akamatsu-sensei’s decision point right there. Two pages before the end of chapter 352, the story could have gone one of two ways. It could have gone the way it did, with Chao showing up with a deus ex machina that gives Asuna back her life with her friends–or it could have gone a different, far more powerful route, one that I feel would have been a more fitting end for such an epic series. Here’s how I see it: Asuna is still there, 130 years in the future, grieving for the friends that have passed and the life she didn’t have a chance to lead. Negi is dead…but then again, Nagi was once dead, was he not? Proclaimed dead, that is. Why not Negi too?
Whether it be through one last adventure all by herself, or by him simply walking up from behind her, I imagine Asuna reuniting with Negi. After all that time, with all their friends gone and over a hundred years worth of changes having come to pass, the two of them meet up as they promised they would. Then Negi finally confesses his love for Asuna…or maybe not. I’ve always been a fan of Asuna, so I would have loved that, but that part isn’t actually as important as the rest of it. What’s important is the sacrifice and the effort. A century of maintaining her sanity against all odds by Asuna; a century of reshaping the worlds of Earth and Mars by Negi. After all that pain and effort and sacrifice, they meet up again. Negi would share the life stories of their friends that have passed, and then they would move on into the future…together.
You see, sacrifice is cheapened when it is intended but not made. Asuna persevered for one hundred and thirty years, and in the click of a watch Chao reset it all. It was like her sacrifice was never made. That’s wonderful for Asuna, because she got to spend her life with her friends–sacrifice is never fun for the characters making it. Yet as Eva once said to Setsuna in the Mahora tournament, to be happy is to be boring. Legends are not made of happiness; they’re made of pain, and loss, and strife. By giving Asuna her life back, Akamatsu-sensei stopped his story from becoming something truly great.
There were other problems with the end of this manga. Negi didn’t pick anyone. We know Konoka and Setsuna got married in the same year, but was it to each other? Nagi just showed back up with no explanation. Natsumi and Kotarou getting married was cute, but just listing out all the girl’s fates wasn’t the best way to go about it when manga is a visual medium. Still, the biggest fault in my eyes was pulling the final punch and not going for the bittersweet ending.
But you know what? Negima was a damn good manga over all. Like the Toradora anime, even if the ending was a little suspect, I choose to remember the story for all that was good about it. This manga gave us 9 years of magic spells, flashing panties, ridiculous shounen punch-ups, and shouta-led harem antics. And here I admit to not being objective anymore – as I said before, Negima was one of the stories that kindled my love for writing fiction. In fact, the first fiction I ever wrote was a super crappy Negima fanfic. It took me about a week to realize that I hated writing other people’s characters, and then I chunked it and started working on something original, but still! Though the ending wasn’t the best, this was a good manga that provided years of enjoyment, and for that, I’m happy to have read it. Feel free to post your comments about the ending below…but maybe mention some of the stuff you loved about the story as a whole, eh?
“True magic results from courage of the heart.” Well said, Negi. Well said.