By Ken Akamatsu. Released in Japan as "Mahou Sensei Negima!" by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
And so we come to the first of Kodansha's release of the Negima series... which is exactly the same as Del Rey's. And I am happy about that, as this is precisely what I wanted. No new translators, no new editors (not that Kodansha tells us who the editors are...), Just the same as before, giving us our cool shonen boy and his battle harem. Yes, one can argue they could bring us the limited edition covers that Japan gets, but as most of those tend to be 'the regular cover only with fewer clothes', I can see that it's simply not worth it.
Given no one is going to be starting Negima with Volume 29, I'll just type out a few thoughts instead of recapping what happens. We get three new pactios this chapter, and each one has its own point of interest. Ku Fei is still warring with her shyness, and so decides to whip out the standard female warrior cliche that she will only pactio with Negi if he defeats her. In general this can be an offensive cliche, but I think Akamatsu manages to deal with it here, because a) there's a sense that Ku Fei is only doing it because of avoidance rather than any deep desire; b) It's clearly shown that Negi needs to use his dark magic power in order to defeat her; c) there's certainly no sense that Ku Fei is any weaker because of this, and in fact her pactio artifact seems to show that she's only going to be powering up and getting stronger, and d) it's a freaking arm wrestling match in the middle of a ballroom. I was very amused at Ku Fei joking that now that Negi has defeated her he's required to marry her, as well as Chamo realizing how similar Chao and Ku Fei are - this has been a fan theory for some time, and Akamatsu loves to play around with those.
Meanwhile, not all 31 girls are gaga over Negi. Natsumi, the so-called 'normal' girl in the group, is dealing with her own insecurities, especially with Kotaro looking really sexy and her own age rather than in his actual form. I'll give Akamatsu credit, he's not backing away from the awkwardness that comes with a bunch of students falling in love with a ten-year-old or too. Most of the girls usually try to snap themselves out of it when reminded of such things, and indeed Natsumi refuses to pactio with the aged-up Kotaro, but rather his actual self - because this isn't about love, but family. We get reminded of this when Natsumi asks what Kotaro thinks of the other girls he's interacted with throughout the series, and he starts ranking them according to their battle potential. He's a 10-year-old, and romance is barely registering on his radar. Instead, he notes that he feels that he wants to protect the girls he's mentioned as they're family to him. And that's what allows Natsumi to pactio with him. (That said, there is a lot of romance here as well, and certainly I think Akamatsu is trying to have his cake and eat it too.)
As for Chachamaru, who we get reminded is actually 2 years old here, our favorite robot girl gets both the funniest and the most touching of the pactios. Chachamaru isn't just dealing with romantic feelings for Negi - she's worried she has no actual free will, being a robot. Evangeline has explained to Chachamaru that essentially she has free will if she believes she does - but this can be rather tricky, and self-doubt is starting to plague her. Enter Negi, who's been primed by Asakura to wind her up... so to speak, and the connection between recharging Chachamaru and having sex with her has never been more blatant than it is here, as Negi's 'screwing' her with full power drives her near the edge. And yet after this we get Chachamaru almost in hysterics, as she panics that if she pactios with Negi there will be no card - that she isn't alive enough to deserve one. And in fact, as they begin the pactio, this is what seems to happen. Negi is a shonen hero, and through shonen determination - and awesome kissing power - manages to win the day.
Incidentally, Chachamaru's 'Hwa?' is the funniest moment of the volume, bar none.
But with all that over with, we're back to the plot, as Negi is called to bring three allies and meet up with Jerkass Senator Kurt Godel. He takes Nodoka and Asakura, presumably for their information-gathering abilities, and Chisame, because of their deep love. No wait, it's because she's there to slap some sense into him. It just SOUNDS like he's saying it's due to their deep love. As Chisame notes, he just can't help sounding like a 'natural-born gigolo'. As it turns out, though, bringing Chisame was a very bright thing to do, as Kurt is trying to goad Negi into a rage-fueled attack, by bringing up memories of the attack on his village years ago. Negi completely loses it, and while Nodoka's tears are able to get him to turn aside for a bit, it's Chisame's slap and lecture that really does the trick. (By now, Chisame is a much better Asuna than Asuna ever was.) We also get to see Asakura really pissed off, which I believe is a first.
And so Kurt starts to explain things, which leads us into another flashback. This seems to be the second half of Rakan's story from before, telling us what happened after Negi's mother and father supposedly 'won' over the bad guys. Things are never quite that simple... and though we end on a cliffhanger, it's becoming apparent that what's really needed here is a scapegoat.
There's a lot going on here, and I think if you're a Negima fan you'll love this to bits. It's got fighting, plot exposition, fanservice, and of course a bit of kinda-romance. Recommended, but not till you've read the rest.