Spacing Out In Mahora
By the way, I am also an Otaku – fan of Japanese anime and manga.
So today, let us talk about Negima! Magister Negi Magi, a Japanese manga about a 10-year-old wizard teaching a class of middle-school girls. No, no, no! Stay with me! It isn’t like that at all! There isn’t any weird shit going on in there unless you count the android girls, ninjas, swordswomen, wizards, dragons and vampires. And they attend school just like any other regular Japanese student. Now, before you cast the first stone at this manga, can you truly vouch for your own school? No androids in your tea ceremony club? Are you sure the girl sitting beside you in history wasn’t really a ninja? And just because you didn’t hear the dragon chained beneath your school, are you sure it wasn’t actually there?
Get real, people.
Anyway, I would just like to say, “Kudos to Akamatsu-sensei for being a master artist!” Limited by mere inches of panels, he nevertheless managed to convey the word ‘huge’ to the readers. Anyone noticed how huge the Mahora Academy was? Even the toilet Negi went to during the Mahora fest was sized like a pent house and had a panoramic view of the gigantic school grounds. Star War fans may remember that the office of Senator Palpatine had a similar view of the world outside. It has been discussed that perhaps it was a reminder to the holder of that office of the powers he held; that the decisions made in the office has repercussions for the world outside the office. Maybe the toilet in Mahora was designed by the wizards with that in mind: to remind the wizards that what with the enormous power they wield, they could seriously affect the world even when they were just taking a piss.
Besides the toilet, let us not forget the roman style bath that could hold 100 girls at a time, the Library complex which was easily the size of a medieval castle and the bizarre space under the library. With these the author used defamilarisation to awe the reader with the sheer enormity of the structures and in the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to “combine the child’s sense of wonder and novelty with the appearances which every day for perhaps forty years had rendered familiar.” Thus mundane structures (school library and school shower area for example) were magnified to such proportions that adults viewing these memories from their childhood were forced to look at them with a child’s eye again. Having imbued the reader with this child’s sense of wonder and novelty, the author could then persuade the reader to believe in the many possibilities available in such a huge universe and to indulge in the fantastical world of magic.
To all outward appearances, Evangeline the childlike vampire lived in a quaint little cottage. But step onto the pentagram in her basement, the one right before the bell jar, and you teleport into a alternate dimension with a huge mansion complete with courtyard, indoors Roman bath and a pool. All within the confines of a normal sized bell jar. Comics is a traditional medium for escapist fantasies. On one level, Negima is fantasy and by that definition, a piece of escapist fiction. On another level, we have the characters in that universe ‘escaping’ from the confines of their reality by teleporting into the alternate dimension inside the bell jar. One moment you are within the confines of the basement, the next you are standing in the open space within Evageline’s resort. During the Mahora fest, Asuna “escaped” from the depressing situation of her rejection by Takahata by going into the bell jar resort. It is worth noting that due to its magical nature, time passes differently within the bell jar. One day inside amounts to only one hour in the real world. Boxed in within the confines of a densely populated city, the dwellers in Tokyo, where space is a luxury commodity, must find that particular fantasy very appealing.
Living in Singapore, another densely populated city with highly stressed denizens, my reading of Negima is not surprising.
Teck Y. Loh