Bits of Character as Makeshift Projectiles (or, Nodoka Miyazaki and Yue Ayase are showing a bit of character!)

mahou sensei negima nodoka miyazaki yue ayase yue and honya stare into your soul

[Be thou warned — some few Negima! spoilers lurk in the underbrush.]

I believe it was Socrates (the Plato version) who suggested that true knowledge begins with acceptance of one’s ignorance.

No, no, scratch that. This isn’t one of those posts. Let me start over.

As a fledgling practitioner of romance (as opposed to the *ahem* seasoned veteran I am now), I moved through three distinct attitudes. As a young teenager, I deemed things like soul mates improbable at best, but figured, given the sheer number of people in the world, that there must have existed at least a few girls above the mundane concerns of most, paragons of purity the likes of which KyoAni could only dream of mass-producing. Some years later, as the relationship of my late teenage life died its slow death, I settled upon the idea that human beings were, on the whole, frivolous creatures, given to base desires and whimsy, lacking in that union of motivation and inclination I called “vision” and utterly unconcerned with what romance could be. This second phase did not last long; as I transitioned, perhaps against my will, into adulthood, I realized that we humans are necessarily…human. We can try to follow some code of morality or righteousness or enlightenment or whatever you want to call it, but at the beginning and the end of the day we are human.

We dream. We create art and meaning. We succumb to temptation, are powerless to resist bodily needs. We’re strong and weak, but never one or the other in isolation. There’s nothing we can do about it. And — lo and behold! — if we try, we can even appreciate humanity for what it is.

Accordingly, I’ve come to like reading about characters who feel human, characters whose virtues, vices, and unavoidable physicality more or less balance out, and this goes double (nay, treble) for romance. Perfection is tedious at best, and at worst intolerable; the characters I respect most are those able to keep themselves together through human quandaries, so I’m sure you can imagine how the absence or scarcity of human quandaries (or, alternately, the absence or scarcity of humanity in characters faced with vaguely human quandaries) might pose a bit of a problem for me. I must admit that I did not, upon beginning Negima!, expect the exemplars of humanity I prefer to show up with any frequency in a manga that begins as vaguely shotacon harem and moves quickly into shounen fantasy action.

I’ve doubted Ken Akamatsu before. I’ll doubt him again, surely. But I should know better by now.

If there’s anything unfortunate about all this, it’s that I can’t properly handle enough characters in a single post. Negima! boasts one of the largest and most fleshed-out harems I’ve ever seen; that both qualifiers manage to apply to the same story is a testament to Akamatsu’s fighting spirit. Though I may manage to sneak in references to a number of relevant characters, I’ll have to stick with my absolute favorites for the time being — which is fine, I suppose, given that these two have become two of my favorite haremettes in general.

And how could it be otherwise? Nodoka is quiet, bookish, and moetacularly shy, Yue fancies herself a philosopher and seems engaged in a continual struggle with her inner tsundere (she’s tsundere for tsundere, maybe, which would fit right in with the manga’s deconstruction of pretty much everything), and both belong to an organization called the Library Adventure Club. The Library Adventure Club.

mahou sensei negima chapter 9 yue ayase negi springfield ku fei kaede nagase makie sasaki asuna kagurazaka haruna saotome one ridiculous yet desirable library

Yes, this. It’s easy for me to love this on a purely visceral level. I want friends like these girls. I want to go on magical library adventures!

But where, you may wonder, do they show a bit of character, exactly? Well, all along, but since brevity is the soul of wit, let’s jump ahead to that unending school festival arc. Between bursts of shounen excellence (and you’ll rarely see me use that phrase as anything other than an oxymoron, as I am both jaded and a bastard, but it’s absolutely literal here), the romantic dynamics are in full swing. One by one, characters realize and promptly deny their feelings for Negi. Or so it goes for most of them — Nodoka, the evidently timid one (and the first to fall for Negi in an obvious way), somehow manages to be the only character who can deal with her feelings, and so handily does she deal with them that she ends up on a date with that slightly-younger wizard-teacher-gladiator-genius.

Well, that’s sort of odd, isn’t it? If only we could see what was going on in her head…if only she would use that mind-reading book of hers while waiting for Negi to show up…

mahou sensei negima chapter 83 nodoka miyazaki yue ayase negi springfield haruna saotome nodoka entertains impure thoughts

That’s maybe a little unexpected. Nodoka is supposed to be demure, right? But, really, it makes a lot of sense — that’s the kind of thing healthy teenagers think about. Hell, that’s pretty tame in comparison to what most healthy teenagers think about, but the point is that Nodoka thinks about physical things, and I like that. It’s one step out of moeblob-land, one step into real people world. Who knows what we’d see if more anime and manga made us privy to the thoughts of characters who start out acting like stereotypes? More than some readers would care to see, probably (remember that Kannagi virginity debacle?), but Akamatsu has the right of it, as far as I’m concerned.

At any rate, Nodoka’s hard-earned date continues, and — actually, let’s pause for a minute for some Yue foreshadowing.

mahou sensei negima chapter 83 yue ayase haruna saotome freudian slips are fun

Everyone has bad intentions? Alright, noted.

Moving right along, we see that Nodoka continues to experience those youthful inclinations throughout the day. They’re mostly consistent, but the repetition seems to indicate that the early pages of chapter 83 aren’t just a throwaway gimmick for the sake of humor. Nodoka’s animal tendencies aren’t going anywhere, which is good, since I’d like to think she’s an animal like the rest of us.

mahou sensei negima chapter 83 nodoka miyazaki negi springfield nodoka surveys the goods

Lest I’ve led you to believe otherwise, I’m not trying to brand Nodoka a nymphomaniac or a champion of sexual expression here. All I’m saying is that, for all her shame and self-control, she thinks about the kinds of things we all do. Her feelings for Negi don’t simply manifest as bishounen sparkles and the like; they’re multifaceted, multileveled. And that, says I, is a good thing.

Despite a few complications (we’re skipping a couple chapters ahead, in fact), Nodoka’s day goes well. Rather well indeed. In fact…

mahou sensei negima chapter 85 nodoka miyazaki negi springfield a move is made

W-w-w-wuh?

And that’s not all — Nodoka initiates it! It’s Nodoka, the sort-of-dojikko, renowned far and wide for her reticence, who kicks the rules of One True Pairing to the curb and does what she wants. Remember, it’s not about the kiss itself (she’s a provisional ministra magus, after all, so it isn’t even the first time), but the implications thereof. In a moment of epic irony, it’s Nodoka who gets the first intentionally romantic kiss with Negi, and not because of some convenient turn of events, but because of her own actions, her own guts and effort.

But where does it come from? Nodoka clearly has a Buster Machine in her heart, but how’d it get there? I ask you this: would I really have mentioned Plato for no reason?

(Well, yes, but I didn’t.)

mahou sensei negima chapter 85 nodoka miyazaki honya is a veritable font of self doubt

While her classmates deny their failings outright (and/or suffer from the failing that is denial) or cripplingly attribute themselves with failings they don’t or needn’t really have, Nodoka recognizes her hurdles — and, what’s more, she jumps them. She credits Negi above, but, really, his role is passive. It’s Nodoka who must accept those things about herself that stand between her and what she wants (i.e. Negi), and Nodoka who must use that acceptance as the first step of a process of growth. Her personality may make her seem meek, a reprisal of Love Hina’s Shinobu, but her accomplishments are arguably among the most impressive we’ve seen in Negima! so far. As of yet, few characters have proven so able to manage internal quandaries (which are, after all, often the worst sort of quandaries); even Negi isn’t very good at it.

Hopefully I’ve demonstrated sufficiently by now that bits of character are present in Negima!, scattered with surprising density throughout the best chapters. I realize, however, that I have yet to justify this post’s title. How might one pick up and throw a bit of character? It’s so easy, in fact, that those involved often don’t realize it’s happened until much later, until it’s far too late to call the whole thing off, which is what makes bits of character such deadly projectiles.

Let’s skip a few more chapters ahead. Through some combination of magic, technology, and coincidence, Negi runs into Yue even while a past iteration of himself spends the day with Nodoka. Understandably perturbed by the date’s outcome (he’s both ten years old and a teacher, after all), Negi consults Yue for advice, thinking she might offer some insight as Nodoka’s friend.

mahou sensei negima chapter 87 yue ayase negi springfield yue does what she must because she can

That sounds reasonable. It might even be reasonable. But reason isn’t the issue here — the sensible solution isn’t what Nodoka would want, and Yue realizes it moments too late to do anything about it.

mahou sensei negima chapter 87 yue ayase having second thoughts

“…am now a member of Negi’s obscenely large harem,” is more or less how it plays out.

Should we believe that she didn’t realize what she was doing all along? I don’t see why not; it really is hard to pin those feelings down sometimes, especially when you’re young and they’re relatively new, and, accordingly, actions that seem reasonable could become sources of lasting regret. Perhaps at some point, while engaged in long hours of magic study, Yue wondered if she wasn’t going through all the effort to get closer to Negi; no doubt she would’ve dismissed the notion as ridiculous. It’s difficult to consider what you might be capable of doing to a friend under the right circumstances.

But Yue (previously a not-so-important character) comes to consider it at last, which, in light of recent events, might be a hopeful notion. After all, when Nodoka allowed herself some self-reflection, she figured out how to take steps toward her goals. It’s a bit of a different situation, though, considering that Yue’s goals — helping her friend, getting closer to Negi — run perpendicular to one another, and disastrously so. Whatever happens, someone gets hurt, and the human mind seems especially good at improvising all sorts of logic to support self-interest. Maybe Yue was aware of the situation, but, being a fairly logical sort, successfully convinced herself otherwise, a tactic similar to the denial we see in other characters, but not precisely the same (insofar as it reminds me unsettlingly of myself).

This is, I realized as I read, a more complicated variation on the love rivals who become friends from having their rivalry in common. Nodoka and Yue are friends who become love rivals without realizing it. Had they been the former, they would have at least gotten a friendship out of the whole ordeal; as it is, every “good” outcome is fairly cringe-worthy. One gets Negi, the other doesn’t, there’s plenty of depression to go around, the friendship suffers, life’s unfair, deal with it, the end. And, hell, since neither Nodoka nor Yue is OTP’d with Negi, the more likely outcome is that they both fail. I’m reminded of that scene from the first season of Clannad in which Kyou and Ryou both realize they’ve been rejected in favor of that other one. Man, that was rough.

It’d be one thing if Yue managed to keep her feelings hidden for a while, but it’s hard not to wonder, perhaps morbidly, what would happen if Nodoka found out. Some forty chapters later (still in the school festival arc), Akamatsu clears up that line of inquiry by throwing a volatile bunch of characters in that Indiana Jones-worthy library.

It’s possible that this post should deal with Haruna in greater depth, given her role in these chapters. As a genre-savvy trickster character (she’s a manga-ka herself), it’s her job to dig up and expose information that might be better off in the open.

mahou sensei negima chapter 126 yue ayase haruna saotome the trickster god at work

The context here is that Yue and Konoka have just discussed the possibility that Nodoka is practically incapable of jealousy (or that she simply respects and admires Negi more than she feels for him romantically; it seems likely that both are true, to some degree). This may be another testament to Nodoka’s character, insofar as it’s damn hard to avoid jealousy (unless you’re Mike Smith, I guess), but it doesn’t do much for Yue’s crisis; if anything, she feels more guilty.

Long story short, though, Haruna elicits a confession from Yue, and (as you may expect) Nodoka overhears. Which brings us to the next chapter…

mahou sensei negima chapter 127 nodoka miyazaki yue ayase konoka konoe negi springfield albert chamomile reaping the whirlwind

Some readers really dislike awkward moments like this. For my part, I think they’re great. It may also be noted with some degree of aptness that I just like to see characters suffer, but moments of suffering are when people become themselves, isn’t it?

Eh, maybe, but it’s easy to be annoyed with Haruna regardless. It’s basically her fault that Nodoka knows the truth, and she doesn’t let up, citing examples of tragic literary love triangles to Negi and pushing Nodoka and Yue together more or less to see what happens. Then again, she doesn’t blame Yue, nor does she think Yue’s advice to Negi was anything more serious than good advice. And perhaps she figures all along that a secret would be more harmful than the truth, that Nodoka and Yue are strong enough to handle the truth — which is, as it turns out, the case.

mahou sensei negima chapter 128 yue ayase nodoka miyazaki reconciliation against all odds

This is, in a word, hard. I couldn’t do it when I was their age; I know that for certain. I like to think I could do it now, but who knows? People do strange, unreasonable things in those situations.

And one might argue for that reason that Nodoka and Yue’s accomplishment, their very friendship, renders them unrealistic, even superhuman. But I don’t think that what they do is impossible or even unreasonable, that we couldn’t strive to do the same. They aren’t throwing magic at some external threat; they’ve just won a victory over human pettiness — and they’re fourteen! If we try, shouldn’t we be able to do the same?

mahou sensei negima chapter 128 nodoka miyazaki honya is a veritable font of wisdom

You can make requests for “Showing a Bit of Character” here:  [->]

About Pontifus

Doing it wrong on purpose since 2008.
This entry was posted in fanboy, showing a bit of character, today's special guest writer and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Bits of Character as Makeshift Projectiles (or, Nodoka Miyazaki and Yue Ayase are showing a bit of character!)

  1. Fiend says:

    Nice. Yue and Nodoka are definitely within top 5 for this series.

    I’d love to see your take on the skeptical, yet down-to-earth, Chisame. She’s love, too.

  2. Owen S says:

    Abso-fucking-lutely brilliant. NOW WRITE ABOUT AKO OMG AKO AKO AKO-

    -uh, where was I? Yeah. Lelangir doesn’t know what he’s missing.

    I take it you’ve read all of Love Hina before this?

  3. Ryan A says:

    Strolling club is awesome btw.

  4. Pontifus says:

    @lela-chin

    Who? Me or Yue?

    @Fiend

    Chisame is such an enigma to me, though. I mean, I like her, but she’s either several tropes in one or entirely trope-less, I can’t decide which. Maybe I’ll summon my inner Derrida and try to talk about her eventually.

    @Owen

    I’m working on an Ako post as we speak. Well, not literally, as I had to stop working on it to write this reply, but I am doing it. Ako’s relevance to basically any minor character somehow made it harder to mention her in this post.

    Yeah, I’ve read Love Hina, but not for quite a while. I’d have to read it again before I’d trust myself to talk about it much, but the prospect of that endeavor really doesn’t raise much objection from me.

    @Ryan

    The strolling club doesn’t get much coverage, come to think of it. I wonder if they’re allowed to stroll in the library, or if that would encroach upon the jurisdiction of the Library Adventure Club.

  5. ghostlightning says:

    I’m left out ;_; still have Bokurano and Kodomo no Jikan to read.

  6. Seinime says:

    I loved Nodoka. A Yue is fine too.

  7. drmchsr0 says:

    3, 2, 1.

    EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

    Shit, I know I’m supposed to hate Negima for some rather arbitary reasons, but THIS and Setsuna being half a step removed from being a LESBIAN (plus the awesome action scenes, delicious Kotaro, etc…)..

    I can’t believe I’m HOOKED and want MORE.

    YUE IS PATCHU (mindless ranting)

    AKAMATSU IS SUSPECTED OF PLAYING TOUHOU (more mindless ranting)

    Ahem.

    Negima is like me dealing with hamsters.

    Once again, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

  8. Pontifus says:

    @ghostlightning

    Just…don’t go to work for a week or two.

    @Seinime

    I might like Yue more. Is that weird? I mean, to me, she seems more human (insofar as she’s more of a screwup than Nodoka), and for whatever reason I find that endearing. I’m liking the amnesia deal, too (if you aren’t that far and don’t know what I mean, think no more of it!).

    @drmchsr0

    To the contrary, I figured I’d like Negima for arbitrary reasons (i.e. I can be sort of a tool when it comes to interesting harems), but my love of it is easy to support.

    Maybe Akamatsu plays Touhou; I’m pretty sure everyone does except me, so it’d stand to reason.

  9. Rakuen says:

    This is why I liked the NegiXNodoka thing more than that with Asuna– because the both of them don’t know how to react to each other, and it’s really good comic relief. It may be pretty sappy with the characterization but I forgive the artist.

  10. TheBigN says:

    Nice post.

    I’ve actually been tempted to write one of these posts about Chisame for a couple of months now, but I keep stopping myself because I’m not sure I know her too well, though she interests me much more than most of the other characters in Negima. Maybe I should start though, and see what turns up. Or maybe collaborate with you Pontifus and see what results from that. 😛

  11. Pontifus says:

    @Rakuen

    Something about Negi/Asuna creeps me out. Well, alright, I can think of a few things about it in particular, but at least one of them is sort of a giga-spoiler, so I’ll refrain. At any rate Negi/Yue, Negi/Nodoka, or Negi/Evangeline would probably be my pairings of choice, and it saddens me that all are basically impossible.

    @TheBigN

    I was going to say you can have dibs on Chisame because pinning her character down would be a pain, but I’m always down for collaboration. Maybe we’ll double-team Chisame. No, wait.

  12. Sakura says:

    I have to admit Nodoka is a front runner in my book for the same reason that something about the pairing with Asuna has a bit of a creep factor.

    Then again if you think about it, given his age any pairing with little kid Negi is kind of creepy…

    Not sure if a pairing with his grown up version Nagi is any better, depending on what age he actually is when he uses the spell.

    I have no idea why I read this, maybe its simply because hubby buys it and I feel obligated, but then that doesn’t really ring true since I haven’t touched Air Gear…

    • Pontifus says:

      Yeah, I’ve sort of omitted the whole shotacon aspect here. There’s that one point where the class talks about waiting for Negi to get older and making their moves then…I’ll go with that. I think that any relationship that required him to change his physical age artificially would still be on the strange side (were that a side plot, I’m pretty sure the characters involved would come to the same conclusion).

      Maybe Negima appeals across the sexes; I haven’t talked to many female fans about it. It’d be interesting, since, in my experience, Love Hina really doesn’t have much of a female following.

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  17. alejandra says:

    NODOKA IS THE BEST!!!! i also like kaede, yue, chisame and paru sama, but Nodoka is number 1 in my book, i mean she is cute, kinda funny, smart, sexy, and cool whats not to like about her? =P

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  19. Eva says:

    I’ve read negima since a friend told me about it. I really liked
    nodoka the most ◊NODOKA IS NUMDER ONE ◊
    I go for negi× nodoka

  20. Khim says:

    Nodoka is fine but in the END it’s NegixAsuna so ASUNA FTW!!!

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