With the assault on Negi's school field trip behind them, the characters of Mahora Academy are now getting ready for the school festival. For normal schools that involves a few decorating tables stacked with home-made cakes and a tombola, but for Negi's school, it involves the creation of a festival that would give Disney a run for its money, with giant mechanical monsters in parades, roller coasters, haunted houses and even fighting tournaments - guess who's about to find himself in training?
The third arc of Negima introduces a lot of new classmates to the mix, including the mysterious Chao Lingshen, who claims to be related to Negi and funds the mysterious fighting tournament.
It's the character interaction in Negima that lifts it above the crowd, and somehow Negima manages to fit in a huge cast without losing the reader in a sea of beautiful young girls. Most of the characters in these five volumes get some development, as Negi spends the festival with as many of them as he can, thanks to a handy time-jump device given to him by Lingshen, and we get to see him interact with pretty much everyone - and it's a delight to see. Negi is certainly no Keitaro (Love Hina) and displays courage, tenacity and compassion which makes him a worthy lead in a series fast becoming one of the best books available in the UK.
Once again, Akamatsu's artwork and layouts are dazzling - without putting a line wrong he manages to create a solid and beautifully screentoned compilation of pages. Every action scene is packed with dynamic poses, complex backgrounds and amazing effects, without confusing the reader and ensuring that the action flows smoothly. It's one hell of an achievement.
If you're not already reading Negima, and aren't put off by the occasional (he says sarcastically) fan-service, you really owe it to yourself to give this a go. Harry Potter, eat your heart out.