The Return of Ken Akamatsu

Ken Akamatsu, my favourite author, recently announced through that he was in talks with Kodansha’s Weekly Shōnen Magazine about a new serialization, and even more recently announced that it has a planned Spring launch.

Needless, to say, I see this as great news. That said, he needs to approach this very carefully. While he has some very high profile works under his belt, his latest work blew 8 years of setup with a rushed final two volumes. The last thing I want to see is him going out with a dud, his reputation tarnished for all time from Negima‘s ending.

For those unaware of his previous works, he started by drawing hentai fan-work, moved on to write the one-shot Hito Natsu no Kids Game, which he followed up with his first serialization, A.I. Love You. He then wrote another one-shot named Always My Santa!, which got an short OVA series in 2005 (notably after 3 other 26-episode anime that were either based off his later works or were directly worked on by him). His most famous work is probably either Love Hina or Negima! Magister Negi Magi (I’ve covered Negima! on my Under Your Radar segment before), which both followed with about a year in-between the two, during which he wrote the story and drew the character designs for the kids’ anime Mao-chan (Japanese title: Earth Defense Force Mao-chan), which got a manga adaptation.

He seems to be cursed when it comes to anime, since all of his works get botched completely when adapted. You can blame Xebec’s exaggeration of Naru for the swarm of violent tsundere characters that followed, and their poor handling of Negima! prevented the anime series from becoming a long-runner. In both cases, the anime adaptations failed to reach a point in either work that could remotely be passed off as a conclusion, though they tried to fix Love Hina‘s adaptation with some OVAs.

In any event, his previous works were all disadvantaged due to a complete failure of anime studios at understanding what he creates, but they still sell well. Negima! is one of the top sellers for Kodansha worldwide, only losing to Fairy Tail in some places, only losing to Sailor Moon‘s reprintings in some others, and some countries have huge fanbases for certain other famous Kodansha writers, but the series still sells well. Love Hina was also quite popular worldwide.

Now, there are a few things I want to see from Akamatsu’s next serialization, but first, let’s do some deducution. There are two possibilites for what he’s making: Either he’s continuing Negima from timeline 4 as he said he might at the end of volume 38, or he could be making something new. Given that he’s been busy since Negima ended, I doubt he had enough time to properly design a new setting and characters (though, if he’s been working on it while doing everything else, it would be about a year since Negima‘s conclusion, about the same time he had between it and Love Hina), so chances are that his new work is based on something pre-existing, thereby making it likely that he’s either continuing Negima or adapting another work into manga form. Akamatsu’s far too established a writer to be handed a work to adapt like that very easily, since he’d likely sell so much better with his own work. As such, I must conclude that he’s either sloppily and hastily throwing something together or he’s writing a Negima sequel.

Some things I’d like to see him and/or Kodansha do are:

  • If he decides to stay weekly, lower his page count to 14 per week so he can keep up. Negima took “research” breaks once per month. While he did do extensive research during that time, it’s mainly to disguise that he can’t keep up with the speed necessary for a weekly serialization. This caused frustration for readers, his editors (initially – they apparently got used to it after a while), and likely himself. He made roughly this many pages per week at his speed for Negima, so having this amount consistently every week would be the most convenient course of action for everyone involved. Of course, he also has the option to go monthly, but if he goes monthly, he’d better get some colour pages this time. He’s fast enough to cover a monthly chapter and do colour pages once in a while, so why shouldn’t he? His previous works, despite their popularity, rarely ever got colour pages (Negima got three for the first chapter, one for the final chapter, and the cover for the movie). Given how detailed his art became by the end of Negima, it’s a damn shame.
  • If this is a Negima continuation, give us a 26-episode summary anime up to the split point. Shueisha did this for Hunter × Hunter (though they made it a long-runner, not 26 episodes) to help people who didn’t follow the series up until that point catch up on the story. Negima started its run in 2003, so this is especially important if Akamatsu moves to another magazine to write monthly, since everything would be really hard to understand for someone picking it up at that point. 26 episodes is an amount that even series that were far less popular than Negima got given. It may sound like blasphemy to ask that most of the 38 volumes of Negima be shortened to 26 episodes (I suspect that the end of volume 36 would be the split point), it’s not that ridiculous if they do so by cutting out the stuff that isn’t needed to understand the core story. The first Negima anime showed us that the 3-volume Kyoto arc could be shortened to two episodes if you removed Kotarō, the pillow fight, and Nodoka’s pactio, so why not take a third, possibly a fourth episode and make the arc roughly one episode per volume, re-adding those parts? The introductory arc could easily be three episodes, tops (one to open the series and explain Mahora, the other two for Eva’s attack), surgically removing Ako and Nodoka (their parts in the arc were a monumental waste of time, and the manga skipped a lot of other events in that arc anyway) would make the Mahora Festival arc easy enough to fit within the remaining space in the first half. This leaves half of the episodes to fill in with a faster-paced version of the Magical World arc.
  • If this is not a Negima continuation, keep it simple. Akamatsu will be knocking on 45 by the time his new serialization starts, and we’ve already established that he needs a smaller page quota per week to keep up. He probably won’t be able to write another long and complex story like Negima and actually finish it, and simpler means that anime companies are far more likely to not botch it.
  • If this is not a continuation of Negima, do not make it resemble Negima. Otherwise, his established fanbase will scream even louder than they already would about him writing something new instead of cleaning up his mess.
  • Synchronize the Japanese and English releases. The final volume of Negima, as well as the only volume of the non-existent Negiho spin-off, will be coming out in April. This means that they could do an English printing of volume 1 of his new work on the same day as the Japanese one without missing a beat. Seeing as Akamatsu is established worldwide, why not take this chance?

These are pretty simple things, most of which could be easily done (the anime one is unlikely). I’d be quite happy if several of these actually happened, but only time will tell.