A few chapters ago I said I was concerned that Kuroumaru, after admitting his feelings, would continue another 100 chapters without any real development, and it seems that Akamatsu is proving me wrong. Although I don't care much for the Kuroumaru/Touta ship, I'm glad to see that the former is finally getting some character development. It still completely revolves around Touta and that shows no signs of changing, but I'll take it.
The genderless-until-teens attribute of Kuroumaru's tribe we've known about for 80+ chapters is finally coming to a head, and his interest in Touta seems to have officially made him (now her I guess) female. Since (s)he clearly identified as male early on in the series I was partially hoping that this would stick, but deep down I always knew that Kuroumaru would end up a girl. Akamatsu is known for his work in harem/fanservice mangas, and if he had the chance to make more female characters I was sure he would go for it (even if this technically wasn't a harem series until a few chapters ago). Still, if this is what it takes for Kuroumaru to finally be fleshed out then I'm completely for it.
Apparently Kuromaru doesn't actually get a choice in what gender she becomes as I previously thought, but rather it naturally develops from her mental state. So if she likes a boy then she'll become a girl and vice-versa. It seems clear that the changes are past the point of no return now, with Akamatsu really driving home the point by putting a picture her in girl's clothing as the cover image and dressing her in a sundress in the actual chapter.
Kirie vows to help foster Kuroumaru's relationship with Touta despite obviously having the hots for him as well. So it seems clear that we're going to get an arc about her coming to terms with her feelings for him in the future too. I actually didn't mind her attraction to him in the past because it was always in the background and kind of funny, but I hope every female character's development doesn't revolve around how they like Touta. Even Yukihime seems like she's going to go in that direction (and I still stand behind my prediction that she's probably going to be the winner of the harem in the end, if any winner is revealed at all).
Despite all this, I just don't get why everyone is suddenly longing for Touta. Kuromaru gives us an explanation as to what she finds appealing in him, and - other than pulling her out of a life of immortal hunting for a tribe of people who thought of her as trash way back in the first volume - everything else just comes off as Marty Stu-ish to me. Even the one thing I can agree with I find a bit distasteful because of how simply cliche that whole encounter was. Touta's relationship with past-Evangaline I liked, even if it felt a bit fast-paced, and Kirie's attraction to him always came off as a little girl with a crush, but Mizore's came completely out of left field. Shinobu, while obviously liking him, has had so little impact that I barely even notice her presence. Maybe in the future these latter two will get more focus, but for now their only purpose seems to be to fill out the harem in my eyes.
The thing is, I could totally see why all the girls in Negima crushed after Negi. Many started it jokingly because he was smart/cute, but when it became clear just how immense of a hardworker he was it started to become a serious attraction. While obviously played up (because harem manga), the class' interest in him, for the most part, actually made sense to me. Not to mention that Negi's obliviousness was well-excused there due to him being both a child and their teacher, and when it became undeniable he actually struggled to not hurt their feelings. In contrast, Touta just has a harem dumped on him for being super talented and cool, and he's such an airhead that he doesn't get the message even when someone confesses to his face. I really hope he grows out of this in the future.
The end of this chapter makes it seem likely that this is going to happen, at least in regards to Kuroumaru, so I'm really interested to see where this goes.