About twenty years after the events of Negima! stand Touta and Yukihime who live in a small, rural town far removed from the hustle and bustle of normal life. Touta is the grandson of the great wizard Negi Springfield, and he soon sees visions of Negi inviting Touta to the top of a grand tower in the center of a certain city. Yukihime and Touta are attacked one day, leading to the adventure of Touta’s lifetime and the eventual return of Neji Springfield.
Before I start, I have two cents: I’m probably in the minority, but I’d like life more if we left Akamatsu Ken’s original works alone. His stories work far better long form in manga; Love Hina being my personal favorite. I’m happy that people want to see this Akamatsu’s work on the TV screen, but the adaptations are so often a tragedy. The Negima! series is a prime example of this a the original anime was so trashed on by fans- they had to make another: Negima!?.
Anyway. Let’s talk about UQ Holder– hint: it’s not too great.
Once I figured out the connection between UQ Holder and Negima!, I got really into the idea of a post-Negi-era. I found the world itself so interesting and different than what I remembered from my brief experience with Negima!, and I quickly fell in love with all the female characters- as I am known to do. While I had never finished or read more than about five or six volumes of the manga, it is a series that loved in middle school.
UQ Holder starts off in a rural city with Touta, then follows up by moving him away to a secret base run by Yukihime where the her UQ Holder troupe resides. The meat of show consists of Touta learning the ropes and introducing his overpowered magic to the audience. We are slowly trained to easily accept Touta status, not as Negi’s grandson, but as the successful clone of Negi and Asuna (and the rest of Negi’s old class). When the reveal is finally made, it’s not terribly surprising and so begins a very rushed climax.
The manga is ongoing at 15 volumes, so compressing that content to 12 episodes would be a Herculean feat for anyone. The creators, JC Staff, did their best; however, the latter half of UQ Holder is frustrating to watch as the pacing picks up far too quickly and the episodes become focused on defeating an all-powerful God-like character that even Negi Springfield was unable to kill. It’s almost physically harmful to watch all the self-serving Negima! cameos in the last few episodes because they play like an gross nostalgia trip- think “Member berries” from South Park.
If we didn’t get a forced Negima! rehash, the UQ Holder anime may have been able to stand on its own as a separate story that only drew from Negima!. Unfortunately, for me and you, that’s not the case and UQ Holder can’t be watched without the prior knowledge of it’s grandfather hefty, often mess, of an anime. UQ Holder suffers severely because of this.
The ending of the show itself is confusing and truly fails.
What about animation and art? It largely retains the style of Akamatsu, and the quality keeps up through the very last second. I can say nothing bad about the art or animation because it was on point which is to be expected of JC Staff (they seriously rock at their jobs).
UQ Holder is little treat for those of you who have seen Negima!, and for people who haven’t seen Negima!, this show is a little too referential- especially toward the end of the of the season. The references and cameos in UQ Holder come at a detriment to the progress of the show, in fact, as it impedes any interesting development that could have made this am overall good anime. As it stands, UQ Holder manages to only be okay. If you are looking for a new series to love- just read the manga.