Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: UQ Holder!
Anime Studio: J.C. Staff
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Action / Fantasy
Released: April 22nd 2019
Episodes: 13 + 3 OVAs
Extras: Clean OP & ED, Clean OVA ED, Japanese Promos, Disc Credits
When you’re the grandson of a famous hero, you’d think that your life would be interesting, but Tota Konoe is stuck in the dullest place he can imagine! He can’t even leave his tiny village until he can defeat his teacher and foster parent Yukihime, and she seems to be impossibly powerful. Then everything changes when Yukihime is attacked and Tota learns that both she and Tota himself aren’t who or what Tota thought they were Now Tota has a new, impossibly long life ahead of him and an amazing destiny that ties in with the fate of his grandfather, the legendary Negi Springfield! Get ready for vampires, demons and magic users galore as Tota discovers the perils of being a member of the world’s most exclusive organization.
I came into this show having not seen the original Negima series, nor read the manga. In that regard, I had no real idea of what to expect. From the characters designs, it seemed pretty obvious from the get-go that it would be a shounen series, but that was about all I knew. So, the point is, I can’t comment on how close it is to the source material or how it feels in comparison to the original series.
All that being said, I did enjoy UQ Holder. The magical battles were really something to behold, which is an absolute plus in series that has such a focus on it. I think what stood out to me the most in them is how brutal they could get. Arms, in particular, seemed to take a lot of damage. What was nice though was that the battles didn’t rely on the bloodshed, and instead mixed in some genuinely interesting concepts. From magic apps for mobile phones to swords with adjustable gravity, the cast was wielding plenty of cool weapons, and that’s before we even talk about stuff like Gengoro’s extra life ability. When it comes to fantasy action, UQ Holder is a fine example of the genre.
The story itself is decent too. While the pacing feels a little rushed at times – such as how it deals with one particular revelation relating to Tota – it does a great job of introducing plot points to the overall arc. There was a wonderful scene early on that dealt with the idea that immortality has some major downsides, which was a nice touch. I liked the gender-based leaning to Kuromaru’s story too. Once we got to the main gist of their arc, it added a lot to what was otherwise just another trope that was, unfortunately, being dealt with for laughs.
My understanding is that the Negima cast turning up during the climactic episodes was not part of the source material. Their use felt like it made sense though, so for me, that seems like a moment that was designed to please fans of the franchise. That it tied so well into the three-part story was a bonus, especially as said episodes felt like the best of the bunch to me. Meanwhile, the first two of the three OVAs also add a little to the characters, revealing some insight into them via otherwise throwaway bonus episodes. The third OVA felt a little dull to me though.
In terms of the technical stuff, I really enjoyed the peppy opening theme and thought that the cast did a decent job. I mostly watched the dub here, and nothing felt out of place for me in terms of the audio. The animation oddly started off a little so-so but seemed to stabilize part way through the first episode. There are some really nicely done scenes too, such as the beautifully animated shot of Tota licking up Yukihime’s blood during the battle with the bounty hunter.
I would say that the fan service moments felt kinda tacked on though. The opening scene of the first episode had no bearing on the rest of the series, and the other times that it ramps it up never seem to even try to justify it as necessary to the story. I could really have done without the occasional attempts to get fourteen-year-olds involved with the nudity too, both as observers and participants.
In all, I’d say that UQ Holder is at its best when it’s balancing out the plot, interesting concepts, and brutal action. The bouts of fan service and rushing through things lower the enjoyment a bit, but it never really drags. So, I give this a respectable 3.5 out of 5.