UQ Holder!, Vol. 1

By Ken Akamatsu. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

It’s pretty easy to tell that this is a sequel to Negima right off the bat – Evangeline appears on Page 1, talking about the difficulties inherent in immortality. It’s the following page that’s the gut-punch for all those who were hoping that this new series would see a lot of the Negima cast making cameos throughout – a metaphorical shot of Eva and the Negima cast slowly parting from one another as she continues on a solitary journey (not even Chachazero?), it’s also Ken Akamatsu telling us that this is 80 years after Negima proper, and most of the girls we loved are now dead. Is this the world that the shippers fought and died for in the “who is Negi’s wife?” wars?


Luckily, this is not a grim ‘n gritty story of how the Negima cast dies over the years – at least not so far. No, it’s pure shonen adventure, a Akamatsu has resolved whatever the issues were with Kodansha that caused Negima to end so abruptly and has finally won what he’d been working towards for years – pure adventure, no harem comedy whatsoever. Now, this is not to say we won’t have a few love triangles or fanservice scenes down the road – there’s at least two bath scenes with naked people in this volume alone. But Negima was always held back, at least at first, by Kodansha demanding Akamatsu try to replicate Love Hina, and it’s good to see that this new series is not going to be doing the same.

By the way, I had mentioned Evangeline, and she is the exception to the dead cast list above, being an immortal vampire. Indeed, immortality is the point of this entire series, as our hero is a young man, Tota Konoe (note the last name), whose parents died in a war, who has no memories before he as twelve, and who Eva, under the guise of a schoolteacher, has been raising for the last two years. It’s quite a burden for a young man to bear, but luckily Tota is very much a traditional shonen hero, complete with nonsense about a man’s dreams. (I am pleased it’s immediately pointed out as the nonsense it is.) As for Eva, she goes by Yukihime now, and it’s striking how much she has mellowed out and gotten nicer. The Eva of Negima would never, ever have gotten as close to Tota as Yukihime has – or at least would keep up a facade of disinterest.

The other main character we meet here is Kuromaru, who is an intriguing Setsuna clone. Given this is a sequel to Negima, I’m not entirely sure how much of the character’s looks are down to the fact that Akamatsu can only draw a certain number of faces and how much of it is deliberate, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt here. Tota is not too far off from Kotaro, and earlier we met a young person who was a dead ringer for Shinobu from Love Hina (which took place in the same universe as Negima). Kuromaru not only looks exactly like what Setsuna and Asuna’s child would look like, but also appears to be from the Bird Tribe that Setsuna had so many difficulties with earlier… and Kuromaru is having similar difficulties. Possibly the most intriguing thing, however, is how Kuromaru’s gender is being withheld – not only from the cast but also the reader. It’s clearly being done on purpose, and I’m wondering what’s going on here. Is Kuromaru trans? Or genderless? If so, kudos to Ken, though I suspect that will just open up a lot more questions.

We wrap up UQ Holder with a statement of the premise, which is to find aliens, time travelers and espers… wait, wrong series. To find immortal being like Yukihime and Tota and make friends with them! Luckily Yukihime seems to have her own personal yakuza to help carry this off. UQ Holder is an excellent start for both Akamatsu fans and fans of shonen manga in general, and I have no doubt will be filled with adventure and heart.

(Also, my guess on Tota is that Konoka and Setsuna’s son (via Negi helping out, so to speak) and Kotaro and Natsumi’s daughter got married and had Tota. Because forget diamonds, ship wars are eternal.)

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