UQ Holder!, Vol. 12

By Ken Akamatsu. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley.

It’s sometimes amusing to look at my old reviews and see what’s been answered (or not) since then. Last time I did a full review of UQ Holder! was a year and a half ago, and I found myself wondering if the series was ever going to decide whether it was a true sequel to Mahou Sensei Negima! or not. Well, we now know the answer to that, and it’s 100% yes, as there is no longer any real attempt to keep new readers who may not have read the older series. The cover alone is a dead giveaway, as 3 of the 4 characters on it are famous stars of the old series… though it remains up in the air as to whether this is the “real” Negi, Nodoka and Yue or merely dark clones/copies/evil versions. The last two chapters of this volume are riveting, and promise to answer the open ending that annoyed so many Negima fans. Unfortunately, before that we have the previous 8 chapters.

I’ve been reading Negima for years (and Love Hina, for that matter), which means that not only am I invested in seeing how it turns out, I should be used to the sheer amount of female nudity that pervades almost every volume. This is something Ken Akamatsu has been doing for over 20 years, and while he’s switched from ‘ecchi comedy with lots of nudity’ to ‘action manga with lots of nudity’, the core does not change. And yet it’s getting harder to justify in these days of Roy Moore allegedly cruising malls for young girls, when even the main text of UQ Holder has the announcer of the beach motorcycle race that takes up most of the volume discuss the fact that the three main girls being stripped are all twelve years old. A major reason that fans, particularly in Japan, read Love Hina, Negima, and UQ Holder is to look at naked underage manga girls. And it’s really creepy. Most of the nudity here is presented as ‘nostalgic’, using similar magic (and sneezes) from its parent series, as if to say that it’s all just a callback. Ergh.

Moving back to Negima, the bits of this volume that aren’t underage nudity are Negima callbacks. It’s explicit in the last two chapters, when “Negi” and several of our old friends show up as sort of an evil sentai team, but even the rest of the series has decided to let its Negima flag fly. Kirie is more of a Chisame expy than ever before, and the race also features Ayaka’s granddaughter and a girl who is not only a dead ringer for Shinobu from Love Hina but also NAMED Shinobu. Oh yes, and there’s also Konoka and Setsuna’s identical-looking granddaughters, though as ever “my grandmoms were hella gay” is never going to be explicitly spelled out in this series. The cliffhanger also promises that we’re going to get an extended flashback, which presumably will wrap up Negima’s 800 loose ends. It is nice to see Asuna again.

So in the end this is the definition of “only buy this if you’re a true fan”. Between the fact that it’s incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t read 38 Negima volumes, you also need to accept Akamatsu’s fanservice, or at least avert your eyes. Which is what I do, and I acknowledge my massive hypocrisy. Only for the hardcore.

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