UQ Holder!, Vol. 15

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.

There are spoilers in this review for the entire book, as well as the ending of Mahou Sensei Negima.

I’m actually tagging Negima in this review as well, because after a lot of faffing about, this is, finally, the Negima ending that actually resolves things. The entire volume reads as if Akamatsu is saying “Yeah, sorry about the end of Negima, I was fighting with Kodansha and threw a hissy fit, here’s a much better version of what happened.” The amusing thing, of course, is that UQ Holder doesn’t quite take place in the same universe as Negima – something explicitly spelled out by Tota here. The mysterious stranger from the cliffhanger of the last book (who turns out to be Chamo) is getting ready to show us a movie of what happened to Negi and company in Tota’s home world, through the dead eyes of Chachazero (which is really creepy when you think about it) when Dana bursts in, punches a middle school girl unconscious, and shows them an alternate universe “happy ending” – i.e. what happens in Negima’s home world.

That’s Nodoka and Yue on the cover, but sorry to break it to you, neither one of them wins the Negi sweepstakes. I had talked before about how the ending of Negima had him tell Asuna that he loved one of the girls, but didn’t say who, except Asuna’s surprise made it clear it wasn’t a) her, or b) one of the more obvious candidates. They do get to confess, and Negi turns them down, and it’s well-handled and very sweet. Then there’s Negi’s confession to the girl he actually does like. Given it wasn’t Asuna, the Naru-lookie likee, there’s only one other choice it could be given Akamatsu’s own preferences. It’s the OTHER Naru-lookie likee, Chisame. Again, you can see why Asuna was surprised but not THAT surprised. Chisame filled the role of Negi’s mentor and “common sense” throughout Negima, and he’s also commented on how pretty she is multiple times, much to her annoyance. The main issue is that Negi is far too young. Which is why, when he confesses, she shoots him down.

This leads to the funny parts of the book, as the ENTIRE CLASS was spying on them, and Ayaka in particular seems ready to burn Chisame to death with her mind for rejecting Negi. But Chisame’s right – despite all the many, many, MANY shotacon jokes in Negima, he really is too young to be dating. (She is also too young to be dealing with the fact that she really does like him too.) As such, we can swiftly move forward five years, to when Negi is sixteen, and show the final battle between him and the entity possessing his father. (Negi’s mother’s fate remains unknown – I assume she died at some point after he was born, but it’s never made clear.) The battle allows mostly everyone to take part (though the noncombatants are shown watching from the side in cat-eared spacesuits, and Eva and the three cheerleaders stay home) and lets Akamatsu do the only thing he loves more than nude harem chases – big fights with lots of punching.

After this epic battle, we move forward two more years and get the epilogue. Everyone lives happily ever after. Negi, now an adult, marries a grumpy, blushing Chisame (which makes Kyrie very happy – she’s likely noticed that she and Chisame are the same, and thus this increases her chances) and his recovered father marries Evangeline (I assume that he freed her from her curse at some point, though honestly she still looks about ten years old in the wedding photo.). I was amused at Tota pointing out the flaws inherent in Akamatsu’s own plotting – the entire happy ending depends on Asuna getting rescued via time travel, which many readers at the time called a giant cheat, and so does Tota, saying they have to get their own happy ending without cheating. (I didn’t have issues with the time travel in the original ending, as I felt it had been foreshadowed quite well.) Perhaps now Akamatsu can get on with moving forward with his new cast and dealing with the plot in their own universe… though given all the villains are essentially dark variations on the cast of Negima, this seems unlikely.

If you liked Negima but have not read UQ Holder, you should pick up this volume anyway – you really don’t need to know much about the latter to understand this, and it gives much better closure to the series. Just… five and a half years later.

Negiho: Mahora Little Girls

Created by Ken Akamatsu, manga by YUI. Released in Japan as “Negiho (Ito) Bun” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

Some of you may recall that this is actually the 2nd Negima spinoff. Negima Neo came out in seven volumes, and was essentially a cuter, more comedic Negima with most of the action and threats to our heroes removed. Somewhere down the road, though, some editor at Kodansha must have decided that this was simply not adorable enough, and came up with this. I assume they asked Akamatsu, and he looked up from where he was creating the actual Negima manga and nodded vaguely. And so we have Negiho, which takes place in a universe where Negi and Kotaro are young adult men teaching a class of 31 five-year-old girls.


I will be fair, this series was not nearly as creepy as it sounded. There are no panty shots of pre-pubescents throughout, which I was kind of expecting. And no one gets their clothes sneezed off, mostly as magic doesn’t seem to exist here. Asuna has a giant crush on Negi, who hits her ‘older man’ buttons this time around, but it’s clearly the crush of a 5-year-old girl on a teacher, and is never meant to be serious except in a ‘look at how freaked out she’s getting’ sort of way. There’s even stickers in the front of the book! Of course, the book is still rated OT, probably because of the chapter where Asuna and Ayaka try to make their non-existent breasts grow so they can seduce their teacher… Have I mentioned it’s hard giving Japan the benefit of the doubt sometimes?

The main reason this manga exists is for the comedy. Characterization attempts to happen, and a lot of the characters are sort of like their canon selves (Setsuna still crushes on Kanoka, Kaede is a ninja, Chao invents things) but are basically slaves to the gags. Heck, gag humor is actually the point of Chachamaru this time around, who has decided that the best way to become closer to the rest of her class is to be a manzai comedian. I will give credit to the Nibleys, who as translators had to deal with this and try to work out Chachamaru’s terrible Japanese jokes and turn them into terrible English jokes. The endnotes are also helpful here, mostly as even translated it still feels that we’re missing something.

Then there are the characters who don’t translate to ‘adorable preschoolers’ so well, and that’s Evangeline. Which is ironic, given she’s an undead vampire with the body of a 10-year-old in the original. But here, in the body of a 5-year-old, she doesn’t have the ability to be evil or malicious in any successful way, and instead merely becomes the buttmonkey of the entire series. Which, in a series with Asuna in it, is impressive. That said, I suspect the number of Negima fans who thought “I like Evangeline, but wish she wasn’t as awesome and terrifying and did more anteater impressions” numbers in the single digits.

There were one of two other things I sort of smiled at – it’s nice to see Rakan and Theodora get married in some continuity, even if it isn’t the main one, and Konoka and Setsuna’s attempts at death metal are possibly the funniest thing in the book. But at the end of the day, I came away wondering who this was written for? I can’t imagine fans of the original, especially in the West, being enthralled by preschool comedy adventures. And the romance and occasional sexual gags means it’s not for kids either. Even the artist, in his afterword, notes that this series had a lot of flaws. If you love everything Negima, give it a shot. It didn’t actively offend me most of the time, but it’s pretty inconsequential.

Also, how are a 5-year-old Chao and Hakase building Chachamaru anyway? Did anyone think this through at all?

Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Vol. 38

(This review shamelessly spoils the entire volume.)

And so Negima ends, at least for now. This volume gives me very complicated feelings. It starts off with some of the most teeth-grindingly annoying chapters we’ve had in ages. We then get possibly some of the best chapters in the entire series. And it all ends with a flashforward that answers everything we didn’t really want answered, avoids answering things we did, and undercuts the moral that it had just given several pages earlier. In short, while there’s a ton to adore here, this volume is… a bit of a mess.


Let’s start off with the end of the Battle Royale to beat Negi up for toying with girl’s hearts. Which only gets worse when the cheerleaders manage to force out of him that he does have romantic feelings for someone. The fact that Negi is way underage (as are all the girls, really, but 15 isn’t really all that underage in terms of fandom shipping, whereas ten is) has been a point of contention throughout the entire series, with many fans finding the fact that people are making jokes about seducing Negi vaguely discomfiting. As such, laying it all out in the open makes it even worse, since it’s clear from the writing (good on Akamatsu showing this) that Negi simply isn’t mature enough to handle something like this. It really makes the reader dislike characters like Yuna (who I quite like apart from this) and Haruna (who I don’t really like much at all, to be fair) who keep pressing things, especially as it’s all done just so they can have another melee chase sequence and a gratuitous last-minute pactio.

We then get the sequence with Asuna. This is the polar opposite of what I talked about above. It’s subtle, well-handled, and almost perfect. Asuna says that she’s come to terms with being a magic ‘battery’ for 100 years (which everyone thinks will erase her personality, by the way), but coming out of it in the future and discovering that yes, indeed, everyone is dead by now is absolutely devastating for her. The emotions in the scene where she reads the time capsule are amazing, and it makes the climax (and sudden appearance of the two obvious characters to suddenly appear) even more awesome.

There was some controversy about the ‘easy’ resolution to Asuna’s fate when this first came out, mostly as Western shonen manga fans are always desperate for a ‘dark, unhappy’ ending for some reason I can’t quite figure out except they’re all teenagers or something. I was very happy with it, mostly as it made perfect sense given everything we’ve seen before. Negima has abused time travel shamelessly ever since Chao was introduced, why shouldn’t it resolve the entire thing by using time travel? It makes everyone happy, solves the ‘how do we get enough magical power for 100 years’ question, and is a giant emotional pile of tears. Win all around, this part of the manga was fantastic.

Right after Asuna’s return, when Negi and everyone else are asking future-Eva and Chao about what happens from now on, Eva points out that the future is a blank page, and that they don’t have to rely on knowing what will happen. And I really wish Akamatsu had taken his own advice. He says that this is ‘one possible ending’ and that ‘this world is possibly the happiest’ – though given only 7 years or so have gone by, it still has a ways to go. And, well, it ‘ship sinks’ the four main fan pairings. Now, to be fair, harem manga, especially lately, are well-known for having inconclusive endings. Authors and editors don’t want to upset fans who are invested in one particular girl, so they like to leave things vague. That said, we still don’t know who Negi ends up with when he grows up… but we know it’s not the girls he had the most character development with. Which… suck, really. I suppose it’s my fault for getting emotionally involved in the ship tease despite everything.

More annoying, however, is laying out the fates of every single main girl. The future is a blank page… now let’s write in it. If you’re going to do an open ending, leave it open! Special mention must be made of Chisame’s future, by the way. It’s absolutely, 100% in character… and all the more depressing because of it. Why would you do that? She had possibly the most character development, along with Nodoka, of the entire cast! And now, in the future, she’s a hikikomiri shut-in who helps Negi behind the scenes. We see her staring grumpily at her computer… just as we did at the start. She’s not even cosplaying anymore. Having seen the possibilities, she has chosen to stay the hell away from them. Bleah.

Oh yes, and we still have no idea what happened to Negi’s mother. Akamatsu hints that it may be left to the anime (which, given the anime’s final movie was FAR WORSE than this manga’s ending, is not something I look forward to.) We do, at least, hear that Setsuna and Konoka get married… though in typical ‘must be as vague as possible’ tradition, it’s left uncertain (but obvious) if it was to each other. The reason for this car-crash ending, by the way, is rumored to be that Akamatsu and Kodansha got into a fight about materials and he cut the manga short. They presumably patched things up, as he’s preparing a new series for them, but that doesn’t really help Negima. Maybe he’ll come back to it, but then I’m still waiting for Shirow to return to Dominion too.

So in the end I remain dissatisfied, but I will try to remember all the great fun I had reading this series. Given Ken’s goal was to avoid doing just another Love Hina-style harem comedy the way Kodansha wanted him to, I think he succeeded admirably. We grew enamored and invested enough in this world, its hero, and its many, many heroines that we are allowed to get up in arms when it all falls apart. Love it or hate it, few were indifferent to this volume of Negima.