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.

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.

UQ Holder!, Vol. 7

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

Seven volumes into UQ Holder, and again I’m asking the question I’ve wondered about since it started: who is this meant to be for, exactly? I don’t know how Japanese fans of Negima reacted when it came to its messy end, but the Western fans were appalled and angry, for the most part. And after seemingly destroying his own series due to an argument with the parent company (details will likely remain forever sketchy), Akamatsu has now leaped 80 years into the future, helpfully thus losing most of the main cast of Negima, and begun what seemed like a spiritual sequel but has now amounted to a direct sequel. And just as Negima was able to ditch some of the wacky comedy and naked fanservice of Love Hina in favor of fighting and battles, UQ Holder takes it further, and you can almost safely read this in public.


I know that there are readers of this series who have not read Negima, having picked up the series via Crunchyroll or Kodansha, and are purely interested in the new story and new generation of characters. This volume must be particularly frustrating to them, as almost all of it features old Negima cast members, old Negima plots that never got resolved, and teases of Negima characters long-dead doing badass things. As a Negima fan, I admit it’s nice to see Mana again, and even if it was just a tiny flashback, the idea of Ku Fei and Yue teaming up to win the Grand Magic Games tournament is both hilarious and awesome. And, of course, we have the major UQ Holder characters who *are* carryovers from Negima: Yukihime (aka Evangeline) and Fate.

This leads to what is probably the most interesting part of the volume, when touching an application for Tota to do the Grand Magic Games triggers a booby trap that shows them a vision of Negi, Nagi… and the Mage of the Beginning, who is delighted to see Evangeline again, and (it’s implied) Tota as well. The reason this is the most interesting part of the volume are Eva and Fate’s reactions, which are desperate and yearning, the most emotion we’ve seen from either of them this entire series. Eva’s love for both Negi and Nagi was a significant part of Negima, and now in UQ Holder it seems it hasn’t diminished.

Of course, this leads to what kickstarts the next arc, as after this she realizes (I assume, motives are murky) that Tota is in danger if he’s near her, and forbids him from fighting in the tournament, or even leaving headquarters. Needless to say, all this does is spur him on to try harder. And it also spurs the author on to work in more Negima references. Not only can Tota seemingly use Dark Magic Erebea, but he is revealed to literally be a clone of Negi, which will no doubt lead to some excellent soul-searching and character development on his end, but from a meta perspective is both hilarious and sad.

I enjoy UQ Holder for what it is, but then I’ve read Negima, and have gotten over my grudge. For anyone else trying this series, I imagine it must seem like the image of Negi we see in this volume: a cool image surrounded by the dark, binding tentacles that make up its past.