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Why You Should Be Watching: UQ Holder

After a short break as the seasons began their inevitable march, Why You Should Be Watching is back with UQ Holder, an anime featuring the vampire Evangeline from the popular Negima! Magister Negi Magi series watching over the new main character, Tōta Konoe, as he begins his newfound life of immortality in a much darker world than he realizes.

If that sounds like fun to you, take a look below the break for more!

What I’ve Seen: Episode 1 (and currently caught up on the manga)

Immortality as a concept has been explored in a ton of media throughout the ages, but it’s not often an aspect just given to a main character in anime right from the outset, and especially not in the manner Tōta Konoe received it: consuming the blood of his vampire foster parent after his parents’ unfortunate deaths.

Though initially a light hearted typical shonen beginning, UQ Holder is about the tragedy of what life as an immortal being entails, with many drawbacks on both the emotional and physical scales. Evangeline embodies this fact right from the show’s outset as she narrates how her long life caused her the grief of losing the friends she made across the original Negima manga’s series to old age.

With her emotions in turmoil, her regret at condemning Tōta to this same fate at the end of the episode is both the worst thing she could have done to someone she cares about but also apparently a perfectly fine concept for Tōta because he gets to spend that immortality with the one he cares about: Evangeline.

And so the next chapter in Evangeline’s life begins, stepping through the twilight of her former friends’ lives into the darkness alone and finally into the dawn as a new set of family beckons her forward, Tōta foremost among them. It is this fact that offers her solace, that though she is immortal, so too are the people she finds herself accompanying, a fact that Tōta will soon find carries with it more significance and blessing than he probably knows.

There isn’t yet much to say about the show at this point, since there’s only one episode out, but as someone who has read the manga, the story at play in this sequel to the Negima franchise is one I find immensely intriguing. What does it mean to be immortal? What kind of obstacles do you put in front of someone who can live forever and still make the story compelling? How does all of this effect the characters mentally?

Suffice to say I found the answers to these questions satisfying in the manga, and I believe you will as well if you find yourself saddled with the same questions. UQ Holder is something special, because it’s not only a direct sequel to the manga instead of the previous Negima anime, but it also divests itself somewhat from the original series by setting it 80 years beyond the end of its predecessor. You also won’t need to read the previous manga to understand what’s going on, at least for now, because UQ Holder explains people, places, and concepts pretty well by itself.

I don’t know how many episodes will be in this series, but judging by the presence of certain characters in the OP, I believe this anime will cover quite a bit of ground in its runtime. This is a double edged sword, because even though this is a fun story with a bunch of interesting characters I’d like to get to, it’s also possible it may fall prey to the same issues the Negima anime did: anime original endings that cut short the truly impressive arcs of the series later on. I’m hoping that UQ Holder doesn’t come to the same end, but the possibility is still there in the back of my mind.

Still, from what I can tell, the anime is already doing its best to keep up a faithful adaptation. There were some parts cut from the first chapter of the manga in this first episode, but it was mostly ancillary stuff that wouldn’t add anything to the story. There are also a couple of anime original pieces, like the ghost of Negi/Nagi (I can’t tell which it is, but I assume Negi) and the initial opening with the Negima cast (though this was also in the manga, just way later).

I suppose these portions are meant to drive home the fact that this is, indeed, a sequel to Negima and they might exist to make the latter half of the show easier to pick up on, since UQ Holder basically turns into Negima for a few chapters later on to plug the holes in that manga’s ending.

The reason for this, I assume, is because the creator never really got a chance to do so in the actual Negima manga because of real life industry issues. This is a little bit of a problem, because it’s much to the detriment to UQ Holder’s story in my opinion, but on the other hand, we might not get there in the anime anyway.

On the topic of the anime as a piece of art, the show manages to capture the essence of the manga’s artstyle well enough, though I feel there is a little bit lost in translation. A lot of people might be turned off because the first episode seems generic for most of its runtime, but the incredible amount of gore that splatters across the last third of the episode should do well toward disabusing people of that notion.

UQ Holder is a violent manga, quite a bit more so than Negima, and the anime seems to be following suit. The reason there’s so much blood is because Tōta and Evangeline are immortal, so they can and will have body parts chopped off, burned, broken, beaten, and all kinds of horrific ways a normal person could die, so I would advise being prepared to see that often. There aren’t going to be any pulled punches because the characters can take the abuse.

The sound design of the show is unfortunately forgettable, at least for me, and I’m not much a fan of Tōta’s voice. However, Evangeline and the rest of the characters seem serviceable enough. The OP and ED both also feel a little bit lazy in their implementation, with nothing spectacularly interesting to watch in either, symbolically or aesthetically.

I just hope this means they’re saving that budget for the show itself, which it seems to be doing at least so far, but first episodes are often much better looking than anything in the following ones. There’s also going to be a lot of fan service, just like its predecessor, so be prepared for that, as well.

In any case, UQ Holder tackles some interesting concepts regarding immortals, and since there are much less characters involved in this series than the 30+ in the Negima series, there’s a lot more effort put into each to make them a lot more multidimensional than the girls we saw cluster around Negi. I hope you’ll continue to watch it week to week or, failing that, definitely read the manga because it’s certainly an experience that I enjoy personally.

If you enjoyed this look into Why You Should Be Watching this anime, take a look at my last Why You Should Be Watching on Aho Girl & Tsurezure Children!

And if want something a little more verbal, you can take a look at my YouTube channel where I discuss issues, ideas, and more through the lens of anime while giving insight into why I enjoyed the show.

If you want to talk to me, you can always leave a comment down below or catch me @Croswynd on Twitter anytime.

And, as I always say, remember to enjoy the way you watch anime, because as long as you’re having fun, that’s all that really matters.

See you next time!