Touta and Kuromaru attempt to become members of the immortal group UQ Holder! To pass they must land a single blow against two of the existing members–but do the two novice warriors stand a chance? Please, if you like these articles in 5 Point Discussions, share them on Facebook and Twitter. And if you have any questions or comments, hit me up @SageShinigami!
1. Well, it didn’t take long for them to go off-script in so far as adapting the manga, though all things considered it’s a bit of a puzzling choice to start now. After a bit of sailing, Touta and Kuromaru arrive at UQ’s headquarters: Fairyland Hall, which doubles as a functioning hot spring resort that all the immortals work at in their off time. The two are given a test to join the team: within a week’s time, both of them need to land a single blow on members of the UQ team. Of course, whenever someone says “land a single blow” it’s almost a given that the person being asked has a zero chance of accomplishing it, so Touta and Kuromaru wind up completely failing day one. While considering what to do next, they run into Shinobu, a character who really shouldn’t be here right now.
In the manga, Shinobu briefly appeared in the second chapter (the one I mentioned they skipped last episode), and then actually disappeared for a few dozen chapters before making a surprise re-appearance. As much as I want to say this change is for the better, it’s actually robbed her of much of her agency–in the manga she was a girl with her own goals separate from Touta and UQ Holder, while this episode sees her literally say “some stuff happened and I just wound up here”, which is such a downgrade. There’s absolutely no point to her character now other than potential fanservice (and actual waifu wars) now.
2. What’s most frustrating is just how badly this series clearly wishes it was Negima. While Yukihime thinks about the assignment she’s given Touta and Kuromaru (one that’s completely different from the manga), she reminisces about when she gave Touta’s grandfather and the protagonist of Negima, Negi Springfield, the same assignment once. Now, I love Negima. It’s easily one of my favorite manga series of all time, and a good adaptation would make it into my Top 10 anime series, but…this was just a waste of run time.
If they wanted to do a Negima anime, series creator Akamatsu has more than enough clout to get that done. He’s one of the most well-known manga creators of all time. Plus, Negima’s a completed series that would directly tie into the manga and make it easier to follow–that should’ve been a lay up. Why do a truncated adaptation of UQ Holder when it would be easier to spend like two years adapting Negima? The series would almost definitely be a hit, raising the profile of UQ even further, and likely make it easier to go for a real adaptation of the sequel later.
3. One thing I will give this adaptation is that it’s not wasting time. While helping Shinobu with chores, Touta and Kuromaru wind up in the “basement” of Fairyland Hall–it’s the kind of absurdly massive thing you’d find in a J-RPG as a “New Game+” dungeon. While there, they run into Jinbee Shishido, the second member of UQ Holder. Jinbee’s kind of a goofball, but he’s the first member to join UQ after Yukihime formed it, and he gives Touta and Kuromaru some help by introducing them to Kurobo, a talking sword that can control it’s own localized gravity to a frankly absurd amount. The fact that the sword talks was left a secret in the manga for several chapters yet, but I guess when you’ve got limited episodes to work through you just have to get on with it. I’m not mad at that.
Touta learns how to use the sword (mostly because he’d look cool doing it) by training with Kuromaru, who becomes better in combat by working with him. This is actually fairly accurate from the manga, though the reasoning is completely different–Kuromaru wants to be Touta’s bro so badly, and usually it works–they make each other better through either training or competing with each other.
4. Of course, eventually it has to come down to their individual battles. Try as they might, both of them fail at first–but Kuromaru learns how to change his style up a bit, catching his opponent Gengoro off-guard by allowing his arm to get chopped off…and then controlling it to stab Gengoro. It’s at this point we learn how Gengoro’s immortality works–he’s not “really” immortal, he just has literal lives stored up like a video game, an his number’s so absurdly high that he’s effectively immortal…though it remains to be seen just how he collects them.
Meanwhile, Touta isn’t nearly as lucky–his opponent, Karin, has taken an instant dislike to him for reasons that I hope don’t get glazed over in favor of simply making her a member of Touta’s “harem”. She’s much harder on Touta, and it’s only when we learn that Kurobo can not only increase it’s own gravity, but reduce it to a fraction of its normal self does Touta nearly strike Karin. But only nearly, because at that point Shinobu gets attacked by a group of monsters and Karin and Touta have to fight them off and save her.
Not that Shinobu was ever some great fighter, but I wish someone had thought about how her first episode now has her as a boring damsel in distress rather than a girl with an admirable goal who has her own adventures separate from Touta.
5. By the end, Touta passes because he attacks the monsters with such ridiculous force from Kurobo that it blows off Karin’s clothes (*sigh* because fanservice) and they simply decide that counts. But, when Yukihime learns that the monsters escaped from a hole in the basement created by Jinbee–she sends Touta and Kuromaru to eliminate the remaining monsters downstairs through a trap door.
This feels like something of a troll to manga fans–that’s exactly how this episode was meant to start. Touta and Kuromaru’s real test was getting sent through a trap door and being given a week to find their way back up without being eaten by any of the monsters. (Though they’re immortals, they make a gruesome/disgusting/hilarious note that it would take eight years for them to finally pass through the monsters.) Which left me wondering why they didn’t simply just do the episode as it was in the manga, but what do I know?
UQ Holder! is available for streaming on Amazon’s Anime Strike service.