Touta and Yukihime meet the immortal hunter, Kuromaru! Have our heroes met their match before their journey can even begin? …Probably not. Remember, if you like this 5 Point Discussion please share it on Facebook and Twitter, and hit me up @SageShinigami if you have any questions or comments.
1. Our second episode starts off with Touta and Yukihime heading towards the capital, with Yukihime trying to explain that they have to walk because if they took a bus or any other public transportation they’d almost certainly be attacked by other bounty hunters, since her bounty is so ridiculoudly high. Still, Touta ignores her, which reminds me of my biggest problem with UQ Holder. We’ve talked about how this series is a sequel to Negima, which stood out from other shonen series for a lot of reasons, but the key one is it’s main character, Negi Springfield.
In a world of Gokus and Narutos and Luffys, where characters are mostly fighting savants and not really useful for much else besides–Negi stands nearly alone as a guy who was as smart off the battlefield as he was on it. It’s really silly and gimmicky that a ten year old would teach a group of teen girls, but he was able to DO it because he was legitimately a child genius, and the manga dealt with that a lot. He constantly overthinks things and gets consumed by whether or not he’s doing the right thing, or if he can live up to all these larger-than-life figures around him (he’s Deku about ten years before My Hero Academia).
Negi’s grandson Touta on the other hand? He’s an idiot, pure and simple. From the perspective of the Negima universe it makes sense–do the opposite from the previous series–but the contrast from Negima makes him too much like other shonen heroes. It’s meant to be endearing, and part of why he’s so easily able to make friends–his naivete is disarming and breaks down barriers, but I still miss having my favorite tactician around.
2. Another manga note: This episode actually skips the second chapter. It’s not a major deal–it’s mostly just Touta learning to deal with how becoming immortal in this universe is a little like how it is in Highlander–whatever age you become an immortal is the age you remain forever. It does introduce a cast member that will become important later in the series, but that happens so much further down the line that we could easily never reach that point. More importantly, it’s the kind of thing that would’ve made this episode flow poorly, because the Kuromaru mini-arc was three full chapters. Aside from that though, we’re still staying on course with the manga…though as a Negima fan I can’t help being skittish. We’ve been screwed so many times that it feels less like IF the series will go off-book, and more like a when.
3. The episode’s main plot point centers around Touta’s meeting with a new character, Kuromaru. In the middle of bathing in a spring they find, a nude Touta sails into an equally nude Kuromaru. Very stereotypical hilarity ensues, until they calm down and have a conversation. Kuromaru’s from space, where he’s trying to become a part of an Immortal-hunting clan known as the Fushigari–and the only way he’ll be allowed in is if he can finish off Yukihime. Unfortunately for him, Yukihime’s absurdly strong, and Touta is…well, the main character.
Yukihime kills him instantly only for him to regenerate, revealing the immortal hunter…to be an immortal himself. She points out that Kuromaru should probably start with the tutorial instead of skipping to the last boss and fight her pupil Touta instead, but his overwhelming strength proves too much for the young swordsman and leaves him wrecked all over again. Because Touta’s a simpleton, his victory means Kuromaru is forced to sign a blood oath promising they’ll be friends forever. Most people probably would’ve just asked to be left alone.
Kuromaru’s probably one of my favorite characters in UQ Holder. When the series began it was just because he was such a major tie to Negima: he utilizes the Shinmei-Ryuu, the same sword style as one of the characters from the original, Setsuna Sakurazaki. It’s a style that excels when used against demons, so most Shinmei-ryuu users wind up as exorcists, but it’s versatility and power make it one of the most formidable sword styles in the world. He’s ALSO a very complex statement on gender, but that’s something the series will get into later and so I won’t spoil it.
4. One thing I WILL spoil though, is about immortality. Yukihime immediately “kills” Kuromaru when he attacks her, and as he recovers she explains to Touta that there’s different types of immortality. This plays a big factor in the early parts of UQ Holder, as we meet a variety of immortal characters and Akamatsu introduces all the ways being an immortal works in his world. Immortality can mean simply a long-life, invulnerability to harm, or the ability to recover from any injury no matter how severe.
Touta, like Yukihime, is a vampire–all of which have some of the highest levels of immortality possible. They can survive nearly any injury, including being beheaded–as Touta was during the surprisingly well-animated fight he had with Kuromaru this episode. This high level of durability is going to lead to increasingly gory fights, making villains look several times more competent than they would in most other series.
5. The best part of this episode (which actually manages to make the stereotypical “hot springs” idea funny for once) comes at the end, as Touta realizes that if they can meet an immortal this easily they mustn’t be that hard to find, and suggests to Yukihime that they should create an organization of immortals to help the rest of the world. It’s an admirable goal, and in most series that would be how the organization we see in the series’ opening gets formed. Fortunately, Akamatsu is hip to this trope and decides to do the best thing possible. Yukihime reveals that she had that idea a long time ago, and thus formed the group herself–a family of immortals known as UQ Holder.
It makes sense–Touta’s been around all of 14 years and this idea isn’t exactly novel. Why wouldn’t someone have had it first? It also keeps us from having to watch the slow formation of the group–we can just hop right in, introducing all of the characters at once and gradually developing them one-by-one over time. As someone who’s spent many years watching groups grow one by one, J-RPG style, I appreciate UQ Holder for cutting through the BS. And also for the visual of Yukihime leading what’s clearly a group of immortal Yakuza:
Anyway, the series is still on the rails but we’ll see how long that lasts. See you in seven!
UQ Holder! is available for streaming on Amazon’s Anime Strike service.
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