So this is it, the end of the UQ Holder! anime. It’s been a wild ride, and these last three episodes were the craziest part of that ride. Shall we end this once and for all?
How Did These Episodes Adapt From Manga to Anime?
Episode 10 of UQ Holder! begins an adaptation of sorts of the Mahora Fest arc. This arc spans over 50 chapters (most of it unrelated setup) and this episode mostly takes bits from the beginning and very end. This was … not well handled. I can see the vision for this episode, I can see what they wanted to do. I don’t see, however, how they thought they could accomplish combining everything from the manga. For whatever reason, it was decided that they had to get to the Negi stuff. I don’t know why this was.
I’d like to mention that these chapters were released when the anime was announced, and the series switched to monthly. I noted that the episode included bits from chapter 128, right? UQ Holder!‘s manga is at chapter 142. They got here in 10 episodes.
Things Break Down
Could it have worked? Not with how this was structured. Tota’s conflicts about being a clone are basically settled eight minutes in, as well as the conflict of him not be able to enter the tournament. Then he fights Cutlass, which introduces a new conflict, only for that the be brushed away to introduce the final bosses in the next eight minutes. At no stage of this story was it given any time to breathe. The whole thing comes out lacking any punch. They say too many cooks ruin the broth, the same can be said for plot points it seems.
Episode 11 is a more straightforward adaptation of chapters 129 – 131. In doing so, it does a fairly good job adapting the content to anime, rearranging some of the content in a way that’s acceptable. Most of the problems with the episode come from the fact that it builds on a relationship that has hardly been set up. Tota’s relationship with Yukihime is one of my least favorite parts of the manga.And this episode handles it horribly, as it puts in the relationship, without setting it up at all. Much of the arc that was cut was precisely about that relationship, so this is an ending without a beginning. Still not the worst it could be, that would be episode 12…
What the Heck
Episode 12, the finale of this show, an absolute mess. The episode covers parts of chapters 132 – 134 but the changes, oh god the changes. The whole second act with all the girls from 3-A appearing was completely original and, well, I have feelings about this. I was facepalming during the entire scene, cause it was that ridiculous. It could be an interesting finale to a Negima! sequel about Negi being evil, but that’s not what UQ Holder! is at heart.
UQ Holder! is a story of a boy who has to live up to an insane legacy of two relatives that saved the world. He ends up having to do this by having to fight his grandfather, the previous saviour of the world. That’s why the final villains of UQ Holder! are previous heroes. So Tota’s crew can save the world, it’s a generational story. Having the Negima! characters fighting him completely misses the point to have a fan service ending that doesn’t mesh with the rest of the show.
UQ Holder! Gives Up on Making Sense
On top of that, it all happens so quickly that some lines aren’t explained, making the scenario even more confusing than it needs to be. Yue mentions that this version of her isn’t on Negi’s side. How does she know what has happened up until now? I don’t know. Tota also uses Negi’s Thunder power-up in this episode out of nowhere, cause that’s a great idea.
The whole segment is also very tonally jarring. Seeing as the episode had an intense fight between Negi and Tota that highlights the fact that Negi has killed a lot of people. Not to mention that the 3-A girls are able to be there because Kirie stalled by getting MULTIPLE TEETH PULLED OUT OF HER. This episode had no consistent sense of tone or pacing, it’s shocking to me. UQ Holder! was once a competent action show, if thematically barren, but in this last arc, it throws any semblance of itself out the window.
The Ending of UQ Holder!
The ending, oh god the ending. Do I have to talk about this? [Editors Note: Yes, you do!] Okay, so … the ending includes some stuff that happens before these events in the manga, no big deal, weird change but nothing crazy. Some hints about Dana, and then Tota’s confession to Yukihime.
That’s a big part of the manga that I’ve never been a big fan of, and only really showed up in the last episode, skipping most of Tota’s development. I don’t really like it cause I feel it doesn’t give Yukihime much agency, mostly treating her as a person who needs to be saved, and also as part of Tota surpassing Negi and Nagi’s legacies but whatever. Putting the confession here is a bit odd, seeing as it’s a reversal of sequences, but what really got me to snap was the final line. Yukihime says “you’re 500 years too late” and then the show ends.
Confused? That’s a line from the manga which makes NO SENSE in the context of the show. There’s a whole arc of the manga where Tota starts going back in time and meets a young Yukihime and love stuff happens, but they are separated by time. This scene shows that she remembers their time together, but in the show, Tota hasn’t even had these experiences! It should be noted that the OAD covers parts of this arc, but still, this stuff hasn’t happened to Tota yet. Great writing guys, 100% great work.
Problems of Presentation
It doesn’t help that these episodes were probably the weakest in terms of presentation. Episode 10 had a storyboard by Yasutaka Yamamoto and was directed by Yoshizo Tsuda. Yamamoto previously boarded episode 5. This episode fared worse than previous when it came to its presentation. Mage of the Beginning Negi is a very, very big threat, as are their allies. The show just seems to expect that the audience knows who they are and what they represent, without showing the audience this. The manga handles their introduction with much more grace, obviously. The anime doesn’t need to do things exactly like the manga, that does not make a good adaptation, what it should do is present the same presence in a different way, or elevate it through being an audiovisual medium, and a moving one. UQ Holder! does not do this.
In regards to episode 11, which was directed and storyboarded by Katagai Shin, there are times when anime simply can’t recreate the visual language of manga. A scene adapted in this episode uses clear parallel panelling to show Tota and Asuna’s connection. This cannot be conveyed the same way in anime, so I will cut it some slack. What anime can do, however, is to find new ways to show these ideas. UQ Holder! kinda fails to do this though, so it’s a mixed bag.
Episode 12 was interesting in regards to staff, having three separate storyboarders. The storyboarders were Nobuo Hikawa, Yasutaka Yamamoto and Yohei Suzuki. The erratic vision of this episode becomes clear because of this. The episode lacks a firm grip on what it wants to be. The episode was directed by Yohei Suzuki as well, who is the series director. What did he want from UQ Holder? I’d love to find out one day. Overall the direction of the show never stood out, and neither did any of the animation. The episode had some decent cuts, but overall, this show is not for the more sakuga oriented. Not that I think some better animation could save this show, but at least that way some people would have gotten something out of it.
Goodbye UQ Holder!
So this is the end of my coverage of UQ Holder! I can’t say it was fun. I can say that I have got a newfound respect for people who review things on a weekly basis, this isn’t easy, and it’s made me push back a lot of other projects. It’s been a learning experience, really looking closely at what happens in a single episode, and how. It’s made me slightly more of an efficient writer, so I’m thankful for that.
I can’t recommend the process though, or the show. At the end of the day, I have no idea who this show was intended for. I feel that people who haven’t read the manga would be lost, and fans only burned by the inaccuracies involved. I wonder how much Akamatsu was involved, but I guess we’ll never know. I’ll see you all next time I write and thanks for reading my coverage of UQ Holder!