UQ Holder! has not been the best of shows, and this episode had a larger hurdle than the previous to pass. Sadly for it, episode 6 of UQ Holder! adapts some of the manga’s weakest material, in less than optimal fashion. If this were a video review it most certainly would have begun with me pacing around my room.
Last weeks UQ Holder! review
The Tale of Kuromaru
The episode begins by somewhat adapting moments from the previous arc that were cut, focusing on Kuromaru. The reveal is that Kuromaru is neither male nor female. His clan chooses their sex upon their sixteenth birthday. “I don’t really have many problems with them introducing this plot point now as opposed to the previous episode”, I could say, but it’d be a lie. But alas, I have accepted this shift, it makes sense if the staff wanted to keep the arc to just two episodes. The real problems arise with where they go from this reveal.
Welcome to UQ Holder! volume… 10?
Much of this episode is an adaptation of chapters 101 to 103. The last episode adapted up to roughly chapter 30. You can see the problem. Throughout the whole manga, Kuromaru deals with insecurity in regards to his gender, as well as his strength, and ability to stand side by side with Tota. Kuromaru’s a lot like Setsuna from Negima! in some sense. To adapt what is virtually the end of his arc is a very risky move. Kuromaru’s character arc started last arc in the manga, and it kept going until the content adapted in this arc.
Much of Kuromarus’s worries come out of nowhere in the anime. It’s just “Oh Kuromaru’s sexless!”, “Kuromaru likes Tota!”, “Does this mean I should be a girl?” This takes time in the manga, but Kuromaru’s whole arc is crammed into 20 minutes. This causes poor pacing and also makes some of the more complicated, more unfortunate parts, of his arc more complicated. For one thing, Kuromaru’s arc is somewhat heteronormative (mostly reasonable in the manga mind you) but handled much poorer due to the lack of context in the anime. Kuromaru’s given a lot of time to think about things, time for insecurities to fester, but it just kind of happens in the anime.
Pacing Produced Problems in UQ Holder!
Kuromaru thinks that the relationships he desires with Tota are mutually exclusive, and are connected to the genders. He wants to be Tota’s best friend and right-hand man, to do that he has to be a guy. He’s attracted to Tota and to be romantic with him, he has to be a girl. In the manga, this all happens over the course of a long time, and Kuromaru’s feelings around the topic are more understandable.
He knows Tota loves a girl, so he thinks that becoming a girl would be his only chance. In the anime, Tota has made no such connections, so Kuromaru getting to this point so quickly makes less sense, and at the very least is much too quick to be decent character development. I can’t stress this enough, much of this episodes problems come from the fact that it’s only one episode. Kuromaru’s story is one that needs time, it can’t be told in 20 minutes. I don’t even think his character arc is that good, it constantly disappointed me in the manga. It deserved better than this though.
How Other Anime Handle Pacing
Take Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, for example, another Weekly Shonen Magazine adaptation. That anime adapted 90 chapters in 12 episodes. It was a mess in my opinion, but at least it always properly contextualized all the events, even cutting a lot of content. The Seven Deadly Sins is another example. A fairly breezy paced series due to adapting 100 chapters in 24 episodes, but a fantastic anime in its own right. Something can be fast and still competent. UQ Holder! was, until this episode, in fact. Adapting a story volumes ahead of the rest of the anime though, that’s something I’ve never seen.
In some ways this episode of UQ Holder! is too faithful to the source material. If the staff wanted to tell a Kuromaru story in a 12 episode anime, maybe they should’ve made their own.
Kuromaru also has insecurities regarding his strength, which is tied to his gender issues. Kuromaru believes he has to be a guy to stand as Tota’s equal in battle. They have a relationship where they watch each other’s backs. At the same time Kuromaru’s wonders if he wants to be protected by Tota like a girl. Kuromaru’s gender politics are rather unfortunate, but in the manga, there is a reasonable basis for them. Tota’s a shonen hero, he always saves the day in the end. The last arc being a prime example!
This happens multiple times over the course of the story, allowing Kuromaru’s insecurities to grow. In the anime, it’s brought up and then Kuromaru rejects those ideas in only 10 minutes. Kuromaru’s journey through figuring out his identity is brought up and concluded in one episode. It’s truncated to the point where there really is no point. Kuromaru’s story just kind of exists in the adaptation, and in a place where it’s inclusion is just confusing. Tota and Kuromaru haven’t known each other long enough for it to make sense in this context. Kuromaru’s worries have real weight when it’s included in the previous arc. Being included here is just confusing. I’m starting to think that UQ Holder! isn’t a very good show.
Setting up the Next UQ Holder Episode
Throughout the episode, some seeds were thrown in to set up the Fate arc. The episode stealthily introduced Kirie, the best girl, and also introduced Fate properly. I’m pretty worried about how the shows gonna go from here. It’s been confirmed 12 episodes, so we’re halfway through the show. Fate’s arc, if done fairly faithfully, will take two episodes. How the staff will use the four remaining episodes to get to the content shown on the poster I have honestly no clue. That confusion is one of the main things keeping me watching the show. Nonetheless, this episode is probably the most interesting from an adaptation standpoint. It really shows how much content can be affected by its context. Maybe this can be a little learning experience.