OP: 「ハッピー☆マテリアル」 (Happy☆Material) by Takakura Yuka, Hirose Yuuki, Kayano Ai, Ogura Yui, Harada Sayaka, and Kito Akari
「美女と少年」 (Bijo to Shounen)
“Beauty and the Boy”
Blood. Blood everywhere.
I deeply, deeply love the Negima series, which I wrote about at length in the finale post to the original manga. It was a huge influence on my own writing, and the first thing I ever wrote (a Negima fanfic)—so it feels odd to say that I’ve never read the UQ Holder manga. Not for lack of desire, but rather because I’m weirdly able to deny myself pleasures even if there’s no good reason. Delayed gratification, thy name is Stilts.
So you’re going to get the point of view of a Negima veteran who’s also a UQ Holder neophyte; probably a quite unique experience. Which means I have no idea whether this first episode was faithful to the manga, but I can at least speak to the world and some of the call backs. Let’s start with some basic storytelling work though.
The theme of this episode is that immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and in this, it was overly heavy-handed. The flashback intro sought to set the theme, but it said rather than showed, and “You don’t have to worry about dying” is a tough sell at the best of times—it’s something we all understand intellectually, but it’s hard to buy into emotionally when we’re all squishy humans quickly sprinting toward the grave. Add in violent dismemberment that’s recovered from via immortality, and the theme is a tougher sell yet. You’ve got to go full Endless Eight to make people really feel it, and I hate that Haruhi arc. It was effective in portraying the loneliness of long times, though.
All of which is to say that UQ Holder is trying for a pretty tricky theme off the bat, and it doesn’t entirely land on an emotional level, but it’s the first episode so oh well. I have more of an issue with the blatantly spoken exposition, but can’t say they’re not being faithful to their predecessor there. Minor gripe.
What I was most surprised about is how bloody it got. Negima always took great pains to avoid the grislier details, save for where Evangeline A.K. McDowell (Matsuoka Yuki), here known as Yukihime, was concerned, because we always knew it wouldn’t stick. As a statement of purpose that “This one will be different!”, that was mega effective. I’m really pleased with the savvy there. This is not your grandfather’s Akamatsu Ken shounen right here.
Character-wise, I found “Yukihime” to be the most interesting, though it’s almost entirely fueled by knowing who she really was already. Evangeline, playing foster mother? Bwuuuh. You had my attention. Though I think someone who clearly has magic but won’t admit it would be worthy of interest anyway, I just can’t confirm. Konoe Touta (Takakura Yuka) alternates between annoying kid and scrappy hero, I don’t have much of an opinion on him, but it’s early days for the boy so no biggie. And if I’m being honest, the character thing I was most interested in is why a Konoe boy is calling Negi Springfield (Satou Rina) “grandfather,” and why Negi’s son or daughter + son- or daughter-in-law are buried next to him, but not his presumed partner—but that probably comes down to framing for the manga panel, and IF ANYONE SPOILS THIS FOR ME I WILL BURN YOUR DREAMS DOWN I SWEAR TO GOD! I haven’t dodged spoilers for this long to have stuff ruined for me now. Use spoiler tags, and say what your spoilers are about (without spoiling!) outside of the tags, please. Don’t make me violence you.
The long and short is that this is a first episode, it’s all set up, so where it goes from here is the real key. The only other thing I’ll say is that the animation isn’t quite worthy of derision, but it ain’t luxurious either. Par for the course of a Negima-related adaptation, I feel. Let’s see where this one goes.
- Even Chachazero was left behind? Harsh. I’ll admit, that’s the only moment the “immortality sucks” theme hit home for me. If you can’t even keep your murderous magical doll minion . . .
- That revived Negima OP! Can’t say I don’t love it. After all, the music is the only thing I liked from those Negima anime, since they were mostly trash.
- Everyone’s got to be chasing some older male (& possibly dead) family member in this ‘verse, don’t they? Ufufu~
- “Even a little courage is what makes true magic.” I’m always fine with a sassy Evangeline!
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for updates. At stephenwgee.com, I’ve begun blogging again! The latest post: Help Houston.
ED: 「Steady→GO!!」 by Takakura Yuka, Hirose Yuuki, Kayano Ai, Ogura Yui, Harada Sayaka, and Kito Akari