@TLC said in Ken Akamatsu thread (A.I. Love You, Love Hina, Negima, UQ Holder):
I don't give a shit about Negima and never will again. Akamatsu burned his bridges long ago as far as I'm concerned.
I'm sorry me from five years ago, you were completely right and I should have never doubted you. Okay my opinions aren't quite that extreme but why let reality ruin a good bit?
So I am going to go on full on spoilers in this review but they will be tactical spoilers, they are spoilers that I feel will not ruin the experience or on the contrary save you from having high expectations to only be disappointed. If you read this whole review, I ask that you simply trust me on this.
So I finished UQ Holder a couple of months ago but sadly the forums were down in the interim. This does not help as my memories of my thoughts aren't going to be quite as fresh but on the other hand it does help in processing and internalizing my emotions in order to make a hopefully more coherent and well structured review.
So the big question you're all asking, did I like it?
That's complicated. Because life can never be simple.
I like parts of it. I actually like whole chunks of it. I was actually for the most part really enjoying it until it decided to fall off a cliff and never recovered. I can actually point out the precise point the manga falls apart which would actually be amusing to me if I weren't so fucking depressed about it. Ken Akamatsu might be the most fucking cursed mangaka of the industry. Why is it that of the holy trinity that is Love Hina, Negima and UQ Holder, Love Hina was his best manga? It had the perfect length, developed all the characters it needed to develop and even had a nice cozy last volume or two with the main couple together and getting to enjoy their relationship.
Now while Negima and Love Hina are both great series whose potential was flushed down the drain, the circumstances surrounding them are different. Negima was absolutely great up until the last volume where Akamatsu forcibly wrapped everything up and ended things on an awful ending that only worked if you had the 10 volumes that it needed to work. UQ Holder was quite enjoyable for the most part, some missteps here and there, until it hits a point where Akamatsu was clearly told he had 2 years to wrap it up and proceeded to do a speedrun of 10 volumes of content in like 3. All the while trying to keep things together with gratuitous fanservice and bad prioritization rushing and offscreening important plot points to have endless chapters of the protagonist having graphic sex with one of the girls in his harem. Consecutively. And man, I don't even mind that shit, I think more manga should have an actual exploration of polyamorous relationships but priorities man.
Okay I've gone on too much putting the cart before the horse and should try to proceed with this in a more linear fashion. Something I wish the manga did...oh there I go again.
The basic premise is it's like 80 years after Negima, everyone you loved and cared about is dead except for the immortal characters and the ghost and we're resetting everything with a totally new protagonist named Konoe Tota. Because Akamatsu was too much of a coward to make Asuna the protagonist and having a manga without a male character seeing girls naked would be way too out of his comfort zone. I went in with the lowest of expectations, more interested in resolving the questions I had from the prequel series than actually getting emotionally invested in another Akamatsu series. Fool me once, shame on you but fool me twice....! I am sad to report I was shamed. Tota wants to climb the space elevator Negi built in Negima because that's where he will find his true dream or whatever. Yeah not as strong as Negi's, I want to find my dad which evolved into I want to surpass my father to live up ti his legacy and complete his work of saving the magical world. But in fairness, it's meant to suck as the whole point of Kotaro is he is a shell of his grandfather Negi (chapter 1 reveal) and he doesn't know what to do with himself. Magic is well known and widespread through apps however it has only been revealed to the public the last ten years due to circumstances preventing it from being revealed earlier. Tota is an orphan living in the boonies being taken care of by his foster mother/martial arts teacher Yukihime (who spoilers is actually Evangeline which if you read Negima you would figure out instantly even before the anvil sized hints they drop before the big reveal at the end of the chapter). A hitman comes after Evangeline because she still has a bounty and uses Kotaro to give her a gift which seals her powers so he can chop her to pieces and chops up Tota in the process. Evangeline however gives Tota her blood which he drinks to become an immortal vampire with regenerative abilities which he uses to beat the shit out of the assassin and save Evangeline and his friends. They then decide to leave the village find other immortals like them and fulfill Tota's pseudo dream of climbing the space elevator which anyone can do for like 100,000 yen lol
I actually really liked the first chapter, it focused on a really interesting core element which was the relationship between the protagonist Tota and his foster mother Yukihime who, spoilers is Evangeline The first volume was basically Evangeline and Tota going on a hike through Japan to find immortals like them which my lord do I wish was the series because it was a really fun, chill read until Yukihime reveals she already made a mafia organization full of immortals called UQ holder and then it becomes not shitty Fairy Tail. Like I am not against the genre switch but much preferred the manga when it was simpler.
So some advantages UQ has over Negima is that it actually starts a lot better than it. It's funny how Negima was this really fanservicey romcom that evolved into a serious, mature shonen while UQ Holder had the opposite evolution where it started a lot more grounded and serious until Akamatsu just gave up and threw in endless fanservice and sex chapters. Because the cast is far smaller than Negima the initial cast is a lot more fleshed out and conceptually interesting as Akamatsu fuses character ideas and has less of a cast to juggle (though ultimately he ends up using his cast far poorly than when he had 30+ characters lol) And there are some really great characters in this manga.
There is Kuromaru, a bird tribe swordswoman made immortal through village experiments. Like every swordswoman before her in an Akamatsu series, she also has an emotional conflict of prioritizing her happiness with her skills but in this case taken to the next logical step as their race is androgynous until a certain age where they must choose to be male or female and Kuromaru doesn't know if she wants to be a male to protect Tota as a warrior or female to be protected as his lover. So Kuromaru is essentially trans and yes, I know that feeling of queasiness that Ken panty shot Akamatsu is going to tackle gender identity themes but for the most part I thought this was well executed with Kuromaru learning the obvious lesson on they can be whatever gender they want and do whatever they want regardless of the gender given they live in a world where magic power makes the biological differences in the sexes irrelevant. I mean that's not tackling the ideas of being non-binary but let's not push our luck and just be happy Akamatsu was even trying.
There is Karin, a super immortal who literally cannot be killed or harmed by anything because she has the protection of God and whose true identity I won't dare spoil because it is so unhinged.
There is Kirie, a fusion of Chisame and Asuna in loli form, whose immortality is basically about setting save points for herself. She is technically the best girl in the harem but my god, have you seen Karin's amazing thicc ass? I'm very easy to please.
Oh yeah all those characters I just listed are in Tota's harem.
Characters that Tota does not want to fuck include:
Santa the poltergeist/ghost who was bullied into suicide and swore revenge on his tormentors until UQ Holder managed to convince him to join their group.
Ikkuu: A pretty boy robot whose actual body has been in a coma for 70 years.
These are usually the default team in most arcs.
I like the main girls, Santa is pretty good albeit underutilized and Ikkuu sucks and I don't get why he is in so many arcs.
And then there is Tota the protag. Man do I wish I liked him more than I do. I mean I don't think he's awful, it's unfair to compare him to Negi Springfield, one of the best protagonists in shonen manga, but it's just, he's just bland. Like he has his moments, he works best in extreme situations or when he's worried about Evangeline but eh... like I really don't know what Akamatsu was going for with him. I guess split the difference between Negi the intellectual and Nagi the meathead, I like the idea of Tota trying to escape from being a tool his whole life, trying to live up to a legacy when he was never intended to, it's fine I guess...?
So for me the truly standout S tier Jack Rakan characters are :
Dana Ananaga Jagannatha: She is a highdaylight walker who lives in the rift outside time and space, she is Evangeline's former master and has total control over perspective. It's a really fun magic, she can pluck you from a distance like you are super tiny or smush them like an ant. She is the female Jack Rakan of the series where Jack was the epitome of men, she is the epitome of Woman who prioritizes doing everything elegantly and beautifully while being this super thicc gigantic of a woman (think Ursula from Little Mermaid). She is great.
Jinbei Shishido: My absolute favorite character in the manga, a samurai who ate the flesh of a mermaid to grant very poor immortality, he cannot age but has limited regenerative ability and his body is covered in scars. He makes up for it with amazing combat ability and a cool ass ability called switcheroo where he can switch any two things within 300 meters and even use it twist and bend space to tear objects and people apart. He has a fight against Juuzouu Shishimi, a tree immortal who can literally cut anything (including concepts and manga panels) and it's literally one of my favorite fights of all time up there with Negi vs Jack Rakan. It was such a sick fight.
And....right after that fight the manga falls apart.
So there is a lot of great stuff in this manga, a lot of cool fights, cool ideas, really creative powers that play around with the medium in very visually interesting ways. It's set 80 years after Negima ended and it does a nice job of making subtle references to Negima and bringing old characters or their descendants into the story in cool and interesting ways (until it got too hard and made me wish Akamatsu played it safe and just set it 10-20 years after Negima). One of the early arcs involves a fight against Fate which was well executed and really intense and had one of the most amazingly savage beatdowns I've ever seen delivered by Fate. We go back to Mahora academy and Mana is the principle and she invites Tota into the next big Mahora Martial arts tournament where magic is public now and it's gonna have the greatest martial artists from the real world, underground and magical world and it was gonna be held at the top of the tower and Negi Springfield sends an invitation and he is going to be there but it's actually Negi Ialda, Negi who failed to save his father and was in turn taken over by the Mage of Beginnings and it's this really super exciting build up....!
And then we have a loli boat race and after the loli boat race Negi and his apostles show up and the tournament never happens...I mean the actual fight against Negi and his apostles were cool and Asuna shows up to to help save the day and don't even ask me how that makes sense and for the longest time, I was like it's fine, one day we will have that martial arts tournament, no way Akamatsu hyped up that super cool tournament only to just give us a loli boat race but then the space elevator got blown up and I'm like we are never getting that tournament huh...?
Wait, I am still talking about good things. Uh, what the series does with Evangeline is fantastic, it really feels in some ways like a what if we made a manga about Evangeline, we get more details on her history, her early beginnings, how she got her bounty and how she basically single-handedly prevented mars from ever invading earth and even made them instigate an isolationist policy to never incur her wrath and how Evangeline is basically a fucking hero and I don't even care it's a retcon, it's awesome.
Yeah this manga for the most part was really enjoyable doing really cool, interesting unique things and I was enjoying my ride.
And then Akamatsu starts speedrunning the story, things that should have been fleshed out and focused on like Tota going to fucking mars (though there is a sweet scene where Evangeline finds statues of Ala Alba members in New Ostia and she laughs her butt off because her old classmates are heroes), and then there's a mission to finish off Negi Ialda once and for all but oh no, the mission was sabotaged and there's a 43 year timeskip and Tota has amnesia and the world is ravaged by covid that spreads through the internet (yes this was written during covid) and Tota has to go around and find his friends during the apocalypse like it's final fantasy six, most of whom are super horny for him after 43 years, one of whom spends all 43 years flying in the cold vacuum of space but the moment Tota shows up to save her they just end up having sex in space because I sure know when I spend four decades in the cold vacuum of a never ending abyss, I get super horny the moment my love interest shows up to save me.
And the team is brought back together and Tota finds out Evangeline killed Negi Ialda so now it's Evangeline Ialda who is the final boss and this happens OFF FUCKING SCREEN COMPLETELY RUINING THE BUILDUP OF TOTA FACING OFF AGAINST NEGI. And there is this big climactic battle where the Lifemaker throws every apostle he has plus Asuna and Konoka and Setsuna and Chisame!?! (who doesn't do anything because the fuck is she gonna do?) and Nodoka and Yue and Jack and Al and all the Avverencus models and all the other models and some new models and some high daylight walkers and Nagi and Tota manages to use some Mcguffin to revive Negi and regain control of all the controlled apostles and there's this epic climax where Negi and Tota do a double attack finisher while Chaorin shows up out of nowhere to freeze time and yes I know I am literally spoiling the climax, I am telling you now to NOT CARE and it will hurt a lot less. Because I feel so bad for Akamatsu, I can see what he is doing, he trying his very best with the little time he has to please his fans and do this Avengers endgame final battle except it doesn't work because it doesn't have nearly the level of buildup it needs to work and it just comes off as pandering and when you have fucking Jack Rakan on the enemy team and he doesn't just immediately wipe the floor with you, you just make him look fucking bad. It's trying to be this final hurrah and it's just not and I feel so bad for Akamatsu because I do not think he wants to do it this way but his hands are tied. Plus you know he's tired and burnt out and he needs to run for office and become a politician and I don't even begrudge him of getting out of this shitty industry that does nothing but grind fresh, creative minds into paste.
Final chapter was decent, wrapped it up as best as he could. Negi got a nice harem with Asuna, Chachamaru, Chisame, Nodoka, Yue, Konoka!?! and Setsuna!?!?! BUT NO AYAKA, MAKIE OR KUFEI BECAUSE THEY ARE FUCKING DEAD EVEN THOUGH THEY LOVED NEGI WAY MORE going.
So something I have obviously neglected to mention, does UQ Holder at least give closure with Negima?
So Volumes 38-40 are dedicated to what we will call the good and bad ending timelines of Negima. Good timeline being the Negima timeline and bad ending timeline being the UQ Holder timeline. The key difference being whether Asuna was in the final battle or not. The idea being that without Asuna, Negi could not have succeeded in saving his father. In this timeline we also see Negi reject Nodoka and Yue threesome polyromance (fucking idiot) and confess to his true love just to get rejected (it's okay they eventually get married, a lot of things happen that would fill ten volumes, the story says so, because fuck you if you wanna see some of it). It's all very nice and sweet and with really good panel layouts clearly something the Akamatsu team wanted to draw for a long time. And then fast forward to the final battle on an asteroid heading towards Earth. And...I mean it was fine. It doesn't live up to your imagination at all but it never could because we're talking about something that needed 10 volumes and it's crammed into like one monthly volume. Instead of having individual battles between Apostles and Al Alba, you just get chaotic groupshots and characters posing without any actual fight choreography. Negi vs Nagi was good but again could have been way better. Kotaro...was there, staying behind protecting Natsume and the other girls. Oh you see when Al said all of 3-A took part in the final battle, he was full of shit, most of them just watched on a space ship or stayed on Earth. Akamatsu did the shortcut thing of having Evangeline have a tea party with the cheerleaders and have Eva say how surprised she was that even they helped contribute to the mission. I don't know what the fuck they did, painted the ship or something, who the fuck knows, that extra coat of paint was important to team morale or something. Also Nagi wakes up in a hospital bed and his reunion with Negi, Eva and Asuna is literally only like a few silent panels instead of a conversation BUT MY GOD WE CAN SPEND FIVE PAGES ON KIRIE HAVING A LEWD WET DREAM ABOUT TOTA!!! Look I don't wanna sound ungrateful, Akamatsu did his best and it's nice to have what we have but you know, the stories I really cared about Negima will never be told, no Sayako/Headmaster romance, no Ayaka's family story, no Kaede village story, no twins and their furry princes story. I can't say it's not disappointing but it is what it is I guess. In terms of plot stuff, it doesn't even fill in what happened with Nagi's master Filius Zect or the Gravekeepers Palace. Amateru and the pactio system. Though UQ on the whole does at least flesh out Ialda and actually gives him an interesting character motivation.
I thought the bad timeline was a lot more interesting actually, Negi failed lost a lot of people he loved and is emotionally broken and has to be nursed and cared for by Evangeline who breaks out of her bratty shell and becomes a mature adult and decides to change her look to look like Arika to make Negi feel better and WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO ARIKA, AKAMATSU, WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO NEGI'S MOTHER YOU PIECE OF SHIT, YOU JUST WRITE IN THE BACK OF THE FINAL VOLUME IT'S A MYSTERY THAT IS UNTOLD LIKE YOU EVER PLAN TO TELL US ARGHHHHH....and it's this really nice and bittersweet story and yes they do end up doing it but it at least was tastefully done and it has its inevitable conclusion and then we go back to the present and have to be reminded that Tota exists. So without Asuna, the ever looming threat of the Lifemaker derailed Negi's Blue Mars project and the real world took a lot longer to introduce magic and there ended up being a lot more insecurity and wars and poverty and it became a World that needed Tota to exist opposed to the good time line where he was never needed because they had the broken cheat code called Asuna. Which I always thought made no sense because they never explained why they needed to seal Asuna immediately after graduation when Zazie's sister said Mars still had a good decade before the illusion broke down and the final fight only happened five years after graduation so they never needed to lose their trump card in the first place and arghhhh
Well...I think that about wraps it up.
In conclusion. Is this a good series? Overall I regret to say...no. But for two thirds of it, it was.
Does it give the closure you needed for Negima, sorta?! Should I just read volume 38 for the Negima stuff? I mean I guess you could, you would be missing out on cool stuff.
Is the series worth it? I want to say yes so much. I can't really say yes. But I mean if you read Negima, you are kinda obligated to? If you read Negima and loved it like I did, make sure you have a drink with you for that last third. If you haven't read Negima, fuck no, you will be so lost and confused, you have to read the prequel series so you can be disappointed TWICE like the rest of us. I don't know what Akamatsu was thinking making this a secret sequel like he did, he should have just been upfront about it and made it 20 years after or had Asuna as the protagonist, it's like Akamatsu was trying to please old fans and new fans and ended up please no one.
I have never been a fan of a creator who has given me so much joy and yet so much misery and none of it is really his fault but my god do I wish I lived in the timeline where Akamatsu got to just do all the things he wanted to do without the compromises he had to make.
But there's just nothing else to do but accept that these amazing stories are never going to be told and that just really sucks. Ah well, I can always think about the good parts I guess.
DID SHE DIE DURING CHILDBIRTH!?! NAGI MARRIED EVANGELINE IN THE GOOD TIMELINE, DID SHE DUMP NAGI'S ASS HOW COME NEGI OR ANYONE ELSE NEVER BRING THIS UP!?!