Ten years after Negima?! abruptly ended little Negi Springfield’s magical training, UQ Holder! picks up eighty years on in the anime’s timeline. Instead, his grandson Tota Konoe steps into his mage’s shoes and joins the UQ Holder, a secret organisation of superheroic immortals. A simple enough set-up, but it nonetheless requires several convoluted plot strands and reams of exposition before the titular group can even come together.
At the very least, this sequel to the series based on Ken Akamatsu’s manga Maho Sensei Negima! balances out its anime-cliché plot confusion by subverting our expectations in other areas. In the obligatory hot springs episode Tota peeps on the girls’ spring only because he feels it’s what a guy should do. But even these societal statements grow tangled when he happens across another woman bathing, who turns out to be a man, who then turns out to be genderless. You can’t give a show that begins with a flashback of Negi sneezing his harem’s clothes off too much credit, even when it does avoid empty fan service.
Returning from that fond reverie is vampire Evangeline A.K. McDowell, looking taller and far more mature than back then in the vein of Monogatari’s Kiss-Shot. She, like Negi, has become a student teacher of magic, taking on Tota not only as pupil but also as her ward. She adopted him following his parents’ death in a car crash two years before; a detail, all spoilers spared, that unspools still more silly string plot threads to be deciphered. Tota leaves with her to follow his dream of heading to the city, but only after he survives a battle with bounty hunters and becomes a fellow vampire.
So finally the UQ Holder stands front and centre, with Tota now a member and all vampires, werewolves, et cetera ready to fight for justice. That is, when they’re not too busy fooling around (that hot springs episode floats back to mind). With all the awkward chewing over backstory out of the way, the show becomes a mildly entertaining watch, though it never truly reconciles those early episodes which feel like ideas were just thrown around to see what stuck. Lovers of Naruto’s combat will find something familiar and fun in the fight scenes, and Soul Eater devotees in Tota’s talking gravity sword which makes a comparatively quiet break from Excalibur. Fans of A Certain Magical Index and The Familiar of Zero should also meet UQ Holder! with open arms, and if these twelve episodes aren’t enough, the Blu-ray collection also features three OVAs.
Extras: English dub; clean opening/closing animation; OVA clean opening; Japanese promos; disk credits