Negima, Ken Akamatsu’s previous manga, was one that Akamatsu wanted to make as a battle manga, his publisher wanted to make as a fanservice-heavy rom-com, and ended up being both. UQ Holder, Akamatsu’s current manga, starts as a battle manga and has, to date, stayed that way, with plenty of fanservice and some rom-com hi-jinks scattered through the series.
The manga is set in 2086 and follows Touta Konoe, a boy who wants to travel to the top of the Tokyo Space Elevator. When he tries to save his mentor, Yukihime, from an assassin, only to become mortally wounded in the process, he makes two surprise discoveries. First, Yukihime is actually Evangeline A.K. McDowell, one of the characters from Negima, and really didn’t need saving in the first place. Second, she’s a vampire, and she embraces Touta, saving his life and making him immortal (though locking him in at his current age).
Yukihime also inducts Touta into The Organization – U.Q. Holder (or Immortality Holder, using a Japanese pun), and group of immortals loosely modeled on one of the more idealized depictions of the Yakuza, who work as troubleshooters for hire.
From there, the manga slowly expands on the idea that this is an alternative future from the ending of Negima, with Touta ultimately having to take on Negi Springfield, who had been posessed by that series antagonist – the Mage of the Beginning.
As far as Battle Manga goes, UQ holder manages to be really solid. While Touta and his comrades in UQ Holder are immortal, they are generally put in situations where death is not the failstate. IT’s definitely clear that Akamatsu has basically been taking a cue from well-written Superman stories, where they realize that the way to build tension isn’t “Will Superman survive?” or even “Will Superman beat his opponent”, it’s “Can Superman stop his opponent from doing damage or minimize the damage they do while beating their opponent.”
At this point, those familiar with Akamatsu’s other work are going, “Wait, doesn’t Akamatsu put a lot of fanservice in his work?” Yes, and UQ Holder is no exception. There is a lot of fanservice in this book. Between Touta accidentally walking in on girls bathing, love interests having *ahem* fantasies, just general bath/bathing shots, and characters very aggressively coming on to Touta. It’s not as horny on main as something like High School DxD, because we’re in a shonen magazine, but there’s a lot of nudity here. Thankfully, it doesn’t get as skeevy as Negima sometimes got due to the multiple implications (both in terms of teacher-student relationships and in terms of the age gap).
Still, I’m enjoying the series, and I’m definitely going to finish getting caught up on the book.
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