Ken Akamatsu’s most recent (and likely last for a while) shonen battle manga, UQ Holder, has come to a conclusion. So, having previously discussed it the last time I got caught up, now is a good time to give my thoughts on the series.
A fair amount about the manga has changed between my last review of the manga and the conclusion. For example, Tota & his romantic interests have officially forced a polycule, with several actual sex scenes that are basically as explicit as they’ll let you get away with in a Shonen magazine (which turns out to be pretty damn explicit).
Additionally, the manga has a massive increase in scope, going from generally terrestrially based in terms of the scope of the threats and the level of the fights, into getting into intra-system and even interstellar space travel, with big epic space battles to match, and in turn shifting the threat to one that’s an existential threat to humanity. I didn’t bounce off the story – it had kept me very interested through this point. However, if you bounced off of Diebuster and Darling in the FranXX because of a similar change in scope (and not other reasons), this will do the manga no favors for you.
The fights are still very well done, and the characters are also very well written. The manga even manages to do an imagined flash-forward spot that does the “Who Wants To Live Forever” montage thing (the one with the unaging Connor and the aged Heather from Highlander) and pulls it off spectacularly. Ken Akamatsu has always had really sharp characterization in his work, even if he’s playing with character archetypes, and UQ Holder is definitely no exception.
Where it falls down is the pacing of the ending. There’s a very real sense that, when Akamatsu decided he wanted to run for public office, he would need to wrap up his manga to pay attention to that (and avoid any issues with Japanese election laws). So, Akamatsu and his editor hit the little red button and activated the rocket booster for the plot (or, to stick with an anime analogy, dropped the capsule of Super Nitro into the engine). Does it stick the landing? Kind of. Could have it been more graceful when it landed? Absolutely. Am I glad I went for the full ride? Definitely.
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