It’s first-week of the season madness and the Cubs are in the postseason again (three years in a row? I could get used to this) to boot, so I’m going to be briefer than usual here. Time is scant – I have four episodes in the queue and I absolutely have to get to at least two of them tonight of I’ll be starting at a Sisyphean slope I may never get to the top of.
I’d be tempted to repeat my “so far so good” from last week, but I’m a Negima fan with a lot of scar tissue, and there are already some warning signs. Not with the content of the episode itself – it was excellent, at least in terms of execution – but there were already a few cuts made to the manga timeline. And if one looks at the ED credits it’s clear that J.C. Staff plans to blow through a shit-ton of manga material here (and that some manga characters won’t be part of it). If this series is one cour (as rumored but not confirmed) we could be looking at another Negima adaptation disaster for poor Ken.
So you’ll forgive me if I’m somewhat conflicted in watching UQ Holder. It’s as close to a canon adaptation as Negima has gotten so far, and a good one at that. This series has something really good to build around in Touta and Evangeline. She was the most pathos-driven character in the original, and Touta is a worthwhile protagonist. He’s a good boy – genuinely kind-hearted and positive, even if he hasn’t yet revealed certain facets of his personality. Akamatsu-sensei has always been good at incorporating melancholy elements in with the generally fizzy atmosphere of Negima, and UQ Holder is certainly no exception to that.
As for new developments, we meet (a little faster than in the manga) some of the players who will make up the guts of this story. There Tokisaka Kuromaru (Hirose Yuuki), an assassin who’s been sent on a suicide (if Kuromaru weren’t immortal too) mission to take out Evangeline “or don’t come back”. This is a season for fuzzy-gendered characters, it seems, and Kuromaru is no exception – he resolutely refers to himself as male, but Touta (and Kitty) aren’t to be blamed for being skeptical based on the evidence. Kuromaru sees Touta as an obstacle in the way of the quest to kill Evangeline, but Touta just sees Kuromaru as a potential friend. That’s just the sort of guy Touta is, pretty much.
What we also see in this episode is out first real-time glimpse of Evangeline’s familiar true form – in the privacy of the women’s bath, which Touta sneaks (rather than just peeks) into for rather unorthodox reasons. And clear evidence of just how gifted Touta is in combat, even setting his immortality aside. He has the bright idea that he, Kitty and Kuromaru should use their immortality to fight evil in the world, but Kitty (who’s had several centuries’ head start) has beaten him to the punch on that score. And when UQ Holder arrives to pick her up, we meet members Ameya Ikku (Kakihara Tetsuya) and Orte Isht Karin (Ogura Yui).
If it seems like that was an awful lot to pack into one episode, that’s because it was. I think UQ Holder carried it off well, but consistently shoehorning more manga material than will comfortably fit in 22 minutes is going to prove a challenge for this show if it continues. I see enough in UQ Holder to make me hopeful – it seems like it really wants to be an adaptation that’s faithful at least in spirit to the source material – but experience and available evidence prevent me from being what I’d call optimistic. Rather than “so far, so good”, I think the adage of the week is “wait and see”…