What They Say:
When you’re the grandson of a famous hero, you’d think that your life would be interesting, but Tota Konoe is stuck in the dullest place he can imagine! He can’t even leave his tiny village until he can defeat his teacher and foster parent Yukihime, and she seems to be impossibly powerful. Then everything changes when Yukihime is attacked and Tota learns that both she and Tota himself aren’t who or what Tota thought they were! Now Tota has a new, impossibly long life ahead of him and an amazing destiny that ties in with the fate of his grandfather, the legendary Negi Springfield! Get ready for vampires, demons, and magic users galore as Tota discovers the perils of being a member of the world’s most exclusive organization as a UQ Holder!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets the same treatment, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show works a good balance of action and dialogue across the forward soundstage where the dialogue has some decent placement at times and some good use of varying levels to deliver the goods. The action side is handled in much the same way where it gets a bit bigger and sounds a bit louder on the English side. There’s good placement with this as well and the movement across the forward soundstage hits well with all the use of magic and the like. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV and OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The fifteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and six on the second. Animated by JC Staff, the show has a pretty good look about it as it looks like a mid-range property. The show works some decent backgrounds without it going into too much detail or overdoing the color design for it. It’s a bright and colorful series with some nice details to it but it goes for a simpler approach for character design material. Everything looks good and there’s a lot to like with it as they’re all distinctive. Colors look great with a very solid look to it all with no noise or breakup to be had with it. The high-motion sequences stand out well with a good fluid look to them and no macroblocking to be had.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case where it use one of the familiar pieces of key artwork that have the core cast together with a kind of crystal shatter effect behind it. It’s designed in the same way as the recent Negima sets in the swirl of the characters where this one has Yukihime in the center. I like the colors for it and has a good look for the character designs. The back cover works a similar color palette and it has a good range of small shots from the show arrayed around it. The summary of the premise is well-covered and we get a good breakdown of the episode and OVA count. The production credits are listed clearly and we get a good technical grid that breaks everything down cleanly and clearly. The extras are also listed well here so you know what you’re getting. The set doesn’t come with any inserts nor is there a reversible cover.
Extras for this release are pretty basic but welcome with some of the Japanese promos, the clean opening and closing sequences for the TV series, and the clean closing sequences for the OVAs.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Ken Akamatsu, UQ Holder is a thirteen episode TV series and three episode OVA series that came out during the fall of 2017. The original manga, released by Kodansha Comics in English, began in 2013 and has eighteen volumes out as of this writing and is ongoing. The project serves as a next generation sequence to Negima as it takes place seventy years later, which is a welcome kind of sequel in my book. It does lean a little too heavy at times into utilizing some of the past that doesn’t quite work for me but it does handle the bulk of the concept right and sticks to just a few key things. Animated by JC Staff, it has a pretty solid look to it that while not heavy on detail or a really big color palette delivers a fun experience overall.
The premise is an interesting one where magic has started to filter out to more of the world at this point compared to what we had during Negi’s day in the previous work. There are even apps that help those with no magic ability to be able to engage in some things. The central focus is on Tota, a teenager living in the countryside with aspirations to head to Shin-Tokyo, which is a massive orbital elevator that goes up to space. Tota’s life has been a bit rough with his parents having been killed two years prior in an accident that caused him to lose his memories of most things as well. That’s had him being raised by Yukihime since then, a teacher who has an affection for him. Yukihime is also known as Evangeline, a 700-year-old vampire that had a thing for Negi and Negi’s father back in the day. She’s in adult form here through her magics instead of the child form we usually saw her in and that definitely works better.
Things are a little wonky early on in getting all of this journey stuff underway at the beginning but the truth comes out about who Tota is when someone has come to town to kill Yukihime as they what she is. The immortals are an elite group that exists in the world with a lot of wealth and power that are now as the title of the series, UQ Holders. It’s a brutal scene as Yukihime gets her body torn apart just as Tota does but it’s here that she reveals the truth in that he’s an immortal like her. The kicker is that he’s also a clone of Negi, which gives him a really special status in the grand scheme of things. All of this, post-battle, pushes him toward finding out more of what’s going on and heading to the big city. That involves picking up a few friends along the way, such as Kuromaru, a young man recent of immortal status as well that leans more feminine in a lot of ways that makes for some fun in dealing with everyone else.
A lot of the early episodes are focused on exploring some of the UQ Holder society and the cast that grows around them as Yukihime and Tota plunge forward. She’s got quite the history herself and that provides for a lot of connections with other immortals while Tota’s ancestry obviously plays a big role in it as well. Tota ends up ranking pretty high within the structure of the society because of his clone nature but there isn’t a huge infodump or anything here as it’s kept light and breezy. There’s some silliness with dating that plays into the show and just a general understanding of how to use some of his abilities as well. It’s not terribly distinctive in a lot of ways but there’s a general ensemble feeling that works well as the women dominate, much like they did in Negima. That’s not a bad thing as there’s some fun with all of them.
Naturally, there are bigger elements that play into the show as it goes along, focusing on how Tota sees images of Negi as a ghost from the first episode and throughout the run. With Negi having been dead twenty years himself there’s a bit of a mystery that factors into that but also because others are hunting Tota as they need him to save the world. That plays mostly with the man named Fate that’s going after Tota and has a history with a lot of others. The big end series fight is one that works well visually when Ialda is introduced and takes over Negi’s body but a lot of it just left me wondering how much nuance I might have been missing from the previous Negima series that was being employed here. We do get some good flashback moments throughout and several of the girls from that series showing up in some creative ways which was nice but it did leave me in that “generational” aspect of wondering what I might have been missing. But it does work in a baseline kind of way.
The set does come with a trio of OVAs that were released with the manga starting just before the TV series aired and afterward. These are definitely fun little fanservice pieces that plays to the raunchy side – though not as much as you might think. They’re full-length episodes that puts the gang at a beach and works through lots of different character focuses with the girls in their pursuit of Tota. That we get an almost all-hot spring episode should be no surprise and plenty of nudity as well, though not with something that really goes all out full frontal or anything. The skin shown is pretty fun with how it’s presented but it’s only in the last episode that it gets “dirty” with some of the lingerie that’s brought into it.
There’s a lot of fun things going into UQ Holder and I really do like that it’s a descendent of the Negima series. I never finished reading Negima back in the day so there is that sense that I’m missing out on some elements of it but the bulk of it does work well enough on its own as the rest is basically filled in with what we need to know. I really wanted the show to get more into the UQ Holder society and structure than it did and I would have loved more quality time with Yukihime, especially with Tota as the two are really good in their scenes together. Sentai’s release works a big dub and I like the cast they got to bring back to deal with familiar characters while the new ones come across well. It’s a solid release throughout that will please fans and I’m doubly pleased that they were able to get the OVA run as well.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closings, Promos
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 27th, 2018
Running Time: 375 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.