UQ Holder! Magister Negi Magi! 2
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 7 of
UQ Holder! ?
Despite delivering snippets of story-building information, the last episode of UQ Holder mostly felt like an interlude. That turns out not to be the case, as Tota and Kuromaru's recently-resolved date leads them to meet up with Karin, Ikku, and the newly introduced Kirie in town right at the beginning, leading straight into this next storyline. Sort of. The narrative gets played with this week, as after mostly using the gimmick to let our heroes take more punishment in battle, the series introduces a more creative version of immortality in a new character. Her name is Kirie Sakurame, and you should hope you like her, since she'll be instrumental in the story going forward.
She doesn't make this easy. Upon her introduction, Kirie's first action is to drag Tota into a back alley and start berating him over seemingly nothing at all. The full-force domineering attitude of this tiny girl is a staple personality type in anime, especially in the harem series that are Akamatsu's specialty, but it's still sudden and comes off as incongruous. Of course, that's also the point. Kirie's ‘type’ of immortality is explained as a Save Point, letting her reset to a time and place as many times as she wants any time she gets killed. This is definitely the most interesting kind of undying ability we've seen in the show so far, and the episode goes to a lot of trouble to explain how it works.
Right away, that's probably the main issue with this episode, as so much of it is used to have Kirie explain things from how her power works to the current situation and what her plan to get through it is. Stepping back, it almost feels like a full episode of exposition from this new character, who is already kind of hard to get a read on. It's an odd effect that wears on the viewer more after the fact than as you're watching the episode.
Admittedly, that's because the actual presentation of all this info-dumping is handled comparatively well. Kirie does talk a lot, but the most exciting and amusing elements of her powers are communicated more in 'show, don't tell' methodology. We see her and Tota botch one run-through of the trip, we get to see how Kirie can bring Tota back in time with her if she's holding onto him, and we even get a darkly humorous montage of her deaths as she recounts all the times Tota failed to protect her and then ran off. This whole segment also goes a long way toward establishing Kirie's weary attitude from her self-inflicted Groundhog Day, making the character more sympathetic and entertaining as the episode goes on.
The show also uses its analysis of different immortality types, along with the hypothetical issues they can present, to contribute to our understanding of Kirie's character. They don't have to go into any details, but a simple implication from the other characters that her unique ability could be cruelly exploited by those who got close to her is enough to make a point about her past and her present guarded nature. It's a quick snippet that also enforces the point that keeping the true nature of their powers a secret is an important safeguard for the various undying breeds. It's a microcosm of an element UQ Holder has done well so far: presenting immortality not as some cool and thoroughly convenient power, but genuinely highlighting its advantages and disadvantages. It's a solid handling of what could have been a simple, overpowered premise.
For all the clever ideas holding this episode together this week, it needs them due to unpolished production. There are a couple fights, including one in a past timeline of Kirie's against the still-looming Fate Averruncus, which looks okay but has a cheaper feel than the sharper past efforts. The music is also decidedly off in a few scenes, with cues seemingly irrelevant to the way things are playing out. Finally, the use of the multiple reset timelines theoretically works for a clever narrative structure, but in practice it results in awkward pacing. Kirie describing the previous fight against Fate drops a flashback to it right in the middle of the description, and while it's nice to have the action to spice up all the exposition, it's still unevenly framed.
While the various fourth-dimensional narrative tricks are interesting, after all the setup for the plan put into action here, I'm hopeful the show opts to be more straightforward in future episodes. This episode also drops in some interesting backstory info about Fate and his relation to Negi (which is even more complex if you're aware of the character's history in Negima) and foreshadows other elements that might come into play as this arc gets further underway. Kirie adds a lot of solid ideas to UQ Holder's story, but it's up to the show to start using them effectively.
UQ Holder! Magister Negi Magi! 2 is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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