Shelf Life
UQ Holder!

by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,

I picked up the new Super Smash Bros. game this week, only to re-discover that I'm not very good at Smash games (and I never have been). Thankfully, the holidays should give me plenty of time to get better, or at least less comically awful. In the meantime, there's plenty of new anime to sort through. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
UQ Holder!

On Shelves This Week

Anime-Gataris - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $33.46 Right Stuf

Synopsis: As one of the founding members of her school's anime club, Minoa Asagaya must contend with the student council's efforts at disbanding the club, along with a conspiracy of apocalyptic proportions.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this meta-humor series, and it was also covered twice on This Week in Anime. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Dive!! - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $38.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: In order to keep the Mizuki Diving Club from closing, Tomoko Sakai and his fellow divers take on the ultimate challenge of making it to the Olympics.

Extra: This sports series got a relatively lukewarm reception in our Preview Guide, and that's about it for our formal coverage. It's available streaming on Amazon Prime.

Konohana Kitan - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A fox girl named Yuzu gets a job at Konohanatei, an inn located between the worlds of humans and spirits.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this slice of life series, which I'm pretty sure I started watching but never finished. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

My Neighbor Totoro - 30th Anniversary Edition BD
Shout Factory - 88 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $49.97
Currently cheapest at: $44.99 Amazon

Synopsis: Young sisters Satsuki and Mei move to the countryside with their father, where they befriend a forest spirit named Totoro.

Extra: We have a couple of reviews for this film, the most recent of which is from 2014. You may also want to check out this interview with production coordinator Hirokatsu Kihara.

Princess Principal - Premium Edition BD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $179.98
Currently cheapest at: $116.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: In a time where London is divided into east and west sections, a team of female spies conduct undercover missions while disguised as students.

Extra: I was pretty impressed by this series when I reviewed its standard edition release back in October. We also have episode reviews for it, and you can stream it on Amazon Prime and HIDIVE.

Princess Tutu - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 650 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: A girl known as Duck must use the powers of a magic pendant to gather the scattered pieces of a Prince's heart.

Extra: We have several old reviews for this series, but it was covered more recently in an episode of ANNCast. It's available streaming on Amazon Prime and HIDIVE.

Samurai Warriors - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $21.72 Amazon

Synopsis: As the Toyotomi and Tokugawa clans battle for control of Japan, brothers Yukimura and Nobuyuki find themselves on opposing sides of the conflict.

Extra: We have a review of a previous release of this video game adaptation. You can stream it on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Trickster - Complete Collection BD
Funimation - 600 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98
Currently cheapest at: $46.60 Amazon

Synopsis: The eccentric members of the Boy Detectives' Club take on a variety of cases while pursuing a criminal mastermind known as Twenty Faces.

Extra: This series was previously released in two parts, and we have reviews of both of them. It's available streaming on Funimation.

Shelf Life Reviews

Shelf Worthy
Nothing this week.
UQ Holder!
Nothing this week.

The Negima follow-up UQ Holder is in the spotlight for this week's review. Here's Gabriella's take on the series.

I'll admit that I've heard the legends of Ken Akamatsu, but never having experienced Negima! past the “a friend told me the plot once in middle school” level, I didn't quite know what to expect going in to this sequel/spinoff/something to that storied 2000s sitcom. For a magical battle anime about a dude who collects girls like Pokemon, I came in expecting moderate horniness and wacky schoolyard antics, but the results were a good deal more complicated.

The best I can tell is that this is a sort of semi-sequel to Negima! that takes place decades later in an alternate timeline to the original series. It kind of pretends to be a standalone show at the beginning, but it isn't at all. Negima!'s deep-cut lore takes over the plot around the show's midpoint, where it just becomes a parade of characters from other parts of the franchise. There's child Negi, older Negi, Negi's dad, that robot girl—all of your favorites, I guess! I thought that Negima! was a harem comedy, so learning that it eventually turned into a lore-driven adventure series came as a surprise to me. As such, I'll do my best to try and wrap my head around the plot, but advance warning that it gets a bit turgid.

So the deal is that an orphaned kid named Touta is being raised by a disguised version of Negi's old vampire friend, Evangeline. Upon learning that he and his foster mom are actually vampires, Evangeline introduces Touta to UQ Holder, an organization of magical people that she founded in order to protect the world. Eventually, villains from earlier in the franchise come back and Touta is forced to take up Negi's old battles. But what exactly happened to make Evangeline look after some kid, and where is Negi? The answers await our heroes if they can keep their clothes on long enough to discover them!

Alright, so even being as generous as possible in my assumptions about all the series' callbacks, I feel qualified to say that UQ Holder isn't particularly compelling so far. It opens with a pretty basic “here's the new protagonist!” setup, follows that up with four or five sitcom shenanigan episodes, and then starts shoving out old Negima! characters to stand around expositing about all of the bad things that have happened since Negi left. You know that old Poochie joke from The Simpsons? Well that's Negi in this show. Anyway, they don't have to wait long for Negi to come back, but none of this buildup is very effective because it's not being tied into a plot where events happen causally. First Touta meets this Fate Averruncus guy, he talks some shit, and then he goes away. The same happens with a girl named Yukihiro, and then Negi himself. These events are largely separate, and they happen so quickly that it's hard to tell how they're connected or why they matter. On top of that, there are revelations about Touta himself smushed between all this that make it even more disorienting. Can you believe that this anime adapts 100+ chapters of manga in just 12 episodes? I'm getting a brain cramp just trying to wrap my head around all of the details, plot twists, and reversals of plot twists that have been introduced already.

At least it all looks nice enough. UQ Holder isn't a great-looking show or anything, but it generally features solid drawings and animation cuts. I'm also fond of the character designs in particular – Touta is pretty generic, but I've always found Akamatsu's blocky cute art style pleasant, and the diversity in his character gimmicks is visually entertaining. The characters themselves are fairly hit-or-miss. While I can see why Evangeline ended up being a breakout heroine, Touta is a step down from what I've experienced of Negi, who at least possessed the somewhat unique angle of being a child teacher. Touta is an entirely stock scrappy shounen boy by contrast. BFF/love interest Kuroumaru is a little more memorable, but they suffer from being the butt of several jokes at the expense of their ambiguous gender. Add to that a fetishized rape-like that really bring the show down in terms of relaxing entertainment. Otherwise, all the sexiness exists on a thoroughly PG-13 level, where breasts are outlined but lack nipples, and the girls run away blushing after accidentally proclaiming that they'll bear Touta's child.

The dub is one of the worst that I've heard on a Sentai release for a while. Everybody sounds particularly checked out, and most of the new voices (Brittney Karbowski as Touta, Kalin Coates as Kuroumaru) are shrill and irritating. I'm glad that they at least kept Negi's weird high-pitched British accent – it's so bizarre and iconic to the character at this point. Otherwise, this release comes with three OVA episodes and negligible extras beyond that.

In the end, UQ Holder failed to hold my attention as a non-returning Negima! fan. Maybe it's better if you're familiar with all these old faces – I really don't know. I do know that this show made me wish I was watching the old Negima!, where the characters were introduced in an orderly fashion, there wasn't a bunch of lore, and it was just women in strange costumes cooing over a tiny boy with a ridiculous voice. I still don't much get the appeal of Ken Akamatsu, but if you're curious yourself, this probably isn't the place to start.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!

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