UQ Holder Volume 1 – Manga review

UQ Holder volume 1 cover

UQ Holder! is a relatively new series from Ken Akamatsu. The series is set within the same universe and 70 years after as his previous work, Negima! Magister Negi Magi, but readers can jump into UQ Holder! right away with no trouble if they haven’t read the work that comes before. With that said we’ve jumped into the first volume of the manga to take a look at what it has to offer.

Well, saying I’ve picked up the first volume to find out what the series has to offer isn’t strictly true. I’ve been following the manga through Crunchyroll’s manga service since they started publishing the series on a weekly basis last year. So, in that sense this is my second time reading through the early chapters of the series.

The first volume of UQ Holder! includes the first six chapters of the series (in Japan the series is currently up to 44 chapters), and gives us a firm introduction to the world and the characters. Our story is centred on Tōta Konoe who dreams of reaching the big city and making a name for himself. Before our young hero can depart from his village he must defeat his mentor Yukihime, whom is an incredibly strong mage. In trying to defeat Yukihime however something terrible happens and Tōta must make an impossible choice of becoming an immortal and saving the friends and family he loves or dying right there and then.

The world of UQ Holder! is an interesting fantasy setting set very loosely in Japan’s future and where magic exists. It’s not the most original of settings, granted, but if nothing else the series stands out because of Ken Akamatsu’s name. Tōta is your average Shonen main character. He’s gutsy and will never accept or admit defeat. He’s cheerful and far too up-beat and very likely to get on your nerves, but he’s not a bad character even if he’s quite generic. Thankfully Tōta is the only character to suffer this fate as the rest of UQ Holder’s! characters stand out from the crowd and offer something a little bit different.

The first six chapters of UQ Holder! mostly spend their time introducing us to the main cast of characters, but despite this we still get to see a few strong fight scenes. Ken Akamatsu draws thrilling and strong fight scenes that could easily give Naruto and Fairy Tail a run for their money. Fight scenes are one of the series biggest selling points and are one of the strongest aspects, they’re drawn extremely graphic and Ken isn’t afraid to draw quite gory shots if needed. It’s not just fight scenes where Ken shows his strong ability for artwork though, as throughout the first volume there are some very nice scenes of the world the series is set in. Character designs have also been handled nicely and everyone stands apart neatly and are fairly memorable.

The story is strong enough to begin with. In this volume it’s setting up for much bigger things so some of it will go over your head for now, but it leaves you with the impression that it’ll be tying everything up in later volumes and is satisfying enough in what it does for now. Tōta won’t draw you into the series all that much, but the overall setting will. This is a world that’s seemingly so peaceful and so different to modern Japan that you really want to learn a lot more about it.

The opening volume of UQ Holder! is a strong one as far as opening volumes go. Right now it’s not hard to see that the series does have potential and I most definitely look forward to reading future chapters and volumes to see how well the series does for itself.

UQ Holder! can be read weekly on Crunchyroll’s manga service right here and is being published in English by Kodansha Comics. 

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