Sexualized Saturdays: UQ Holder and Genderqueerness

UQ Holder cover imageI am an unabashed fan of anime and manga, but unfortunately I don’t have time to get deeply involved in more than a few series at a time. Lately I’ve gotten into a new manga called UQ Holder, by Ken Akamatsu, creator of Love Hina and Mahou Sensei Negima (the prequel to UQ Holder). I haven’t read Akamatsu’s previous works, but I started this one because my favorite scanlation group had picked it up, and I trust their judgment. And boy am I glad I did, because it is slowly taking the place of Naruto in my heart as a source for my weekly action shounen fix (believe me, that is high praise). I was drawn to it because its first chapter featured a strong female character and a lot of excitement. Later, the introduction of a gender-ambiguous character made me think the series could be trying to do something super interesting with gender, and I was hooked for good. That’s not to say it is perfect in its representation of gender, however. Beware of spoilers in my summary and analysis below.

UQ Holder is the tale of Touta Konoe, an immortal boy living in the 2080s who teams up with a gang of other immortals called UQ Holder, based just outside of Tokyo. The immortals within the organization are of all types: vampires, demons, cat-girls, those cursed with immortality, those surgically altered to heal quickly, and more. Regardless of what type of immortal they are, none of them can be killed except through extraordinary measures. There are other fantasy elements as well: Touta has found a sword that can magically alter gravity, and people can learn to use magic either by training their chi or by buying and using “magic apps.” The series is new enough that the main plot does not seem to have been revealed yet, but so far Touta and his UQ Holder friends have been the fearless defenders of poor and oppressed slum-dwellers.

The first new immortal friend Touta makes is Kuroumaru Tokisaka, who’s from a clan that actually hunts down immortals, but for reasons that have not yet been adequately explained, his clan modified his body to make him immortal. And then, apparently because he has, as they call it, a “cursed body”, they banished him from returning to the clan unless he kills the vampire Yukihime (whom readers of Negima may recognize as Evangeline A. K. McDowell). Kuroumaru quickly despairs of ever being strong enough to kill her—she is, after all, the leader of UQ Holder, and thus presumably one of the most powerful immortals alive—and decides to turn his back on the clan that treated him so cruelly, befriend Touta, and join UQ Holder himself.

What makes Kuroumaru so interesting (and thus my favorite character so far) is that, on first glance, everyone assumes he’s a girl. In and of itself, boys who appear feminine are not very unusual for manga, but very quickly you start to suspect that Kuroumaru is hiding something. Firstly, he always denies being a girl, but never comes right out and says that he’s a boy (though he prefers male pronouns, which is why I’m using them). He gets flustered every time the subject comes up. He goes to great pains to keep his body covered (which, in a story by a mangaka known for fanservice, is quite unusual). And when his teammate Karin walks in on him without his clothes, he appears undeniably female and yet continues to insist that he’s not a girl.

Finally the truth is revealed when Karin accuses him of having a crush on Touta and confronts him about his gender. Kuroumaru confesses that members of his clan of “demi-humans” have the unusual attribute of being born sexless. They don’t begin exhibiting sex traits until they reach maturity and have a coming-of-age ceremony at the age of sixteen. Most interestingly, however, they get to choose their gender at this ceremony, and if they don’t choose, they naturally settle into one or the other. This brings up interesting implications about what a life without gender might be like, and about how the essential core of our true selves is not predetermined by the genitalia we happen to be born with or by cultural expectations and pressures bound up with gender.

Kuroumaru with wings

Kuroumaru’s wings had better be real and not metaphorical!

But all the good this situation could potentially bring about seems to be undone in this very same confrontation with Karin. She draws her weapons on him and attacks him (she’s been training Touta and Kuroumaru, so this isn’t that strange), demanding to know whether he will choose to be male or female. She says she would “appreciate it” if he would choose to be female so he could be with Touta, since, she claims, Kuroumaru likes him anyway. It’s unclear why Karin would prefer this outcome, but already her statement is problematic, because it implies that Kuroumaru couldn’t be with Touta if he were male. We don’t even know yet what Touta’s preferences are. He has so far shown no romantic interest in anyone. Karin is making a pretty hefty assumption.

But it gets worse. Kuroumaru responds, and I quote, “No, I want to be a man. If possible, I want us to be kindred spirits—friends! I want to be a man worthy to stand as Touta’s equal!” Whoa there. What is he saying? Because it sure sounds to me like he’s saying he can’t be Touta’s equal unless he’s a man! And it also sounds like he thinks being Touta’s girlfriend would be somehow lesser than being his friend. I sure hope that’s not the case. Last time I checked, it was best for your significant other to also be your best friend.

Karin, though female herself, and a badass one at that, who has single-handedly taken out two enemies so far, never calls Kuroumaru out on this. Instead, she praises him for his swordsmanship, yet says his heart isn’t in it, which is why Touta snubbed his training and accepted the training of a stranger. “You have no inner strength,” she says. “Touta Konoe is drawn to men with strong inner cores. You will never be Touta Konoe’s friend.” Okay. This sounds like a legitimate criticism you could make about anybody. And we already know Karin is almost never nice. But then, as she deals her parting blow to Kuroumaru and sends him sailing through the air, she says, casually, “I recommend you choose femininity. I’m sure you would make a lovely girl.” That this was meant to be an insult, that this was meant to imply that girls can’t have inner strength and can’t be friends with boys, is reinforced by the way these words mockingly echo in Kuroumaru’s head in the next few chapters. His insecurity goes so far that he actually asks Touta to confirm that they’re friends. After Karin’s declaration, it’s no wonder if Kuroumaru continues to think that a girl would never be strong enough or worthy enough to be Touta’s friend. After all, according to Karin, a girl can only be “lovely” (another translation uses the word “cute”), and that’s all Kuroumaru is apparently good for. Since she thinks he’ll never be Touta’s friend, he might as well just settle for being his girlfriend!

Besides taking these appalling views of women rather personally, I also feel insulted because it seems as if the mangaka is making a jab at Touta/Kuroumaru shippers (like me) with this development. It’s as if he’s saying, “I know you shippers are out there! And how dare you?! Don’t you see how degrading it would be for them to be together? No, they’re going to be two manly-man, no-homo friends, dammit!”


This is a chapter cover, so nobody actually says this to Kuroumaru. But that’s okay, because all of his fans—male and female—are saying it instead!

Kuroumaru is left in a no-win situation. Karin could very well be trying to shame him into greater strength, but it could backfire. He could decide to “settle” for being a weak female who will never live up to Touta’s strength, and confirm Karin’s insults. Even worse, though, his character arc could consist solely of his striving to become “worthy” of being male, and he could choose to be a man and thus confirm Karin’s implication that only men can be strong… and friends with other men.

Akamatsu could still salvage this story, though. I’m hoping to get some explanation for Karin’s behavior, though so far I can’t think of one. As for Kuroumaru, the best case scenario I can think of is actually a distinct possibility. All the other immortals we’ve encountered in the series are frozen at the age at which they became immortal. Yukihime is a loli who takes pills to appear like an adult woman. Touta is fourteen but still looks no older than the day Yukihime turned him into a vampire to save his life at twelve. And so on. It’s possible Kuroumaru will never reach the age of sixteen. He may remain sexless for the rest of his immortal life. This may be what his relatives meant when they said he had a “cursed body,” and he might not even be aware this will happen to him (if he were, he probably would have mentioned it to Karin).

If he comes to terms with this, and realizes it’s okay to be neither male nor female, that it’s okay to have aspects of both, that he can still choose who he wants to be, and that it’s possible to be loved even without gender, then this would be an utter demolishment of gender norms and a real validation for severely underrepresented genderqueer people trying to abolish gender binaries everywhere. So I will continue to hold out hope.

All in all, the fantastical/dystopian premise of UQ Holder remains interesting to me, and despite the roadblocks mentioned above, the very existence of Kuroumaru implies Akamatsu wants to open a conversation about gender which has the potential to proceed in a positive direction. That’s what I’m most interested to see. I hope you’ll join me in following this great new series! You can read UQ Holder at Crunchyroll.

16 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: UQ Holder and Genderqueerness

  1. “It’s unclear why Karin would prefer this outcome”
    “I’m hoping to get some explanation for Karin’s behavior, though so far I can’t think of one”

    Karin’s deal is that she wants Touta away from Yukihime. Remember how pissed she got when she found out they lived together for two years and Yukihime responded with “that’s some heavy love”, and then Karin attacked Touta when he came out of the tunnel because of it? I’m 90% convinced Karin has a thing for Yukihime, and is trying to pawn Kuroumaru off to Touta (under the assumption Touta likes girls) to keep him away from Yukihime. Akamatsu’s previous manga had canon lesbians, so in my opinion, Karin being romantically interested in Yukihime
    isn’t that much of a stretch (neither is Touta/Kuroumaru who are, in fact, a parallel of said lesbian characters).

    BASICALLY, Karin is being an asshole to Kuroumaru for her own selfish reasons.

    Also, I wouldn’t take Karin’s words as a reflection of what Akamatsu himself thinks of women. Negima was CHOP FULL of girls that were fighters — and the girls that weren’t, were still used in battles (strategists, spies, healers, you name it you got it). Even when Negi became stronger than everyone, they were still treated as his equal. Heck, the heroine even makes it a point that SHE is the one who will protect Negi, not the other way around.

    • Hi! First of all, you are my very first commenter on my very first post, so thank you! I really appreciate that you took the time to read and respond so thoughtfully to what I wrote! 🙂

      I had thought of that explanation–that Karin has a thing for Yukihime and so wants to get rid of any possibility of Touta being with Yukihime or with Karin herself, as Yukihime suggested. The scene you point out is good evidence for this, as well as Karin’s line that she would “really appreciate it” if Kuroumaru and Touta would get together. But… if Karin is trying to convince Kuroumaru to choose femininity, why would she bash it with all that she’s got? It seems counterproductive.

      As for Akamatsu’s treatment of female characters in his previous work, that’s encouraging. It gives me hope that not everyone in UQ Holder has Karin’s attitude (maybe not even she does and she’s just being mean). However, if this new series is the only context you have, this is the strongest statement made about women so far in the story. There are plenty of readers (including me) who only had this to work off of, so it was understandably jarring. Hopefully, though, it will get better. 🙂 (also I keep finding more and more reasons to go read Negima)

      None of this, however, helps to temper the implication from both Karin and Kuroumaru that a romantic relationship is somehow lesser than a friendship. Considering the fact that, according to what I’ve read online, Akamatsu never officially paired up Negi with any of the numerous girls around him, it’s possible Akamatsu feels this way, and that would be problematic (especially for shippers :P).

      And really, I feel like Kuroumaru ending up permanently as neither male nor female and still becoming a self-actualized character would make a stronger statement about gender equality than would any awesome female characters. It would show that you don’t *need* any of the trappings of gendered pressures and stereotypes to be a whole human person. So that’s what I’m looking out for in this series.

      • I’d like to think/hope Karin really is just being mean to Kuroumaru without her actually believing the things she’s saying. It seems odd a strong woman (who is into another strong woman) would tell someone else something along the lines of “you don’t put your heart into your swordfighting, so go be a girl” and mean it. She seems to be rather rude to the other members (telling off Ameya Ikkuu in her second appearance), as well… I guess we’ll eventually find out more about her, though. Oh! If it helps, though, that thing Touta said about Yukihime teaching him that gender doesn’t matter on the battlefield? That is something she actually once said in Negima before, on top of some other good lines! So we at least know that’s one female character that believes that women being lesser than men is total BS.

        I actually didn’t get the impression that either Kuroumaru or Karin were trying to say a romantic relationship is lesser than friendship, personally. Karin accused Kuroumaru of liking Touta twice *before* Kuroumaru explained that he wanted to be Touta’s equal — Kuroumaru lacks self-confidence and sees Touta as this unwavering determined cool dude, the type of person Kuroumaru envies and wants to be like. It’s only after Kuroumaru says he wants to be equals/comrades, that Karin makes her analysis of Kuroumaru, why he can’t be the type of man he wants to be, and why she (wrongly) believes he can’t be friends with Touta, hurting him further. Her “recommendation” almost comes off as an “adding insult to injury” sort of thing. Kind of like, “Oh, you want to be a strong man? Well, you’re failing at it, so you’d be better off as a girl instead.” Or maybe taking advantage of Kuroumaru being at his most insecure, and going back to her original motive for attacking him? Again, that’s just how I interpreted that chapter, though.

        I also kind of feel like whether Kuroumaru does have romantic feelings for Touta or not is still up in the air, though? Karin’s first accusation got him *really* flustered for someone who apparently has already decided he only wants to be friends…. and Kuroumaru’s reactions to Touta in general are preeettyyyy… Well, that is some glorious hefty ship-fuel (chapter 22 was so great on both sides). But maybe I’ve got my shipgoggles on too tight, idek.

        As for the Negima ending — Negi did have a girl that he liked and told Asuna the girl’s name in private, we just never found out who that girl is. It was left open-ended so that every girl has a chance (or in other words, so the self-entitled otaku didn’t throw a shitfit if their favorite girl didn’t win. Which. They did, anyway. But it could have been even worse, the Negima fanbase is HORRENDOUS.) Plluusss that ending was honestly just Akamatsu dropping the series on its ass since he got angry about a new possible copyright law at that time, or so the rumors go.

        And yes yes yes to your last paragraph! Whether he can age or not, he still has about two years to go, and until then I would love for him to go through a (well-handled) character arc where he gains confidence/a strong inner core regardless of gender and stereotypes, or what the people around him think of him. Kuroumaru just being Kuroumaru and being comfortable about it.

        • Hmm… so I think the most charitable interpretation of Karin’s words is probably, “You can’t be who you want to be, so you should be who *I* want you to be instead!” Regardless of what it meant or not, the whole thing just felt very… off to me.

          But Ch. 22! OMG! SUCH shipping fodder! XD It was just so sweet! ^^ And it seems to confirm the sense I had from very early on, that Touta wasn’t gonna let a little thing like gender (or lack thereof) get in the way of his relationship with Kuroumaru–however it turns out, romantic or not. I am just so pleased with the way things are turning out so far.

          And there’s no such thing as having your shipping goggles on too tight, *especially* not around here! Just you wait til we post our annual 20 best couples of fandom list in time for Valentine’s Day. XD

        • Negima’s ending WAS horrible, though. Even overlooking the fact the author spent nine years teasing the audience with a romantic resolution that never came, he left the series’ core unsolved- we are shown Negi saves his father, but not how he did it. The final enemy is basically left un-fought on panel, ever (imagine a Bleach or Dragon Ball where they defeat Aizen or Frieza off panel, but make that the manga’s very end).

          Furthermore, Ala Alba never gets their actual realization as heroes on their own- the manga’s final shown battle has them saved by Ala Rubra, their predecessors, and the sole reason why they are useful at all there, by waking Asuna up, was because the Lifemaker just hung back doing nothing while they did so, despite showing he had the power to stomp all over them with the simplest of attempts (even Ala Rubra, including Evangeline, was powerless against him) and being right there in reaching range.

          The end was basically all a rushed Tell Don’t Show embarassment. The fact he left so many unanswered questions and then basically killed the whole cast but two characters in the span between Negima and UQ Holder speaks very badly of Akamatsu’s commitment to the fanbase he intrigued for nearly a decade with questions that never were adressed. What happened to Negi’s mother? Who was the Master of the Graves, and what became of her? How did they defeat the Lifemaker for good? What about all the events mentioned in the final class roster shot? Why Negi never tried to find an alternate solution that didn’t involve sacrificing Asuna? Why we never were shown the key emotional moment when that is told to Asuna herself? Why are we expected to believe Setsuna ended up becoming the captain of a ship if until her very last shown appearance, she always was a follower to someone else, never a leader? Why no one ever said anything about Cosmo Entelecheia being frozen forever while feeling it, a fate worse than death, when most of them, save scumbags like Quartum, only were trying to save the world in their own way? Why Setsuna, with a simple generic determination burst, can beat Tsukuyomi, who has her half dead and wields a much more powerful weapon? Are they really adressing all of that in UQ Holder, which has its own story to tell?

          Regarding feminism, why Ala Alba changes their name to the much more sexist ‘Negi’s Girls’ at the end? Why did the last battle ever shown, Yue’s brief tussle with Paio the Chichigami, end with Yue being stripped and molested, only to be effortlessly saved by Negi? Why the final comedy arc has the girls, except Asuna, Satsuki, Konoka, Akira and Satomi, acting like merciless harpies harassing and esentially mind raping Negi after all he’s done for them?

          Don’t get me wrong, Akamatsu was great once, but he seems to have lost most of his way (writing-wise, at least), and the fact UQ Holder already starts with the same kind of mysteries Negima never could or wanted to answer isn’t exactly comforting. Placing the blame on the fanbase for being disappointed over it isn’t going to solve anything.

  2. Here’s what I’m wondering: It seems like for Kuroumaru, the gender decision isn’t really made on a fair playing field. See, because for whatever reasons, Kuroumaru has decided to identify as male even though, as he admits, he is neither sexed nor gendered. So if the time comes for him to make a decision, the choice is not really “should I choose to be a woman or should I choose to be a man?” It’s more like…”should I choose to KEEP being a male, or should I choose to CHANGE and become female?” The deck is stacked, and I imagine Kuroumaru will have to have a negative experience that’s directly about being male in order to change his path.

    In a larger sense, I wonder if this story delivers a message (however accidental/incidental) about privilege. People typically don’t give up their (white, or male, or hetero, or cis, or whatever) privilege for free. Kuroumaru will have to encounter some incentive to choose the female path; otherwise, he’s likely to go with what appears in this story to be the default (i.e., preferred, dominant) gender.

    But I’m less familiar with this series than you are, and I wonder what you think about that.

    • That is a really good point, and I have thought about it a bit. It’s all speculation, though, since we’ve only gotten exactly one page so far about Kuroumaru’s clan. But I have a sneaking suspicion that if Kuroumaru has this attitude that maleness is the preferred, dominant gender, then mostly likely his family does too. And if that’s the case, why does *anyone* ever choose to be female? Obviously some must choose it, or else there would be no more Yatagarasu babies!

      Here’s my theory: the young clan members’ choices are not in fact entirely free. I bet they are socialized from very young to choose one or the other, based on stereotypical traits. This clan’s business is to be fighters who can hunt down dangerous immortals, but I bet it’s mostly the men who do the hunting. I bet the women are encouraged to stay home and make more babies to replace the hunters who die on the job. So possibly the children who the clan decides are physically weaker, more “nurturing,” more “emotional,” etc. are socialized to choose femininity.

      Maybe Kuroumaru was socialized as female early on. It would explain some little things, such as his long hair and his frequent blushing. But maybe he resented it and rebelled against it, and that’s part of the reason why his clan hates him now. I know with all this, I’m edging into writing my own fanfic, so I’ll stop the speculating there. XD

      In any case, I’m still holding out for Kuroumaru to end up non-binary, whether chosen or not, for reasons that I think I’ve covered pretty well above.

  3. “I see where you’re coming from, And on the other hand I feel that Ken Akamatsu may be planning on doing exactly that. In Negima,specifically the manga, Setsuna Sakurazaki is finding herself having feelings for Koneka Konoe, the girl that she’s guarding. She wrestles with this for some if not the entire Manga, fighting her feelings as she doesn’t feel it’s right as her bodyguard to feel that way, much less about another girl and close friend. Koneka is shown to notice this and continues her attempts to relax Setsuna around her by attempting to get her to call her by her name in an informal manner. At the Epilogue of the Negima manga, it is shown that the two got together and even got married. Negima had a roster of women that were all strong and insisted on helping Negi or protecting him so Ken is by no means respective to Women as a whole. ” (I’m sorry that I linda repeated what the person below me said and I made a spoiler >_<)

  4. I think Karin isn’t very good at dealing with people and has little experience with people outside of Evangeline.

    Also, I think that scene between Kuroumaru and Karin was showing how irrationally Karin reacts when it comes to anything slightly related to Yukihime.

    I think that part of Karin’s character development will be growing out of this,

    For what its worth, Kuroumaru is my favourite character, I’m looking forward to UQ Holder getting an anime someday so we have a voice for him.

    • The major problem with that theory being UQ Holder is very narrowly tied around Touta’s own character development, and other characters, save arguably Santa, don’t get any development unless it’s directly tied to Touta. And that’s unlikely to change as the core arc gets more and more wrapped around Touta’s origins and ‘destiny’. The plot hasn’t been about the titular organization for quite a while, but about Touta and whoever happens to be with him at the time.

  5. Hi. It have been a while since this post was first made (over two years!), and reading it now made me really curious. Have you continued to read UQ Holder? searching the blog I couldn’t find the answer (this appear to be the only post about this manga). I am curious about your opinion on the story as it went forward. I just started reading that manga myself, and just stumbled at that very point of the story and it made me quite uncomfortable. I wish to know if the story progresses in a nicer way, but I am having trouble googling due to fear of unrelated spoilers.

    • Yes, I still read it every week! Beware of fan service o.O. Too often involving young girls… Spoilers ahead, about Kuroumaru only. Kuroumaru’s family “curse” is not as much of a choice as originally depicted. When he finally admits his crush on Touta to himself, his body begins growing feminine features! Because I guess homosexuality is biologically not allowed to be a thing in his clan! -_-There is one other arc in which friends convince Kuroumaru to dress as a girl. But he feels wrong, and, problematically, weak and helpless, until he accepts himself for who he is and decides to keep relating to Touta as a friend despite his crush. Later we see him binding hia chest? So I guess he represents a trans boy? But it’s done in a way that also continues to denigrate women and treat romance as inferior to friendship… Also I don’t know how much Kuroumaru’s crush means anyway, because EVERYONE falls in love with Touta, because surprise! This is apparently a harem manga! I’m not super happy with it, but I’m a completionist and a creature of habit, so I keep reading. Hope I’ve given enough info for you to decide if you should do the same.

      • Thanks for your reply! =) I was worried you wouldn’t even see it, considering how old is this post.

        Anyway, I see Kuroumaru’s situation was handled about as poorly as I feared it would be. A pity. but not really surprising. I will continue to read for as long as the rest of the story continues to entertain me (being a former Negima! fan is a factor too). I just wanted to know if I should brace for disappointment or not. Thanks a lot for the answer.

        (Btw, it seems Akamatsu habits die hard, eh? Fanservice and harem elements? I should have found suspect these were not more prominent on the first two volumes)

        • Yup, we get email notifications every time someone comments on our posts! So no post is too old. 🙂

          Yeah, I stopped reading Negima, but I might return to it because, as you may be happy to hear, UQ is turning into a directly related sequel. I think the harem elements and fan service might have come back to UQ on the suggestion of editors, to help boost popularity. I could do without, though…

          • It becomes even more of a direct sequel? I thought it was already sequel-like enough. But, yeah, it is good news to me. Unless the old characters and plot overshadow the new ones just as I start to like them. I hate when sequels do that.

            Anyway, I hope you like Negima if you get around to pick it back. I used to really love it back when it was still releasing. There is a ton of pointless fanservice and harem,though. I am personally capable of ignoring it myself, but I know not everybody is, which is why I don’t usually recommend the series. These do scale down as the series progress into a more action shonen, though, if that is more of your liking.

  6. Hello
    This article is old but Koroumaru being my fave character and gender being an important topic I like to address th as well, and hopefully as yo useem like an intellectual person I could get some debate out of you,.
    First of Negima ended incredibly rushed. it is claime dbecause of new liscensing rules in the company he was working for could tkae away his creative freedom so he did what he couldd tog et the story out the door before someone else would hurt his creation. Hi screation of UQHolder is supposedly his way of making up for that a sequal to negima that should fix all of the problems of the neigma’s overly rushed ending. Which so far holds true. Here comes some spoiler for the chapter released since this article.
    The conclusion to whom negi had special feelings for is revealed in UQHolder in a flashback, more background delving into Evangelines past, bringing back several negima character and expanding on them. Some of it has been a bit of an exposition dump and probably hasn’t been easy to follow along for non-negima fans sadly, so people who started with UQholder might have been a bit thrown of by what has happened with the Negima 2 chapters.
    The horrendous final battle and the deux ex machina save by the predeccessors of Ala Alba, is somewhat made up for int he flash back stories about how Negi sacrificed himself to beat the big bad guy who still roams around and now has to be ebaten by Touta, even setting up the same dillemma as Negima was supposed to have, that Negi’s dad was supposedly the Life maker and now it’s Negi’s turn, putting Touta in Negi’s shoes.
    Strong female character can be seen trhoughout Akamatsu’s works nad homosexual relationships has also been seen before however only girl on girl, we have never seena man on man relaytionship and I doubt we would, because I theories that Akamatsu only tolerates girl on girl as a form of fanservice, seeing as he is kinda an expert on the harem, ecchi and fanservice. And being what is probably a straight male himself I doubt a man on man relationship ever really has crossed his mind. If the author doesn’t think about it how can his characters. I really do believe Koromaru’s entire character arc could be resolved by aiming for a homosexual relationship with Touta seeing as he appear to prefer being a man and everytime he appears feminin it is somewhat forced by circumstances or other characters. but as I said what doesn’t cross the authors mind cannot cross the mind of his characters.
    As for a deeper bold gender statement, I doubt we would get that, I really doubt Akamatsu has thoroughly tought about what implications the Koroumaru character came with sadly, because there is so much potential here.
    Like Naoto Shirogane from Persona who at first glance appears to be transgender especially with some of her dialouge claiming she wants to be a adult male instead of a little girl and the whole doctor operation theme her boss battle entiles, only to be revealed to be a “I need to appear male because of my job” was a huge dissappointment gender progression wise, which is what I expect to get out of Koromaru. Something that appears to make a statement about gender, but ultimately does nothing about it. Naoto is still a great character and a great statement on woman oppression in Japan, no critique there, it just felt like it was going somewhere with genderand ended up not doing so sadly.
    What I am saying here is Expect to be dissappointed with the direction of Koromaru’s character genderwise.
    What Karin says and implies is bad, but all I can say about those scenes is that Karin is a selfish character with little remorse for how manipulative she has to get to get what she wants and right now she wants Touta out of Yukihimes face. Koroumaru or Kirie, she really jsut manipulates characters sot aht she can keep Touta occupied and away from Yukihime, I think it suits her character and makes it very plausible for her to lie in many of her interactions.
    The fact that UQholder turns into a Harem doesn’t really face me, it was to be expected from this author not surprised there at all, kinda annoying since it distracts from the narritive but what can you do.
    Koroumaru’s gender arc so far has not dissappointed me as much as you I believe, the exploration of him as a girl seems like a fair way for his character to explore his different options, as for the fact that his body change to female when he has a crush on Touta and back to male when he wants to be his friend, I really hope that is Kourumaru’s assumptions and not what is actually happening. I hope it is unrelated to his crush on Touta or at least not directly, and more related to his current feelings on his gender, which may have been affected by his crush on Touta, I mean if I got a crush on a boy in his situation I probably also question my gender identity. Because of the way our society is built up it doesn’t surprise me it is a tought that hits him first is his gender identity and not to question his sexuality, if he even has a proper concept of alternate sexualities. Maybe Kourumaru has never been exposed to the concept of homosexuality and therefore has been inable to imagine it as a possibillity. If that is the case and the crush on Touta in directly has affected Koroumarus gender by making him question himself, then the whole thing would make sense,
    Even with all the strong female characters in the akamatsuyverse as it is called, Akamatsu has on several occassions reduced woman in his manga’s to fanservice characters, panel after panel of naked women fighting eachother blasting of eachothers clothes. I have no idea what this mans opinion of woman is. His characters opinions of course doesn’t neccessarily reflects his own opinions, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he is a sorta sexistic man at the same time it wouldn’t surprise med if he is an open minded man.
    In the defense of the manga itself, no matter what the author think, no matter how shit or how great he may be, who he is as a person does not impact the quality of his work. it is good entertaining nice fighting scenes, intriguing plot, terrible rushed ending to negima, but hey if those claims are true I get that. it’s a great read. Even if Koroumaru’s journey turns out to not be the gender statement, I and you want it to be, then I don’t think that ruins Koroumaru’s character, he is already established as a nonbinary struggling individual and many of the chapters has something interesting or maybe even important to say about gender. and Koroumaru’s existence alone has opened another window up for debate on the subject which in on itself is good. Koroumaru will most certaintly not a perfect nonbinary or genderqueer example or even as a transgender FtM representations for that matter, but he is deffinitly already from what I seen so far a step in the right direction almost no matter what is going go wrong with his character from her on out. Mind you I’m saying almost, it will not undo what has been done so far and it is still a step in the right direction. and it probably won’t subtract from the experience of reading this manga as a whole. No representation is better than bad representation, but descend somewhat progressive but not entirely good representation is better than no representation, it makes people talk about the right kind of things and ask the right kinds of questions, the debate is open and we have the chance to educate people now that the questions are in the air we just need to grab the chance, that is my 2 cents on it anyways.

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