Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ral Ω Grad, vol. 1

Story by Tsuneo Takano with Art by Takeshi Obata
Released in the US by Viz

Slugline: Breaking new ground with a teen hero who acts on his lust for girls?!

A couple things that we need to get out of the way up front. This manga is related to the Blue Dragon computer game series, so some readers may be interested in that. Takeshi Obata was also the artist for Death Note (see Prospero's Manga reviews for Death Note 1-6 and Death Note 7-10.) And here is the kicker, there is nudity with implied off panel sex, so this manga came shrinkwrapped so can be considered e-v-i-l.

With all those qualifiers out of the way, Ral has been imprisoned in complete darkness for 15 years while Shadow monsters have ravaged the fantasy world. Ral was bonded with a shadow dragon Grad, and when he just a baby the dragon got a little bit miffed and did some of his own rampaging. Ral was confined to a mystical prison but after 15 years he is released because he is humanity's last chance of fending off the Shadows. After saving the castle, Ral and Grad decide to take the fight to the Shadow mother.

There are two moments that sold this to me. The first is Ral and Grad 's killing of Ral's father as soon as they could, out of anger after being imprisoned for 15 years was real. No soft and squishy feelings of forgiveness here, just get that done and over with. That and some morning shortly afterwards he already has women lounging around in his bed. This is a medieval fantasy, with the hero wanting his 'reward' and Ral trying everything that feels good (especially for a teenage boy) after being in a state of denial for over a decade. It would have been so easy for the creators to chicken out, to either make Ral virtuous for no reason or just a leech who is one just for it's own sake (see virtually any leech in a manga in a modern setting), but they threaded a needle creating a world and character that complemented each other. Ral is not someone to emulate, and is pretty far from the shoujo ideal of someone who understands women, but what happens and his behaviors make sense because of they flow out of the world and the character, not just shoehorned in to get the fan service quotient into the manga.

Now, is there still fan service in this? Of course. But it fits, it's not just there, or trying to get by with a nod and a wink. The fight scenes work and the art is pretty good, though sometimes things get a little too clever, but it is still a good read.

Ral Ω Grad, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.



Anonymous said...

It was a good series, but it ended too soon.. the characters never further developed and it seemed like a typical shounen, cliche if i may say so. The thing that was good about the series was the art, but i'm more into plotline then art ^^( though i can see why you rated 3 stars.)

Can you write reviews on The Bride of the Water God ( i love the art, but tell me what you think about the storyline.. ) and Nodame Cantabile please, if you have enough time? ^_^


not_x91 said...

Oh!, i was wondering if you were gonna throw in some more josei and seinen series into your categories (mushishi was good). I mean, after 15 years, you must be sick and tired of most of the cliche shoujo and shounen plotlines that seems to continuously pop up. ^_^

Oh I recommend Me and the Devil Blues licensed by Del Rey, a seinen title that's going to be coming out soon. Though i don't know if you guys would like it, but it's one of my fave series because I'm a fan of the blues. ^_^ So, if you could also, when it comes out, write a review on the series for me? :D

Prospero's Manga said...

I think the deal with Ral Grad was that it was intended to promote a video game, so once the video game initial release was over in Japan, it just faded away. I understand that there will be sequels to the video game, so we may see additional manga volumes to support those later releases.

Unfortunately, what we review is determined by what publishers send us. And the josei and seinen publishers do not often send us material to review. Though Del Rey tends to consistently send us titles, so Me and the Devil Blues is a definite possibility.

We are planning to do our semi-annual reminder to all the publishers that we exist and we review material at the New York Comic Con, so for a few weeks after that we should get the diversity of material back up.